Yesterday at church, one of the readings was the ninth chapter of the Book of Proverbs, which describes how Wisdom builds the famous house of the seven pillars, prepares a meal, and then invites everyone, especially those who have no sense, saying “Leave your simple ways and you will live; walk in the way of insight.”
We are supposed to grow in wisdom with time, but what strikes me in this passage is that Wisdom has to get things ready for people to fully experience her gift, and a meal means doing this every day, over and over again. She continually restarts.
Dave Marquez, an individual whose remarkable talent is only matched by his kindness, has written some things lately that got woven into my mind with this passage. He had a long monologue/conversation on twitter on August 8th about how some artists get successful with innovative works that rise from their youthful exuberance, and others reach their height only after much work, much trial and error, and the development of craft. And on his tumblr he paid tribute to two masters, Toth and Toppi, and their brethren and the difference between efficient comics artistry and an inefficiency that somehow makes the art more beautiful; the point is that everyone succeeds with their own method, and that method comes when the initial ideas and principles set during the youthful exuberance are perfected after years of craft.
I understood his point very well. I am 30 and that is still a relatively young age for comics (although look at Noelle Stevenson schooling all of us at 23). Hitherto I have been most successful at setting forth the themes and devices I want to convey and work with for my career. Meanwhile, the writing and rewriting of multiple drafts of stories and abandonment of certain others (there is a full-length OGN I wrote called The Isabel Letters which you will never see but was so important to my current work) has made me determined to tell better stories and find the best ways to do so. I have often said that every time I think about Amelia, I focus on what I would have changed and what I wish I had done differently. After Form of a Question is released I will probably do the same thing. For my success, each completed work has to be in some way a failed experiment, and in my failures I learn how to do it better next time. Like Wisdom herself, I begin the process anew with every day, with every tale. Even this weekend, I finished a 14,500 word outline for a novel I hope will be my #NaNoWriMo project this year (unless comics comes calling…otherwise it’s the story I write next) and immediately began acquiring research materials for a new project in which I can do some things I wouldn’t be able to do in this novel. It never ends.
But youthful exuberance has its place, and my pondering both the Bible and Marquez led me to this closing thought. Like any classic rock devotee, I love and respect Jimi Hendrix as one of the greatest and most important musicians of them all. He was also a fantastic composer and that gift developed with time (and is best brought out on Gil Evans’s extraordinary big band recordings), but if you were to ask me what my favorite single record of his is, I would say his first single, “Hey Joe.”
“Hey Joe” is simple and boasts one of the more economical guitar solos of Hendrix’s career, but what attracts me to it is his young energy, enthusiasm, and above all sense of discovery…there are moments in that instrumental break and the extended fade-out over Mitch Mitchell’s clattering drums when the playing feels so loose and live, and I can hear Hendrix realizing the possibilities of what his guitar could do in the studio and how to develop his incendiary stage presence in new ways. That this culminated in the ambitious Electric Ladyland is not only a gift to us, but is also the logical conclusion. It is a work of seasoned practice and commitment to growth, rising from comparatively simpler blues and roots played with passion; the clear path of wisdom sprung from exuberance.