Getting it right the first time.
Sometimes I get a script right on the first try. More often than not it needs some small revisions and tweaks. Every so often a script is so off-the-mark that it needs to be reworked from page one. The first and last examples happen very rarely when I send scripts off to Garth for approval. The middle example happens almost all the time, which is natural for a collaboration. The script for Issue 9, when sent off to Garth, fell somewhere between the second and third examples, and deservedly so. It was a little off-the-mark and needed some more tweaking than usual, but after some revisions the script flowed a lot better, was truer to the characters, and we think they’re going to be a pretty awesome set of pages.
But I must confess that every time I don’t flawlessly nail a script on the first try, there’s a large part of me that feels like a failure. I can blame low self-esteem or being an infuriating perfectionist, but in this case the reason is not an impossible standard I’ve set for myself or my struggles with depression. I blame music.
Anyone who’s followed me and my work over the years knows I adore music. I played music for nine years during my schooling. I cannot live or work without it. Some of my fondest memories in webcomics have come from writing or drawing with inspirational jazz, classical, or heavy metal playing as my soundtrack. I dedicated an entire storyline of Dominic Deegan: Oracle for Hire as a love letter to heavy metal. So why do I blame music for making me hate myself when I don’t get something right on the first try?
Sight reading. If you don’t know what that is, it’s an awful part of music competitions where, after you’ve finished playing the piece you’ve prepared for the judge, you’re given a piece of music you’ve never seen before and are scored by how well you can “sight read” it correctly, for the first time, without ever practicing it beforehand. No matter how hard you’ve practiced or studied, your score can be boosted or devastated by this. Your skill as a musician is judged, in arguably the most impressionable time in your life, by how well you can “get something right the first time.” And if you screw it up, there’s no going back to fix it. This is a huge part of making all-county or all-state music bands and it means a lot to some people. You can be effectively judged “not good enough” if you don’t get it right on the first try.
I absolutely sucked at sight reading. My scores and “failures” reflected that. To this day I still beat myself up for not getting anything creative right the first time, whether it’s scripts or artwork.
I know it’s stupid. Garth is not going to end our partnership because a script needs to be revised. Revision is an essential part of the creative process, especially in a collaboration, and more often than not a work is made stronger by continued editing and a healthy back-and-forth. My friends who are still musicians tell me that sight reading never comes up in their lives, whether they’re in bands or making songs on their own. Sometimes you’re right on target, sometimes you have to take another shot, and neither result is better or worse than the other.
But still, fuck sight reading.