So this is page one of the second version of Jonah that I just sent to the printer, which means it's out of my hands now and I can no longer procrastinate, I need only wait until the people who constitute "the printer" have performed their arcane magics and informed me that I can start selling the book online, and then I will. I'm not sure when that will happen, a week or two probably? And you can order it then or, if you prefer, order a copy from me so I can sign it for you. And all of that is very good news, but let's talk about Abraham Maslow for a second. I want to talk about Abraham Maslow not because he's got the same first name as Dr. Van Helsing, though that's a bonus, but because it's taken me forever to finish this thirty-two-page book and he had something to say about that.
Abraham Maslow's most famous for being the hierarchy of needs guy, of course, but he also wrote about the puzzling tendency to avoid one's own greatness, to flee from one's own destiny, to fear what is best in oneself, and he called it the Jonah complex. Aha! Now, I haven't read much of what he has to say about it, but I know he's talking about me. See, I can't finish things. Until quite recently -- until about three hours ago -- I had never finished a major project. I can tell that somehow it's about fear, but fear of what? Well, of lots of things, I think: fear of not being that great, fear of feeling terribly alone when no one cares about what I've done, fear of criticism, fear of having to make myself visible by doing things like going to cons to sell my comic. But fear, certainly. It makes me run away from things like the ends of novels.
I didn't have this in mind when I started drawing Jonah. I started drawing him because his hymn from within the fish is such a beautiful expression of what it feels like to be depressed, and then because the idea of being in a fish is so enthralling, like is it good to be in there? Are you symbolically dead? Are you symbolically a fetus? Are you both? Are you depressed or otherwise crazy, are you physically ill, are you just kind of a weirdo -- what is keeping you from being alive the way other people are alive, what keeps you in this strange floaty limbo, in this fish? Are you waiting to be born or to be buried? Are you, perhaps, a novelist who can't finish a novel? And then as I kept going the story kept opening up and speaking to me, Jonah saying no, no, no, I won't and God pushing him forward, sucking him in, throwing him out, saying yes you will, saying this is why I made you. There has always been a voice inside me saying those things too. That is what I feel I'm here for, making things; and the voice says finish your novel and I run away from it. Away from the command to be free.
Well, I didn't run away from Jonah. Or I did, but only a little. Because I got to Nineveh in the end (literally; I drew her on the last page). That was clever of me, wasn't it? How I did an end run around my Jonah complex with the actual book of Jonah?
I don't know what this means for THE REST OF MY LIFE in big capital letters like that. I don't know if I will finish a novel now, or finish another comic, or start feeding myself better, or have a real romantic relationship for the first time in thirteen years. There are so many whales and so many Ninevehs, so much fear to overcome. But this is my very first Nineveh, and to me it is exceeding great.