A Boy and His Tiger



It’s hard to believe that the mischievous Calvin and his anthropomorphic pal Hobbes have been gone now for 17 years. On December 31, 1995, the 3,150th and final cartoon strip of Bill Watterson ran in newspapers across the country. Calvin and Hobbes were pictured in their sled atop a hill of freshly fallen snow. “It’s a magical world, ol’ buddy,” Calvin declares. “Let’s go exploring!”

Not only were fans crestfallen but critics a decade later decreed that Watterson’s decision to end the popular series created a void that no one was prepared to step up and fill.

So what possesses someone to walk away from not only a huge fan base but also a steady income? In Watterson’s words, “My interests have shifted and I believe I’ve done what I can do within the constraints of daily deadlines and small panels. I am eager to work at a more thoughtful pace, with fewer artistic compromises.”

The first day of a new year is often a time of reflection and reinvention – a “clean slate” opportunity that is as beckoning (and daunting!) as a fresh blanket of snow. Have you always wanted to start your own business and be your own boss? Type “Chapter One” or “Fade In” on that novel or screenplay that has been swirling around for years in your head? Throw caution to the wind, pack your essentials in a bag and visit those exotic ports of call that have long enticed you?

What’s stopping you?

Maybe it’s all about hopping on your sled, tuning out the naysayers and taking a bold leap of faith.

Back in the 1980’s I was running a touring theater company, The Hamlett Players. (Hey, with a last name like Hamlett, is it that surprising I’d do be doing something theatrical?)  I was writing all of the scripts, auditioning and training all of the actors, generating all of the publicity, booking all of the productions, and doing rehearsals four days a week and running shows the remaining three. It was grand fun but one day I woke up and asked myself if it was really something I wanted to be doing forever.

As much as I loved acting, writing and producing, only one of these fields – writing – represented not only the longest shelf-life but also the most portable skill set that wouldn’t tie me to a permanent address. When I announced my decision to my board of directors, my actors and the audiences we had served, the reaction was one of astonishment…and anger. How could I just walk away from something that had my own name on it and that I had built from the ground up? What was everybody supposed to do if I wasn’t there to put words in their mouths? 

Despite my offer to support anyone who chose to take over the operation, there were no takers. One of my assistants even went so far as to say that my decision to focus on writing full-time was a selfish one and that there were no guarantees I’d even be successful. The year I made that decision – 1986 – I had four published plays and five magazine articles. In the decades that passed, those numbers now reflect 150 plays, 30 books, 5 optioned feature films and thousands of articles and interviews that appear in trade publications throughout the world.

Yes, it was a bold leap of faith. It was also a leap of faith that landed me exactly where I wanted to be.

I guess the message is that when you want something badly and believe in it enough, it’s all because, once upon a time, the universe put that thought into your head and said, “What are you waiting for?  Yep, it’s a steep hill. Maybe it’s even treacherous. But you won’t find out unless you go for it.” 

For as many times as the fearless Calvin and Hobbes plunged headfirst down that snowy incline and paid for the experience with tumbles, bumps and bruises, one likes to think that their final, optimistic ride on December 31, 1995 delivered them to exhilarating new vistas they might never have imagined.

A blanket of snow – just like a blank piece of paper – is only awaiting a free and unflappable spirit to jump in, leave a mark and make a difference.

Here’s the lineup of this month’s blogs by my guest contributors:

What Color Is the Cow? – by Mindy Littman Holland

Creating a Social Buzz for the Movies – by Janette Speyer

Top 10 Reasons to be Thankful for Social Media (Part One) – by Brandy Wheeler