J.K. Riki

The Curse of the Debut

There’s an old saying that goes “You only have one chance to make a first impression.” It’s wise advice, and very true, but sadly it can also lead to a very dangerous side effect: Never making any impression at all.

The Curse of the Debut happens when you get so caught up in making a great first impression that you put off your debut forever. You keep waiting for the day to arrive when everything will be perfect, so you can make a brilliant first impression. Except the perfect day never comes.

Case in point, the recent Fred the Monkey cartoon The Timelines They Are A Changin’. The reason it was the first Fred cartoon in over four years was because I made the decision to switch to Toon Boom Animate (which isn’t even called that anymore!) instead of Adobe Flash (which wasn’t even called that when I first started!), and I wanted the first cartoon back to be spectacular. While FtM was not new, it would be a chance to make a first impression using the new software.

But learning a new program is a challenge. I got so caught up in needing the perfect day to arrive that I stood still for four years. I was suffering from the Curse of the Debut.

So what changed?

I let go of the curse. I realized that the first time I debuted Fred I also had no real idea what I was doing. I stumbled my way through Flash in 2003, and managed to make some really ugly, lousy animated shorts. Somehow, though, Fred found fans. In spite of my lack of experience, people enjoyed the cartoons. I found my way to eventually master the program even though it took me almost a decade.

The Timelines They Are A Changin’ exists because I let go of the pressure I had created myself and just gave it my all. (I also thankfully had my friend Ferdinand on call when I ran into software issues.) Interestingly, it is the first Fred cartoon I’ve ever done that I felt reasonably satisfied with. In the past, I had to leave things on the table. Deadlines came, and I cut movements and lines. This time I actually managed to put in everything I had intended. It wasn’t all pretty, because I was learning the program as I went, but it was extremely satisfying to get it done.

I am currently working on a novel. It will technically be my debut novel, as The 15 Day Creativity Boot Camp book is non-fiction. I am finding myself in a similar situation regarding the Curse of the Debut. I see myself getting caught up in wanting the perfect day to arrive. It’s a chance to look back on what just happened with Fred and remember the old adage that I created for myself a while ago: Mediocre Progress > Unrealized Genius. Sometimes I forget that, and today is a good day to be reminded. Perhaps you could use a reminder as well?

Go create. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it has to be done.


  1. Jaque

    I never heard it put that way but you make a good point. I have been working on a novel for a long time (since I was in middle school) and I never seem to finish it because I think about what if people don’t like it? I don’t think I could handle it when you look online at reviews and see so many people bashing popular books. That would kill me.

  2. Samantha

    Ha ha, I’ve been there! ^.^

    Nice to know we’re not alone!

    1. mitzobah


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