< Piro >
Wednesday - March 5, 2003
Every few hours or so i get an email that asks me for advice on how to create a webcomic, or how to draw better, how to write better comics, how to become super popular, or how to make the images burned into your brain after reading Dom's comics go away... honestly, there aren't simple, good answers to any of these questions (except the last one: use a sharp object to poke your eyes out then flush with bleach.)
The other day i received an email that asked a question that I think gets to the root of what i and many others struggle with every day. Chris wanted to know how I motivate myself enough to actually do the work. He stated two problems that he has, problems that just about every creative person has dealt with. I'll deal with them separately, but the answers are pretty much the same.
The first problem he described has to do with 'the mood': "...I have a problem getting myself into the 'mood'. You're familiar with the 'mood', when your drawing away and nothing else in the world matters but you and the creation coming to life on the paper beneath your pencil."
Yah, i know the feeling. I live in terror of not being able to get into 'the mood'. Its one of the reasons I refused to consider doing MT full time for years, and why i still feel nervous about it. Creativity is not like a faucet, you can't just turn it on and off at will. Even so, you can't limit your creativity to only those times when you happen to be in the mood. You have to learn how to find it, and how to compensate for it when it is no where be found. You'd be surprised just how often I have no desire or will to draw.
His second problem is also something I am familiar with: "I can feel the want to draw burning away in the back of my mind, but I sit down at my desk and become so distracted, and wind up wasting a day playing computer games or browsing the internet."
(hmm? oh, sorry, I was watching the Shamanic Princess DVD. Ok, i really need to finish this rant that i started three hours ago...)
Dealing with these problems, finding 'the mood' and dealing with distractions, are not easy to overcome. In fact, I think conquering them is the most difficult task you will face in pursuing any kind of creative goals. Learning to draw, improving your skills, or anything else you may want to learn or do are minor issues in comparison.
First thing to understand is that doing anything creative takes time. it takes real time. The time needed to do creative things is in direct conflict with time spent goofing off, relaxing, watching tv and other stuff. This is your 'free time', time that you control how you spend. Time for things like work, school, mowing the lawn, etc, you can't exchange for doing creative stuff. Your free time is the only time available for it. Making this exchange is not as easy as it sounds, no matter how strong your motivation, for several reasons.
Being creative is a lot of work, it really is. There is a lot of real, honest, mind-numbing grunt work. That's why even with the 'want to draw burning away in the back of your mind' it can be hard to sit down and actually do something - we are eager for the rewards that come from being creative, but the amount of work needed to get there seems daunting at times. It's easy to be distracted by games, the net, or that Love Hina DVD you want to watch that can lead to a much quicker 'reward'.
Here is where that bit about 'the mood' comes in. Sure, sometimes drawing can seem effortless because you are in that 'mood'. The work involved in finding that 'mood' or compensating for can actually be downright depressing. 'the mood' is really about the creative synergy between your ideas, your emotive processes and that little pointy stick in your hand that makes marks on paper. It's like a muscle. The more you use it, the more you can rely on it. But like excersize, sometimes you just dont wanna.
There are no ski lifts in the world of creativity. You gotta haul your own ass up the slope every time you want to come back down it. It's not so bad, the more you climb up, the stronger you get, and the higher you can go, which makes for better runs :P
And that's the problem that most beginners face. work vs. rewards. When you start drawing, it might take four hours of drawing to produce something that gives you as satisfying a feeling as, say, one half hour episode of your favorite anime. Even then, you are not guaranteed to have anything worthwhile after that four hour stint. That's why distractions are so effective. Being in the middle of a creative process can be a lonely place, and you sometimes just want to drop it and do something that you at least know is a little rewarding.
Even after years of struggling with this stuff, i deal with it more than you might think. Just this Sunday, actually. I had a horrible case of artist's block. I had absolutely no motivation or desire to draw. I mean, i would rather have gone to the grocery store than sit and draw mondays comic (which is one of the things i did). The comic was not going anywhere, and the drawings just were not coming. After spending most of the day avoiding working on it, i finally forced myself to sit down and draw. I turned off all distractions, turn off all IM programs, all email programs, and run nothing but the internet radio streams i like to listen to. What's weird is that, after a few hours, things started to come together. I started to get a feel for the drawings... there is always one drawing that makes me feel like i'm getting there. These drawings started to spark other drawings, and then changes in the dialogue. Somehow, I had found my groove. I was late, and i had to finish drawing the next morning, but i put up a pretty decent comic on monday :)
To sum up, the biggest problem with being creative is starting. Every time i start something, getting into it is always a struggle. Sometimes it never stops being a struggle, but it's funny how it never fails that at some point, i am not sitting there worrying about how long it's taking, or how many more drawings i have to do, its all about what i'm working on at the time. it feels good to finish a comic, and it's always worth the struggle... until, of course, i have to start the next comic. ^_^
So, some hints. Fist off, its not easy. Learning to draw or embarking on a creative project is like loosing weight. It takes time and commitment before you start to see any results. You will feel discouraged a *lot*. This is normal, because what we want to make and what we actually make rarely synch. I was asked once how i find the time to draw everything i do and play all those games. Well, the answer is simple: I don't play games, I don't have time. Creating things is far more rewarding in the end than immersing yourself in the creative works of others.
It's not that i don't play ANY games, i dabble enough here and there, but if you want to grow as an artist, you have to draw more than you play. Be honest with yourself about your work, but don't be exceedingly negative or positive. Show it to others. Create goals. Many people have online sketchbooks where they post one new sketch every week. That's what i used to try to do. Creating 3 comics every week is a very difficult goal to reach, but its still a goal. Goals are important. I haven't been able to fully reach my 3 comics per week goal for almost 3 years now, but that doesn't matter - its part of what's driven me to produce over 300 comics so far. :) If i was lax on myself and wasn't so anal about my 3 per week goal, i'd probably have done less than half of what i've actually done.
Inspiration is good too. Watching anime while drawing can be distracting, but have a pad in front of you and doodle while you are watching. I find that music is a very important tool for helping me concentrate on drawing. Variety is good. Actually, you'd think that a lot of what i listen to while doing Megatokyo is super genki Japanese pop stuff. Not true. I tend to listen to a lot of downtempo, industrial, house and other odd little collections. For instance, the station i was tuned to Sunday night while doing monday's comic (one of the best ones i've done recently, imho) was Somnambulant Corpse Radio, a rather unsettling Dark Ambient Industrial Noise station, and one i listen to all the time. Weird, huh? Don't be afraid to experiment with what motivates you, you might be surprised what works for you.
Oh, and in regards to dom's little rant about being a condom magnet... a little birdie told me that Dom practically begged the one girl for the Batz Maru condoms. Now, i don't know about you, but that is an image no amount of bleach can make go away.
That and the fact that the rant image he used is Bridget from Guilty Gear XX, and Bridget is actually a boy...