A lot of my cartoons come from conversations with family or friends.  They are found things, they happen without looking and they cannot be forced.  Almost without fail though, if someone calls to tell me they have a cartoon idea for me, it’s unusable.  But if we are just talking, sometimes one of us will say something and I will immediately know that it will work perfectly as a punchline.  I’ve trained my people so well that now just as I’m saying, “That’s a cartoon idea!”  often they are saying it right along with me.

Sometimes a lot of those happen in a week and sometimes none of them do, so my next way to get cartoon ideas is to look back through my reams of discarded cartoons to see if there’s a bit from one that I can add to another and somehow make it fresh or funny.  If that doesn’t work, then I start looking at the week seeing if there are any holidays I can write about (arbor day!  Yippee!).  No?  Well, politics is always a safe way to get an idea.  There’s so much ridiculous goodness that those gags pretty much write themselves.  But what if it’s been a slow week politically?  Well, that’s when things can get a bit dicey.

Then I sit down and stare at the blank piece of paper and think about funny things that happened in our childhood.  I think of conversations my husband and I have had.  I think of things that happened when our kids were little.  None of those work to jog out an idea?  Then I start thinking about Seth and I can usually write an autism cartoon because we live with it and it’s close to my heart.  Although I try to balance the autism strips out, so if I’ve had too many in a row, I won’t allow myself to do another one for a while.  With autism I try to make it like life.  Sometimes it’s front and center in our life and other times it takes more of a backseat.

If I still need a few ideas I will call up someone and demand, “Tell me something funny that happened to you recently!”  I don’t know why I bother because I can NEVER use these.  Seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a cartoon idea this way.  But, usually we will start talking about other things and I’ll be distracted and then a good idea will come.

If I’m still stuck, I leave it for the day and go about my business.  I think of tons of good ideas while I’m driving and showering (I’m not sure why.  Maybe because I don’t ever have a pen handy?)  Also, just as I’m drifting off to sleep I often get good ideas.  95% of the time I scribble these ideas down immediately because I’ve lost too many ideas by trusting that I’ll remember them.  Invariably, if I can’t write the idea down, I’ll say to myself “It was about trees.  Remember trees.”  and then later I will think, ok, I know I was on Fourth street when the idea came to me but I cannot remember what it was about!  IF I remember the trees, I STILL have no idea what the idea was because my memory is not always the best.  I hate that feeling of knowing you had a great idea and lost it.  Because every lost and not remembered idea becomes more fabulous the more you obsess about it.

Sometimes I’ll  write the beginning and middle of a cartoon only to be strumped on a punchline.  I always go to my husband in this situation.  I read him the cartoon, pause and wait to see what he says.  Usually he thinks of something funny, but 75 % of the time it’s too dirty to use. In that case I call up my sisters because they have very similar humor to my own and will often give me a fresh perspective.

So that’s my process.  Boring, but it usually works for me.