I’m not entirely certain who this is for. I’ve got this Tumblr thing and feel I should be doing something with it… updating it occasionally, practice for the upcoming Ultimate Typer Extreme Championship and Chili Cookoff I was so enthusiastic about when I signed up for it. Ignoring my initial impulse to post photographs of babies making ‘pooping’ faces and monkeys fondling one another’s nethers, I decided to stay focused and keep my posts work-related. So I’m going to write about process. This may not interest you. I’m not even sure if I’m interested. If I get really bored with it (even mildly so, probably), I may just quit. I AM part of the MTV generation, and as everyone knows, we’ve got a short span of HEY THAT BABY IS MAKING A ‘POOPING’ FACE.
'Nod Away'. The Process. Part One.
From 2003 until 2008, I worked on a Bildungsroman entitled ‘Skyscrapers of the Midwest’. It featured anthropomorphic talking cats, robots, cancer and the like, in a style often times referred to in critical assessment as ‘old-timey’, ‘this ain’t in color, dammit’, and ‘hey, this guy is attempting to emulate the grandpappy of alt-comix by crossing his hatches on feline forms’. While working on said Bildungsroman, story ideas would magically manifest from the ether… ideas that didn’t really quite fit in with the cat-robot-cancer dynamic, so I (quite resourcefully) placed them in a ‘sketchbook’ (I think you can find in on the Google) in hopes that they would come in handy later. Perhaps for a eulogy. Or maybe if an unfortunate derelict individual happened to requisition story ideas rather than spare pocket change (I lived in the Uptown area of Chicago for a sizable portion of the ‘Naughts’, and I encountered a number of such requisitions on a daily basis. On one occassion, an elderly female derelict requisitioned my debit card while defecating in the alley adjacent to my apartment building (in a feat of Olympian magnitude, she managed to do both while positioned in an upside down capital ‘L’. (Knees unbent)). As time passed, I also had requisitions for my shoes and my cellular telephone, but, alas, never a requisition for story ideas.) I soon found myself with a hefty stack of spiral bound sketchbooks, simply loaded to the gills (I’m certain that’s the proper idiom) with unrequisitioned story ideas (in the form of jots, chicken scratches and underdeveloped left-handed sketches), I began one of my favorite parts of the ‘creative’ process, sorting and editing.
None of it was salvageable. Not a damned iota made a semblance of sense. Misspellings, poor grammar, bloodstains… illegible and unintelligible. So we published it as ‘Driven by Lemons’ (duh-duh-cheh). No, seriously folks. I’m not sure when I came up with the title ‘Nod Away’ (I’m steeped far too deep in lethargy to go digging through old sketchbooks), but the above ‘Tumblr-approved’ grainy photograph is it’s first mention in a post-‘Skyscrapers’ sketchbook… 2008 or so. As you can see, as with most of my previous work, ‘Nod Away’ started out as a story involving anthropomorphic characters. They were to talk and behave like humans, but rather than having human bodies with animal heads, they would would retain their animal forms (I don’t know what that’s called, if not anthropomorphic) and live in a human world. (Why am I drawn to anthropomorphic storytelling? I don’t know. I’m assuming it comes from what little I had access to in my Formative years living in rural Missouri… comics (Calvin and Hobbes, Garfield, Snoopy), television (Sesame Street, Muppets, Looney Tunes), books (Alice in Wonderland, Wind in the Willows) and so on. (We did finally get the internet and DSS in my house in the early nineties, but by that point I was long past my Formative years and well my Apathy phase, in which I only read ‘The Amazing Spiderman’ and ‘MAD’ magazine (which, while it was the ‘turn your nose up to it’ 90s ‘MAD’, it did expose me to some of my favorite illustrators/cartoonists; Jack Davis, Sam Viviano, Aragones, Jaffee, etc.). At least I had the Salad days and subsequent Halcyon days to look forward to…).
Anyway. When I begin a book it’s all random, disparate notes and sketches… When intuition tells me it’s time, I start moving the notes and sketches around, looking at them from different angles, degrees of rotation, etc., trying to figure out if and how they fit together. Then I move onto free form/stream of consciousness writing and then much through that for whatever may be salvageable. After doing this for a few months, I realized the anthropomorphic route wasn’t going to work this time around… the material was much more suited for a solely human world (with maybe an exception or two). So I started all over again, writing from a human angle. I made pretty good progress, and writing went splendidly for a couple years. I was just starting to pull things together for a first draft when my downstairs neighbors left a candle burning unattended next to an open window in a room full of oil painting supplies and I ‘somehow’ got sidetracked and didn’t work on ‘Nod Away’ again for two years.
Oh, hey… I’m thinking this is getting far too long for one Tumblr post. So I’ll continue at a later time. A time more convenient for you and I both, dear reader. You and I, members of the cursed, raw nerve exposed generation, subjected every waking moment to a barrage of meticulously calculated visual and auditory sewage designed to overwhelm, distract and HEY THOSE MONKEYS ARE FONDLING ONE ANOTHER’S NETHERS.