It’s been 35 years since the brilliant comic strip Calvin and Hobbes first appeared in newspapers. The adventures of the irrepressible six-year boy and his intelligent tiger have entertained both children and adults for decades.  

The comic strip is a beautiful work of art that combines humor, wisdom, artwork, and philosophy. 

Entertaining as the comic is, there are profound lessons for life and creativity that can be gained from the words of the comic’s creator, Bill Watterson. 

In this post, we’ll dive into Bill Watterson’s lessons in creativity that led to creation of Calvin and Hobbes. 

These lessons are from Watterson’s commencement speech at Kenyon College, from his introduction to his Calvin and Hobbes complete volume, and from the comic strips themselves. Let’s get started.

Be comfortable with the unknown

Bill Waterson had no idea that his comic would become as big as it did. Like most people, he had to work jobs he didn’t like. In his case, it was working in the basement of a company churning out ads to sell products. Something that did not appeal to his artistic temperament.  

His discontent and dissatisfaction drove him to find new work and this eventually led to creating comics for news publishers. 

According to Watterson, there’s no way to find out what the future holds when it comes to your creative work’s success. The best you can do is to live in the moment and focus on expressing yourself. 

This is powerful advice because when we become occupied with the results of our creative work, we lose focus. Whether you’re trying to start a new business, create a blog, a book, or invent something, you must not get occupied with ‘success’.

It’s best to give your best to make your creation or invention come to life and allow the outcomes to happen on their own.

Creativity takes time and effort

It took Bill Watterson five years to create the version of his comic strip that the world knows today. It’s important to give your creative work time and effort to develop into its final form.

As you build your skills and develop creativity, there are a few important lessons to help you along:

Get feedback

Getting advice and feedback from a mentor or skilled person can go a long way toward developing your creative skills. Bill Watterson’s editor helped him make obvious changes that he could not see. And over time this resulted in the work we see today. 

Adopt mental playfulness

One of the things that we learn from Watterson is that having a playful mindset matters. The act of creating photography, writing stories, starting a business, and other forms of creative work take effort. When you have to do these things regularly, it can be stressful and hard to come up with new ideas. You need to have an exploratory and playful mindset to make something new and different every day. 

Being curious and playful in your work will help you find fuel for creativity and avoid stress.

Find inspiration

Watterson’s comic is unique but it was also drawn from the work of other comic artists. One of his greatest inspirations came from the comic Peanuts. Charles M. Schulz’s linework showed Watterson that he too could create comics with minimal lines and details. 

Look for inspiration from the things you enjoy in your daily life. It’s through inspiration that you can build something that’s true to your own strengths.

Integrity matters

One of the reasons why Calvin and Hobbes remains so valued is because Bill Watterson refused to license his creation to sell t-shirts, mugs, or other items.

He did not want to lose control of his art and have it used to create wealth for businesses. Watterson said ‘No’ to a potentially billion-dollar business and had to fight to protect his beliefs and work.  

This resulted in irreparable damage in his relationship with certain people in his syndication. Having to fight for his creation was an emotionally painful time of his life and is something he remembers even today.

However, as time has passed, we know that he made the right decision. You won’t find a t-shirt with a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon on it. You’ll only find Watterson’s work in the way it was meant to be read, as a book or strip in a newspaper.

This is one of the reasons why Calvin and Hobbes is still a source of joy. Its message was never diluted or exploited by being used to sell accessories no one needs. Remember to be authentic to your story, your work, or your business. Because that value shines over time.

The top lessons from Bill Watterson to boost creativity

The comic Calvin and Hobbes is one of the greatest comic strips and works of art ever made. There’s a lot to learn from it and the author who created the strip. In this post, we’ve looked at powerful lessons that supported Bill Watterson’s creative journey. Use them to power your own and make your potential come true.