One of the webcomics I read on a weekly basis is Hugh MacLeod’s Gaping Void, where he presents comics mostly drawn on the backs of business cards. I’m not really his target market, but I like his style and I’m a fan of somewhat non-sequitur cartoonage.
He made a post recently about going home to his mother’s house and finding binders and binders of old business-card cartoons in the attic. He talks about being struck by how many cards there were, and how he came to the epiphany that he had created “a body of work”. I know how he feels; sometimes I’m still struck hard by the fact that there are books flying around out there in brickspace with my name on them which may very well outlive me. But what got to me more than that was what he followed up with:
I finally had evidence here and now that, no matter what happens from now on, regardless, it’s been a good life. It’s been a good fight […] That’s all we all really want, at the end of the day. Evidence.
I don’t know if other artists and writers feel this way, but for me it’s very difficult to add up my work and look at it from this angle, the angle of evidence that I have already achieved something. It’s good not to be complacent, but at the same time it’s good to have a sense of scale. If you can hold onto it, it’s a very secure feeling to know that no matter how many things you haven’t done, you have Done A Thing. There are like twelve books in my head that I haven’t written yet, but there are three (soon to be four) out there that I did write.
Edward Leedskalnin, an eccentric quasi-scientist in the early part of the twentieth century, once published a treatise on “moral education”. The treatise itself is a bit of a misogynist screed, but in typesetting it Leedskalnin did an interesting thing: he printed his text only on the left hand pages. He prefaced the book with the following quote:
Reader, if for any reason you do not like the things I say in the little book, I left just as much space as I used, so you can write your own opinion opposite it and see if you can do better.
May I one day be capable, but more importantly worthy, of such hilarious, wonderful arrogance.
(Mind you, doubling the printing cost does nobody any favors.)