Creativity

Mon, 31 October 2011

I'm wholesale ripping off someone else's post today. Not for lack of ideas, but... Oh, just read the bloody thing. You'll get it.

The post is by David Morgan-Mar, an Australian webcomic artist and physicist. He is discussing the creative process behind a guest comic created by his non-comic artist friend Andrew Shellshear.

"The hardest thing about being creative is not coming up with ideas. Coming up with ideas is easy. You can come up with dozens of ideas in a lunch hour. (And we often do.) You can come up with ideas just sitting in front of the TV. We and a group of other friends have a private collaborative idea space on the net, and we're constantly filling it with new stuff.

What's hard about being creative is doing the stuff. You can't do creative stuff just sitting in front of the TV.

Some people tend to look at creative work, particularly things like modern art, or the little projects that people post on the net, and say dismissively, "Bah, anyone could to that. I could do that." But the thing is, they didn't do that. Sure, maybe they had a similar idea some time, but they never got off their backside and actually did it, whereas the person who actually went out and created it... did. It's easy to criticise stuff that other people create. It's hard to create stuff.

Another thing that Andrew has learnt over the years is that after you've made your first creation, it's far too easy to stall and not make a second. As a creator, there is a natural tendency to want to improve, to make things better than last time. But this can easily become a fear. What if your second effort isn't better? What if it isn't even as good as the first one? When you start thinking like this, you can get caught in a trap of demotivation and apathy [...] you should not fear making something worse than what you've made before.

[Andrew] expresses it as follows:

"It's better to have something that nothing, even if that something isn't better than the previous thing - in other words, first quantity, then quality."
 
As someone who has created over 3000 comic strips, published daily (except for a glitch or two near the beginning), I could not agree more. Yes, some of those strips weren't great. I created some very good ones, and I followed up with ones that weren't as good. But I followed up. There was always another strip being made. And by continuing to create, some of those later strips turned out to be pretty good too. If you want to create, if you feel the urge to make something - create! Make something! It doesn't have to be perfect. It doesn't even have to be very good. The important thing is you're now a creator, and once you've done it once, you can do it again, so long as you don't feel the need to make sure everything you do is better than before.
Because the thing is that the more you create, the better you become. It's a natural thing - it just happenes over time. And here's the second point Andrew made in his recent e-mail:
 
"If it sucks, keep going. It definitely won't get better if you don't work at it. I think people treat creative endeavours too much as something you are innately good at, rather than as something you need to work at."
 
When I started, I was not very good at making comics. Now, well I may not be great, but I'm definitely better. People who are good at art - they're not good because they were born able to draw or paint. They are good because they spent a lot of time doodling and sketching in the margins of their schoolbooks, drawing stuff whenever they got the chance, painting rubbish, then picking up the brushes and painting again. And again. And again. They're good because they're not afraid of sucking at what they do, and that lets them keep going, rain, hail, or shine. It's okay to suck at something creative, and to keep doing it regardless. Because with quantity behind you, quality can follow. If you're not creating things then... you're just not creating anything.
In an alternate universe, there's a copy of you who just got a creative idea.
 
Which one of you is going to stop watching TV and go do it?"
 
Good, deep, meaningful stuff there. And much of it strikes a chord with me, hence why I've plagiarised it. but it's credited, so it's OK.

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