Doing that Thing that You Do

G.B. Trudeau, the cartoonist behind the legendary Doonesbury cartoon strip, said something unusually profound today. Even I got it!

I’ve never been a big fan of Doonesbury. There, I said it. Go ahead, boycott me. Turn off my WordPress dealio. Do what you gotta do. But at least my conscious is clear.

Some of his stories were pretty good, but overall I felt he was being iconoclastic for the sake of being iconoclastic. As if he was making money at it or something.

Today is the 50th anniversary of his starting the strip, which is pretty darned cool. Like the strip or not, that’s an amazing run, and he’s not quitting. In an NPR interview today, he was talking about how the newspapers comic strips are drying up as the business changes. “I’ll probably turn out the lights.”

That was cool, but earlier he was talking about finding subject matter. He said that when he started, he was trying to write stories that his audience might find interesting.

He gave up doing that, however, because it was just too much work. Instead, he started writing stories that interested him, and trusted his audience to follow him. Fifty years later… well, I rest my case.

Although it’s easy to say “trust your audience” when you’ve got a 50-year history of success behind you, there’s something more there.

Trust your audience to find interest in what interests you also says… come on, come on… yep. Trust yourself.

That’s a big deal. You gotsta have the nerve to chase out those stories that speak to you, and trust that you’re good enough to turn those stories into art that will appeal to everybody else.

Even as a cartoonist, it’s what catches your eye, tickles your fancypants, and lights your pilot that makes the world go ’round. Trying to guess what other people want is rather dog-chasing-his-tailish. Not gonna work.

So, I don’t know about you – well, I assume you’re a writer and you know how it goes- but, for me, Mr. Trudeau’s words are truly empowering.

Hmmmm, what am I interested in… oh no! Now I have to think of something…

Author: John D Reinhart

Author, technical writer, videographer, actor, and naval historian John D Reinhart is a very busy guy. You can find his novels as

One thought on “Doing that Thing that You Do”

  1. Well done! I suspect you have some really great yarns to spin. You should reach back in that brilliant mind of yours and share one with us. I for one would appreciate reading it. Paaalease?

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