But I do love Lynda Barry, the creator of this cartoon. I've loved her ever since I first spotted her Ernie Pook's Comeek in the Georgia Straight (probably when I was scanning club listings).
Her raw renderings and scrawled narrative were the only thing I could find during those pre-internet times that exposed the harsh and banal realities of growing up girl in a working class, multi-ethnic neighbourhood. The angst, the powerlessness, the awkwardness — all in hand-drawn black and white.
But it's Barry's ability to shift seamlessly between the written word and markings that holds the magic for me and the reason I have most of her published works, which I re-read whenever I'm all sixes and sevens, as Granny used to say. Barry lays it all out there in her clutter of wince-inducing text and pictures, and also has the goodness to share her the creative process that lets her let go (and you can too!) in her book, What It Is.
Barry believes that anyone can make the writing or the artwork; it's all about playing. This is why she enjoys wide acclaim for her popular writing workshops, including one at the Vancouver Writers Fest last October. And this is why I will often randomly flip open a page in What It Is —my playbook —before I sit down with a brush or my laptop.
"Adults confuse playing with fun," she told Jian Ghomeshi in 2008. Play comes with some anxiety, she says, but it does not involve planning. "I never sat down with Barbie and Ken and said, 'Okay, this is going to be a three-act....'"
Making stuff, she says, has a function that's more important than producing something "that will make somebody else want to make out with you."
"if we don't use it then it's sort of like having a vitamin deficiency and it's one of the reasons why I think we feel depressed."
Damn I miss that poodle-with-a-mohawk shirt.