Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Tick (or How I Wish I Could Write) (an IWSG post)

There are always two forces at play: the way things are and the way we want things to be. Both things pull at us: acceptance and desire. It's a rough road, but it's one we all have to make our way down. Well, that's not actually true. Giving into acceptance is always an option. Allowing things to just be the way they are even when we want things to change.

However, there are areas where acceptance can be a good thing. To a certain extent.

A while back, I had the opportunity to hear Jeff Kinney speak. He's the guy that writes the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books. Now, I've never read any of them, but my kids have really enjoyed them, so I wanted to hear what he had to say, so my younger son and I went to a Q&A and book signing he had at the Shulz museum. The thing I found most interesting is that he never wanted to be a writer; he wanted to be a cartoonist (see the link to the Shulz museum?). However, the more he tried to get into being a cartoonist, the more he found he didn't quite fit. It came down to the fact that he couldn't draw a circle.

I'm almost completely serious about that. What he actually said is that it was because he couldn't draw the same character over and over and have that character look the same each time he drew it. He also said he can't draw circles and implied that those two things are related, which I can see. If, as an artist, you can't freehand a circle, it makes it difficult to draw heads.

After many years of trying to be a cartoonist and just not being able to get anyone to pick him up and having  the reason repeatedly be that it was because his characters never looked the same, he realized he was going to have to do something else. But what? This is that point where the struggle between the way things are and the way you want things to be can be really debilitating. He could have just given up. Thrown in the towel. Gone off to flip burgers.

He could have surrendered and just accepted that he couldn't be a cartoonist and gone off to do something else entirely. Like flip burgers.

Instead, he wrote The Diary of a Wimpy Kid, because, in that format, it didn't matter that he couldn't draw a circle. It was okay for his characters to never match. Sure, it's still not in his ideal world how he would have it be, but he's doing something close to what he wanted to do, and he's been very successful at it.

At this point, you may be wondering what any of this has to do with The Tick.

The Tick, of course, is a comic book, but it's not one I ever read. The character was invented by Ben Edlund, and the comic series started up at a time when I just wasn't interested in spoofs and the like. Actually, it was my low time for comics in general, the end of high school and beginning of college. I'd pretty much dropped down to just Spider-Man, X-Men, and Batman at that point. Once I got back into comics for real, I didn't pick it up because it was farther into the series than I wanted to try to go back and get, and I hated picking up series, especially new series, somewhere in the middle.

However, when The Tick came out as a live action TV series in 2001 with Patrick Warburton as The Tick, I was all over that. Mostly because of Warburton who has the greatest voice/chin combo in the world, but, after I started watching it, it became because of the writing. Which is Wow. I mean, there were such great lines in this show:

  • And, so, may Evil beware and may Good dress warmly and eat plenty of fresh vegetables.
  • And isn't sanity just a one-trick pony anyway? I mean, all you get is one trick, rational thinking, but, when you're good and crazy, oooh, oooh, oooh, the sky is the limit.
  • Destiny's powerful hand has made the bed of my future, and it's up to me to lie in it. I am destined to be a superhero. To right wrongs, and to pound two-fisted justice into the hearts of evildoers everywhere. And you don't fight destiny. No, sir. And you don't eat crackers in the bed of your future, or you get all... scratchy.
  • Eating kittens is just plain... plain wrong! And no one should do it! Ever!
  • Everybody was a baby once, Arthur. Oh, sure, maybe not today or even yesterday, but once. Babies, Chum: tiny, dimpled, fleshy mirrors of us-ness that we parents hurl into the future like leathery footballs of hope. And you've got to get a good spiral on that baby or evil will make an interception.
  • I'm taking off the kid gloves and putting on the very mad gloves.
  • Well, once again, my friend, we find that science is a two-headed beast. One head is nice; it gives us aspirin and other modern conveniences. But the other head of science is bad. Oh, beware the other head of science, Arthur; it bites.
  • You know why super villains are so unhappy, Arthur? They don't treasure little things.
  • When you get in bed with evil incarnate, it always steals the covers.
That last one is my favorite.

The point, though, is this:
I wish I could write like that. I really do. Ben Edlund is credited with writing the TV show, but I'm not sure if he was the only writer or not. I do know that Douglas Adams was the only writer of his books, and I wish I could write like that, too. Do you see a connection here?

But, see, I just don't think that way. At all. I read (or watch, because Monty Python falls into this same category) this stuff, and all I can think is "where in the world did that come from?" My mind just really isn't wired that way. So this stuff that I love, this bizarre stuff that I wish I could do, I will never be able to do. It's just not my thing.

