Where The Magic Happens

By | Saturday, December 04, 2010 2 comments
A couple of weeks ago, a friend from out of town stopped by for a visit. It was the first time she'd been to my place, and she looked around a bit before settling down on the couch. She picked up a comic from the coffee table and thumbed through it idly before saying, "So this is where the magic happens? Where you come up with that comic blog every day?"

I brushed it off with something along the lines of my writing hardly being magic, but a minute or two later (after the conversation moved on, of course) I thought of a better answer. What I should have said was, "No, the magic happens up here," and tapped my head a few times. In the first place, it wouldn't have been as dismissive of an answer and in the second place, it's more accurate.

True, most of what I write is typed out in my house. Not just my blog, but my Jack Kirby Collector columns and my book and whatever else I'm working on. But the writing process? Where I come up with ideas and how to convey them? That goes on in my head.

People who watched Jack Kirby draw have not infrequently said that it looked like he was simply tracing some existing lines that no one else could see. Like he knew exactly what the finished page should look like, and his drawing was just a way of telling somebody else. I feel like I do that with my writing. I have been known to compose pages of text at a time without sitting down in front of a keyboard. I write and re-write and edit in my head, so that when I do get in front of a computer, I'm able to just start typing and let the already-chosen words flow out of me. Not that I do this all the time, but it's not uncommon for me.

I do this with some of my designs as well. I can picture what a page should look like, and I don't wind up doing much in the way of actual sketching because I've already composed a lot of ideas mentally. The actual mechanics of coding a webpage or putting some elements together in Photoshop rarely produces any surprises for me because I already know what the results will look like. (That said, though, I'm always keen to take advantage of those "happy accidents" when they do occur.)

I don't know if that's necessarily the same notion as creative visualization, where a person imagines themselves achieving something in order to help achieve it, but I wouldn't say it's unrelated either. I liken it more to a spatial visualization ability. But in addition to moving shapes around in my head, I can manipulate words and phrases.

Beyond that, though, that's where the words and images you see and hear get processed. Scott McCloud talked extensively about the gutters on comic pages in Understanding Comics and how that's where your brain connects disparate images into a story. And that's precisely why comics can be so visceral an experience -- you put together the story and experience it in your own mind. Your synapses are firing in much the same way as if you were experiencing it in person.

Regardless of how good an illustration is or how eloquent some wording is, where things really connect is upstairs. All these great thoughts and ideas and experiences; it's when they come from inside that they're most potent. From your own brain. Your own mind. That is where the magic happens.
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H said...

nice blog!

frank said...

i often wonder if people would be more impressed (at least from my perspective) with my work if they were actually able to "see" all the heavy lifting that goes on in my head before the pencil or pen hits the paper? probably not...great blog post...