I have been drawing comic strips and comic books and writing movies since I was very little. My parents and grandparents and sister always encouraged me. They read them, they liked them, they told me to do more. Same with my teachers and classmates for the most part. Some teachers thought maybe I should pay more attention in class, or spend more time on my homework instead of drawing, but for the most part they supported my storytelling.
I remember in seventh grade, when I started a new school, things…changed.
I went to a new school. I didn’t have as many friends in my classes, and there was a flood of new kids in my life. Some were great, some were horrendous. There was a group of guys who were just plain mean. They were bullies. Never hurting me physically, but really getting my head with their words. And worse yet, they were funny, so I KINDA wanted them to like me. A jock didn’t like me, no I get that, we don’t have much in common. But my new tormentors were similar to me, they joked like I did, the only reason we weren’t friends is that they didn’t want to be. These guys picked apart everything about me. My looks, my clothes, my entire way of being.
Thinking back, they were all probably as insecure as I was and they were just happy to be not be on the lowest rung of the social ladder. They smelled weakness and they pounced.
I dreaded going to school, I dreaded to discover what they were going to find wrong with me that day.
I’d still draw, I’d still write stories, it was my escape, and in elementary school it was what I was known for. But now, in this new school, there were artists better than me. Which was actually pretty great, I sought them out and wanted to collaborate with them.
But then, one of the bullies looked at something I had been drawing. Studied it. And he said to me, very friendly, almost concerned, something that I will always remember, word for word:
“Why do you do this? You’re not good at it. Don’t waste your time, just stop. Find something you’re good at.”
I remember looking at him and saying “Do you really think I should?”
And again, he wasn’t saying it angrily or jokingly, he said “Yeah, it’s just bad.”
I didn’t stop creating. I never did. Didn’t consider it for even a moment. Kids could make fun of my face, and my hair, and my clothes, and my weight. That all stung and believe me, it made me break down quite a few times right before or after school. But I didn’t stop drawing. And I never stopped telling stories. And I could say it was because I wasn’t writing or drawing them for THOSE KIDS, I was doing it for me, but that’s kinda wrong, every story I tell I want someone to like.
The reason I never stopped writing and drawing is because my parents, my sister, my grandparents, from my first drawing, told me it was good and encouraged me to do more. That made all the difference in the world.
If the kid in your life is interested in something: writing, sports, cartoons, plumbing, video games, whatever, support it. You can buy them books on the subject or look up more information with them on the internet, but above and beyond all that, participate. Look at what they’re doing. Acknowledge the work they put in. Say “I like what you did. You are good at it.” It makes all the difference in the world.
So yeah, I never stopped telling stories. And I do what I do today, I make a living, because my family told me what I did was good. They still do. When one of my movies comes out they’re there opening weekend (though they’ve already seen it at the premiere) and when a book comes out they’re at the store the day it comes out (though I try to get them a copy as soon as I get them).
And one of those bullies?
We’re Facebook friends now and his kid is really into MINIONS.
Brian Lynch is the screenwriter of the films Hop, Puss in Boots, Minions, and The Secret Life of Pets. He has co-written the comic book series Angel: After the Fall with Joss Whedon, as well as the comic book series Spike, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Microseries, Monster Motors: The Curse of Minivan Helsing and Bill & Ted’s Most Triumphant Return. His first book, Toy Academy, is available now. Follow him on Twitter @BrianLynch