Recently I had the pleasure of speaking with Nicholas Gurewitch, the creator of The Perry Bible Fellowship, about all manner of things — creativity, pursuing one’s passion, his withdrawal of PBF from newspaper syndication, and Piet Mondrian, to name a few.
With Nick’s permission, I’m pleased to share an excerpt of the interview with you below. The entire piece (several times this length) will appear in the upcoming Dark Horse book The Perry Bible Fellowship Almanack.
David Malki !: Something that I’ve always been interested in getting people’s perspectives on is the idea of becoming a specialist at something — it seems like especially now, in the era of everyone being on the Internet, everyone generating different types of content, there are a lot of people that are trying to become the best at one really specific niche, or even inventing a niche for themselves that allows them to stand out from the crowd — which, I think that it could be argued that’s something that you’ve done with your work as well, and as you’ve found, that seems to come at the expense of developing more of a breadth of work or of experiences —
Nicholas Gurewitch: Or of your own spirit; what’s to say that you don’t have a heck of a lot of growing to do. It’s kind of like getting married far too young. Or setting the sights on your telescope to one certain galaxy, neglecting the rest of the universe.
DM: It seems like there’s always going to be some sort of compromise; either you’re going to miss out on the breadth of other experiences, or you’re going to miss out on the depth of the one. Maybe that’s not the case with the comic, since you’ve explored that in such a rich fashion, but as we know there’s Charles Schulz who did comics for fifty years.
DM: Coming away from something you’ve done for a long time in favor of starting something new, whatever that’ll be, do you think it’ll be hard having to start lower on the ladder and work through all the growing pains and everything again?
NG: I would love to start low on the ladder. There’s a part of me that wants to endure something a little bit more difficult. I’ve always wanted to be a waiter. I just need a new experience. And I think I definitely am excited about climbing down from the ladder, and approaching an audience — maybe even anonymously — but approaching an audience from a fresh angle.
DM: It seems like that’s something you might have the luxury to do, if sales of the book and of the strips and so forth can help support you economically. As opposed to someone who gets into a lifestyle to which they become accustomed, and then they’re trapped in a certain rut that they can’t escape because they can’t afford to, they can’t afford to take a job that doesn’t pay them.
NG: Well, you always have time at the end of the day. I’m never certain how I feel about people who complain about not having time after their day job. If you really want to do something you’ll do it at night. You know, Bruce Wayne had a day job. He was Batman at night. If you really want to get something done you’ll just do it.
I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes, but I just know if you’ve really got something to say, you’ll find a way to say it, eventually.
NG: You know, you’ve got a lot of people out there who need money, and time, and encouragement, and women to do things — you should be able to put all that away and just go do your thing because you have to do it. It’s more valuable than gold, to have something that you really want to do, that you would do in your sleep if you could. It really doesn’t matter if it shows up to others.
Preserving that gold is probably the most important thing that you can do. I guess I’m just trying to keep an eye out and make sure that I’m not pushing that golden ambition into a corner.
DM: What would you say to people who feel like they want to be creative, or feel like they want to share something, but they’re still searching for that burning wellspring within them that’s going to take over everything else? How would you advise someone who wants to try and find what that passion might be?
NG: I would recommend they push their life into a direction where they have to create. And I don’t mean that in the obligatory sense, I mean that they should probably put themselves in a position where they’re forced to express themselves. Make the act of making work an act of relief, rather than an act of work. If there’s nothing to express, then they should always be open to the fact that they probably shouldn’t be expressing themselves creatively.
But the human psyche can only undergo so many challenges before it starts to do something really interesting that other people can enjoy. I think I’m a firm believer that if you go through enough agony, you’ll be able to provide enough ecstasy. I love it when people challenge themselves, and reflect on that, and then make art from that. There’s no shortage of brilliance to be had from reflecting upon life experience, and there’s no shortage of life experience to be had from failing. It’s a win-win situation, really. If you need more life experience, just hop in! Get miserable. Explore life more. I think a lot of people want to write a novel without having any life experience, and the easy solution to that is to have more experience.
The Perry Bible Fellowship Almanack will be released in February 2009.