Choose not to run the wheels off it

Watterson’s final comic strip before he retired as one of the world’s most successful and beloved cartoonists makes me cry every single time. 

Calvin says to his trusted feline friend:

Wow, it really snowed last night. Isn’t it wonderful? Everything familiar has disappeared. The world looks brand new. It’s a new season with a fresh, clean start. Like having a big white sheet of paper to draw on. A day of possibilities. It’s a magical world. Let’s go exploring. 

And then the boy and his magical tiger go sailing into the great white void. 

What a moving goddamn work of art. Because at time of the cartoon’s release, I was fifteen years old. My favorite characters would never have any new adventures again, and it broke my heart. It felt like the death of two close friends. 

What’s interesting is, twenty years later, as an adult, as an artist, and as someone who has reinvented himself multiple times, it still makes me cry. But for different reasons. 

Watterson had an idea, executed it, then moved on. And he ignored the clamor for more. 

That took a heroic amount of courage, surrender and vulnerability. It was a death. Not of an idea, but of an identity. Here’s what he told a newspaper about his retirement a few weeks before his final piece ran:

This isn’t as hard to understand as people try to make it. By the end of ten years, I’d said pretty much everything I had come there to say. It’s always better to leave the party early. If I had rolled along with the strip’s popularity and repeated myself for another five, ten, or twenty years, the people now grieving for my characters would be wishing me dead and cursing newspapers for running tedious, ancient strips like mine instead of acquiring fresher and livelier talent. And I would be agreeing with them. I think some of the reason my comic still finds an audience today is because I chose not to run the wheels off it. I’ve never regretted stopping when I did. 

That’s what happens when everything familiar disappears. 

The world looks brand new. Like having a big white sheet of paper to draw on.


What if you let go of everything you’ve tried and built and accomplished so far, except for the person you’ve become, and use that as the raw material for whatever comes next?
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Scott Ginsberg

That Guy with the Nametag

Author. Speaker. Strategist. Inventor. Filmmaker. Publisher. Songwriter.

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