In Eric Burns’ generously complimentary Best Practices Websnark, he comments on how maintaining a buffer and working ahead is a best practice. (He also names me “king of Best Practices,” rendering my adverb-adjective combination “generously complimentary” an understatement fit for the Papacy of understatements, but let’s not mince words)
In the commentary below the blog some very legitimate questions are raised about working ahead. Can cartoonists who work ahead be spontaneous? Can they interact with their audiences? Can they be as off-the-cuff funny as JIT (Just In Time) cartoonists? Is the Best Practice of maintaining a buffer at fault for making syndicate comics so uniformly stale?
I don’t seek to answer those questions here — I’m just pointing out that they get raised, and they’re valid. I’ve been woolgathering on the subject ever since the snark aired.
This morning I realized why, for me at least, the buffer is so important for the QUALITY of the strip, as opposed to the sheer QUANTITY required for unbroken daily updates over the course of four years.
Yesterday sucked, buffer-wise. I got two strips pencilled and inked, and I WANTED to get seven. I got stuck on what should have been an easy row, but the pencilling just wouldn’t flow. I mean, I could have scratched some faces out and inked them, and had the deadline been a critical one I would have. Depressed about my failure to deliver the goods (to me, not to you… you GOT your goods last night) I went to bed hoping the morning would bring a fresh look at things.
Well, it did. I sat down this morning and a fresh look at the script resulted in pencil work that was funnier and better story-wise than anything I could have forced out yesterday. Sure, I still WISH I’d been able to do this yesterday, and I’ve got my work cut out for me TODAY if I’m going to meet my goal for buffer-building this week, but I haven’t allowed that goal to compromise the quality of the strip.
If I were pencilling, inking, coloring, and uploading one strip per day, every day, then on the days when I’m uninspired, unfunny, and non-productive, you’d get crap instead of Schlock (an ironic turn of phrase, I know). And now, I’ve got stuff to get back to. A stack of scripts awaits my freshly-perspectificated (no, it’s not a word. Sue me) pencils.