So I could decide that since I can't write in this "Monty Python" way that I just won't write at all. I could decide that.
But I don't.
I don't decide that, because I'm a good writer. I'm a good story teller. I'm just not good at those kinds of stories with bizarre leaps of logic.

And you know what? That's okay, because I'm embracing the kind of writing that I am good at, because I like that stuff, too. Like Jeff Kinney. He never became a comic strip artist and had his own syndicated strip the way he wanted, but he is doing cartoons, and he likes what he's doing even if it's not the thing he most wanted to do. It's that conflict between what is and what is wished for.

All of that to say this:
Just because you may not be able to do something (like bizarre humor or epic fantasy or hard sci-fi) that you really want to do doesn't mean that you can't do something like it. Try things out and figure out which thing you are good at and grow that thing. Grow into that thing. Maybe it's not what you always dreamed about, but it might be close. Or it might be something you end up liking even more. The point is that you shouldn't give up the struggle just because that one thing, that one thing you always thought was the only thing, is out of reach. Keep struggling and striving and working and being but don't ever just accept defeat. Accept the thing you can't do and subvert the things you can do to get as close to that thing as you can.


  1. You mean...I might never write like John Hart? Ever? *sigh*.

  2. We just have to find a place where what we are good at and what we want to do meet, for the most part.
    Warburton is awesome.
    No I can't write like Preston and Child or like Zahn. I'll just do the best I can in my own area.

  3. I know what you mean. Sometimes I read a novel by someone and it's so good I want to cry. Then I realize I can't do what they did, and I want to cry. I guess all we can do is write our stories the best that we can.

  4. I agree with you on Patrick Warburton.

    And the rest too. I usually use NaNoWriMo as an opportunity to experiment with genres I don't think I can write. It doesn't always work but it's never boring.

  5. Yes! Subvert your dreams until they work for you!

    I like that concept. It also helps to have really modest expectations and to live inexpensively, so that you can fumble around for the right combination long enough to get it just right.

  6. Limiting oneself can be very frustrating. One needs to keep an open mind along with wide open eyes and ears. My favorite jobs and accomplishments in life have been things that were not exactly what I dreamed of doing, but kind of like what my dreams were. Learning to accept what comes our way and make the best of it is part of the secret to a more contented life. I like this philosophy you've put forth here and it's pretty much the guideline I've lived by.

    Tossing It Out

  7. You've made an excellent point here Andrew. After my accident I couldn't accept that my life would be severely limited. I wasted a good year struggling to do things I just couldn't do. When I finally accepted my new reality, I focused on what I could do and found contentment.

  8. T H E . .
    _______ v v
    (__ __) V V
    | | | ___ .:.:.
    | | |/ __). __ //O:o\\
    |_| | / | |/ / (( " ))
    |_| \_| / /|-<II7|\
    \__| | \ __/:|_____|:\__
    |_|\_\ :(:::::::::::):

  9. That didn't turn out. I was trying to post an ascii Tick for you.

    So I'll just say...


  10. Nancy: You know what, I'm not actually for writing like someone else. I mean, they already do that, right? But no one writes the way you will write, so embrace that!

    Alex: Yeah, exactly. Find a nice place in the overlap.

    L.G.: Exactly. Maybe, one day, other people will be crying over our own books that way.

    M.J.: Maybe that is a good reason for NaNo. I'll have to think about that.

    neal: Fumbling can be a good thing. Except in football as I understand it.

    Lee: Yeah, the balance between acceptance and desire can be hard to deal with, but it's something we all need to learn.

    Anne: Making those kinds of changes can be difficult; some people never make them. I'm glad you did.

    Michael: LOL I'm glad you explained, because, at first, I was just looking at that going "wha...?"

  11. Excellent point! I have struggled with myself over my writing and came to the conclusion that I am just not ever going to be a writer....of books. I will never be published other than on my blog because I don't have the time to dedicate to writing. I was sad at first but the truth is it is almost a relief to finally accept my limitations. Now I can focus on my job and get my writing fix by posting on my blog. I love your never give up attitude and you are a really good writer.

  12. Jennifer: As long as it includes creepy Charlotte stories, I'm okay with it.

  13. He's right. Eating kittens is wrong. I love the Tick in all it's forms. LOL

  14. Maurice: I need to rent the old animated series. I've seen some of them, but I never sat down and just watched it through.

  15. There's a certain book I've read over and over and I've ALWAYS wanted to write like that. But I can't. In actual fact, I can only write like me. Interesting post :)

  16. Ravena: Well, writing like you is the best way to write. For you, I mean. Not for me.