Gretchen Rubin

The happiness possibility of comics.

Ever since I read Scott McCloud’s brilliant Understanding Comics, I’ve been intrigued by the possibilities of comics. He made an outstanding case for how the comics form allows writers to do things that they couldn’t otherwise do, and his book shows how well this could be done.

I’ve always been fascinated by the ways in which form can be used to shape the way that readers learn. My own books use different structures to hammer my thoughts home in a vivid way.

I hadn’t thought about the possibilities of comics for my own writing, however, until recently. At the recommendation of a friend, I read the Sandman comics, but had decided that comics just wasn’t a form that appealed to me.

Then I read Daniel Pink’s fabulous career-guide-in-comics-form, The Adventures of Johnny Bunko. It showed how effectively the non-fiction comic could be used to persuade readers. In a very few number of pages, Daniel Pink was able to make his points clearly, engagingly, and very memorably.

Through the magic of the internet, one thing led to another, and two weeks ago, I ended up having a conversation with Daniel Pink about comics and how he’d decided to write his book in comics form.

During our conversation, he gave me the most thrilling idea: I should include a comics section in THE HAPPINESS PROJECT! Yes, absolutely, I must do that!

I went into a kind of psychological shock at the thought. I desperately wanted to do it – but how? I couldn’t imagine how to bring it about. I envisioned a very short section, between 10-16 pages. But how? What would the comics section be about? Who would draw it?

“Ummm….so how would you find an artist?” I asked Daniel Pink. He gave me several good ideas. I followed them. Last week, I met with an artist who seems great – though we’re still in the very early stages of seeing whether this will work.

This means a lot of work, hassle, expense, and time, but also, I hope, tremendous fun. I’m so happy to be undertaking this experiment.

A few years ago, it would never have occurred to me to try something like this, and I could feel all my resolutions grinding together to make this kind of experiment possible:
“Force myself to wander”
“Read at whim”
“Follow my interests”
“Reach out”
“Only connect”
“Embrace novelty and challenge”
“Ask for help”
“Make time for projects”
“Look for opportunities to collaborate”
“Make books”

Resolutions! After all this time, I’m still astonished on how effectively they work to make me happy, whenever I faithfully keep them. I think again of the 1764 journal entry of Samuel Johnson, who, as an inveterate resolution-maker and resolution-breaker, is one of the patron saints of those who make resolutions:

“I have now spent fifty-five years in resolving; having, from the earliest time almost that I can remember, been forming schemes of a better life. I have done nothing. The need of doing, therefore, is pressing, since the time of doing is short. O GOD, grant me to resolve aright, and to keep my resolutions.”

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