One of the first times I went into Bob (cartoon editor of the New Yorker) Mankoff’s office he said something to me about people’s needing to “get over their infatuation with their own brilliance.” Those weren’t his exact words, but that was the sentiment. It was a blanket statement against cartoonists in general, but it was made while he was commenting on one of mine specifically. My initial reaction was “who does he think he is?”
And then I realized he was right. It’s great advice, and it doesn’t just pertain to cartoonists. It’s universal. If you’re a creative person you need a solid sense of confidence in your own material, but you also need a healthy suspicion that your material might not be all that special. It’s helped me to try and push myself.
The ephemeral nature of the cartoon world often brings this issue to the forefront. When a new idea enters the cultural consciousness, it seems as if every cartoonist is there to pounce on it at the same time, but we all think we’re the first one. We all thought of swines getting the human flu and we all thought Lincoln would have Tweeted the Gettysburg Address. Half of my good ideas, it seems, have already been thought of by somebody else, and many of the ideas I think are so fantastic are really just awful ideas that only appear fantastic in the moment because they are mine.
And that’s the case, I’m pretty sure, with this cartoon. It was actually destined for publication at one point, but eventually the magazine returned it to me via the FedEx envelope of death, and I don’t really blame them. It’s not worthy, and probably never was.