I love comic strips and I love templates. And yes, the two are connected. I’ll explain how in a little while. As for the Close Encounters of the Third Kind reference, that movie was set in Muncie, Indiana. And that’s where this story about me and Jim Davis takes place.
I saw Mr. Davis on three separate occasions. He was a Ball State University Alummist, the same university I graduated from in Muncie.
The first time was face-to-face. Mr. Davis was doing a book signing just off of campus. I had him sign a poster that I gave to someone else. I still can’t believe I didn’t buy a book and have him sign it for me!
The second time was at a Ball State football game. Mr. Davis lived in a nearby town where his company Paws, Inc. is located. He was sitting with friends ten feet away in the same row as me. This time I didn’t approach him. I figured he deserved to enjoy himself without some college kid bothering him.
The third time I was much farther away. We were in the same building, the College of Architecture. Mr. Davis had participated in a lecture for the students. This was cool because he was asked to sign the wall reserved for the speakers. He didn’t just sign the wall. He drew Garfield on it!
I love it when artists pull back the curtains and give you a peek at their creation process. I’ve heard Mr. Davis describe the steps he goes through as detailed in this story, the magazine, Indianapolis Monthly. One quote, in particular, caught my attention.
… I watch Garfield in my head like I’m watching a TV set. I put him up a tree, I have him in a boat, or staring out a window — and then I just watch him. And I ask myself, What would he do? What would he say? What would the other characters do and say? Where would they go? And I just watch until something funny happens — then I back up three frames and cut it off…
The first time I heard this quote years ago, it didn’t occur to me what Mr. Davis was doing. At the core of his process is a template.
Here is the Garfield template.
Step 1: Put Garfield in a situation
Step 2: See how he acts
Step 3: When something funny happens, back up three frames
Simple! Right? Mr. Davis has used this template for over 40 years to entertain millions and make millions.
Let’s connect the dots and tie this story together.
I love to create templates because they make going from thoughts to words easier, faster with results that work every time. In fact, I have a template of the month club where members get a new content creation template every month. Details here.
Here’s my process.
Step 1: I think of an idea for a template. Something to base it on. For example, I love acronyms because acronyms make a concept easy to remember.
Step 2: I ask myself, how can I turn an acronym into a template?
Step 3: With the end result in mind, I back up one, two, three, or however many steps it takes to turn my idea into a template.
Without realizing it, my process is similar to the process Jim Davis uses to create Garfield. I’ve used this process many times to create templates.
You can do this too!
Daily Doable: Think of an outcome you would like to achieve. Then back up one, two, three, however many steps it will take to get you to your goal. Then begin at step one and do it.
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