Part of the grist for the idea-mill is cartoons themselves, including all the cartoons we’ve seen and all the ones we’ve drawn ourselves. I’ve had to throw away a lot of good ideas (Or what seemed like good ideas at the time) because a small alarm went off in my brain (flashing lights, sirens, and bells) alerting me to a vague memory of having seen the joke before, possibly done by another artist, say, Chon Day, in a Saturday Evening Post cartoon in 1953.
Even the magazine can slip up. Sometime back in the 80s, I submitted an idea I’d sold previously. Not only did I forget, so did the magazine. They bought it again! Finally someone noticed and brought it to my attention. There was a suspicious look in the editor’s eye on that occasion. I had the impression that he thought I was trying to pull a fast one on the magazine, which would have been pretty stupid of me. It would have been a good way to terminate my budding career.
When we create, we have to be open to the unconscious part of our brains, where the mill operates, and let ideas flow, (On those lucky occasions when ideas feel like flowing). Afterwards, we can go back to our idea-boxes, notepads, or sketchbooks and decide what’s good, what’s bad, or what’s been done before.
Cartoonists often come up with the same ideas independently. I doubt there’s any conscious theft of ideas among us, but occasionally we can duplicate one another’s work by accident. We also sometimes see a cartoon published which is similar to an idea we’ve submitted and had turned down or one that we’ve have had published some time earlier. It makes you wonder if we’re all connected in some way to the same big idea-mill, located in our collective unconscious.
I believe I hear the mill grinding as I write this. I’d better get up there and see what’s going on. I’ll be right back…
Perhaps the idea mill needs an overhaul.