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Randall Munroe spoke to The Reg again. We're habit-forming that way

Web comic author talks procrastination, illustration and the Thing Explainer

Twitter constraints, without the Twitter overhead

”I really like the language constraint. It forces you not to fall back on technical jargon - what you say is something you have to have completely processed,” Munroe told The Reg.

”The animal cell [tiny bags of water you're made of] is one of my favourites, because we don't actually have normal words to describe a lot of what's happening there.”

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In other places, the language constraint was “more of a game” said Munroe, whose explanation of data centres computer buildings notes:

“The cloud” is just a lot of buildings owned by big companies. They're full of rows of computers, information boxes, and lots of confusing colored lines everywhere joining everything together, carrying information and power in and out of the computers. When you use things like Short Bird Talk and Face Book, your computer is talking to computers in buildings like this.

His favourite? From the last illustrations, the tree of life. “I call bats 'skin birds', rabbits were 'jumpers with long ears', and porcupines were 'pointy cats' - although cats are also pretty pointy,” Munroe said.

Who did he intend would read the book?

According to Munroe, he’s never really thought about a target audience for the book. If there’s a target, it’s Munroe himself, he says. "Really with my book What If? and my comics, I'm drawing for myself. I like to do the research and figure out: 'How I would explain this stuff to myself before that research?’” he said.

In much the same way as he approaches xkcd, Munroe said: "I just take it that it will be interesting to other people with the same interests and knowledge as me. I don't know if that will be kids or people my age. If it's something I learned as a kid, or something I learned 20 minutes ago before I talked to a cell biologist, then maybe it will be interesting to people in the same situation."

Working on the book was not a simple process. According to Munroe, he was “all over the map.”

“I tend to not be very organised," he told us.

When I get something I'm excited about I just work on it and forget to eat and then crash. I've never been good at working on something a little bit every day. I'm sort of all or nothing.

I'm sure there are people who do comics every different way, but I can only think of one or two people who aren't drawing right up until the deadline. Something like about a deadline takes your half-formed idea and makes the process work.

"I procrastinate a lot," Munroe told us. "It seems to be common with cartoonists, so maybe there's something to it."

Next page: Picking favourites

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