This week I received the lastest dummy book for Lighter Than My Shadow, and learned that it will be the longest graphic novel Jonathan Cape have published. Even knowing how long it took to draw those 507 pages, I was quite astonished by its ‘bigness.’
I always knew the book would be big. I wanted it to be, because I loved reading comics that lasted me more than a few hours. But I also knew it had to be, because I wanted to dig really deep into the process of recovery, talk about all the stuff I’d found lacking in other books I’d read and tell the truth about how long it takes. But the idea was so big that I didn’t know where to start.
In 2006 I attended the very first graphic novel writing course run by The Arvon Foundation, taught by Bryan Talbot and Steve Marchant. This proved a turning point of sorts, and if you have a similarly big project that you’re struggling to get your head around, I can’t recommend these courses highly enough. With the support and enthusiasm of the tutors and other students (and in particular Bryan Talbot’s invaluable teaching) I began to take my idea seriously, and get something of a foothold on where to start.
And I did start. Over the three years following that course, I started work on the book maybe seven or eight times. Sometimes it was just a page of scribbled ideas and planning; other attempts included several pages of ‘finished’ artwork. But every time I would end up feeling overwhelmed, or frustrated by my ineptitude with the medium, or simply not ready to face the emotions the project was stirring up. I’d put my progress away in a box and forget about it. Until next time I started.
I lost count of how many times this happened, how many beginnings were abandoned. But the idea wouldn’t go away.
Next week I’ll be sharing a series of posts about why the idea wouldn’t go away, and even when it felt overwhelming and too big to manage, I decided it was important to keep going.