Back in 1984 I was sort of at the crossroads, age 28, sort of floundering artistically, not sure what direction to go in next.
I had spent the previous two years publishing a punk rock underground newspaper. But that had run its course. So I decided I wanted to do a comic strip next. But I couldn’t decide what kind of strip to do. I experimented for quite some time, coming up with different cartoon characters and different comic strip concepts. But they all sucked. I even spent several months trying to develop a mainstream, commercial “Garfield” type strip. But that was the worst.
Nothing really jelled. None of the comic strips satisfied me, or even held my interest. I felt completely stymied.
But then one day, while sitting at the ole drawing board, staring painfully at the blank piece of paper, and trying (and failing) to think up something worthwhile to put on it. . . I suddenly thought;
“FUCK IT! From now on I’m just gonna draw whatever I feel like!!”
So I wrote “WHATEVER I FEEL LIKE COMIX” on the top of the strip. And it was like a light bulb went off in my head. And, well, I just started drawing whatever the hell I felt like drawing. Whatever popped into my strange and peculiar head.
And it was like the floodgates of my imagination had been opened. And I would go on from there to have a pretty fruitful and productive 10-year run as a cartoonist.
And from that point on in my artistic career, whenever I felt stumped, or got writer’s block, or wasn’t sure which direction to go, I’d always remind myself: “Just write whatever you feel like it!” And that would forever be the guiding principal from which I lived my life. And from there I went on to become the homeless street bum that I am today!
So you see, kids, dreams CAN come true.
There’s a famous Hunter S. Thompson story. He was having trouble coming up with coherent copy for the weekly newspaper column he was writing for the San Francisco Examiner in the 1990s. The massive amounts of cocaine, marijuana and whiskey that he was consuming at the time might have been the source for his stymied journalistic efforts.
So ole’ Hunter came up with a seemingly brilliant solution to his journalistic dilemma. He told his personal assistant: “Just follow me around with a notepad and pen. And every time I utter something brilliant, just write them down. And then we’ll string them all together. And that will be my column.”
And so she did.
So Hunter S. Thompson — a doctor of journalism — would snort a big blast of cocaine. And then have a revelation: “THE BLOOD-SUCKING RATS ARE SCURRYING ACROSS THE TUNDRA LIKE THE VILE FASCISTS THAT THEY ARE!!”
And his assistant would dutifully write that down.
Then Hunter would take a big gulp from his legendary glass of Wild Turkey (on the rocks, naturally) and pronounce. “THE PUKING SIDE-SHOW GEEKS ARE ONE MORE VICIOUS METAPHOR FOR RICHARD NIXON AND THE PERVERSION OF THE GREAT AMERICAN DREAM!!”
And his personal assistant would dutifully write that down (it’s possible they were coming up with a brilliant new form of journalism right before our very eyes).
And, after a couple of hours of this gibberish, they’d have enough words and letters and punctuation marks to send off to William Randolph Hearst the Third (son of son of Citizen Kane senior who was now the publisher of the San Francisco Examiner at the time).
And Hearst would publish Hunter S. Thompson’s gibberish in his award-winning newspaper. And then he’d send Thompson a big, fat check so that Thompson could buy some more cocaine. So the whole system worked. At least for Thompson. If not for most of his readers.
I don’t remember any of those memorable Hunter S. Thompson columns in the San Francisco Examiner. And you probably don’t, either.
I have this weird compulsion. I really ENJOY writing.
If anybody else likes it, that’s cool. That’s like icing on the cake. I’m happy if a byproduct of my personal compulsion brings joy or entertainment to others. My biggest concern is actually the opposite — that my blather might be toxic or unhealthy. Words can be powerful after all, and they sometimes have a weird and unpredictable affect. (One asshole even claimed the pen is mightier than the sword — SURE! — so how come it’s always the ones mouthing off with words who end up getting their asses beat??)
I sometimes hear writers talking about having “writer’s block.” I have no idea what they’re talking about. My biggest problem is getting myself to shut up every now and then.