Four Things Everyone Needs to be a Creator

Four Things Everyone Need to Become Creators

At certain points in my life, upon hearing a statement like that, I might think that “talent” would be at the top of my list – I’m not going to lie. And not because I’m so talented or anything; on the contrary, it’s my lack of talent that has made me feel this way, for example, when confronted with a piece of art forever beyond my capabilities. But more and more I’m learning: talent is not necessarily needed to be creative, and as you’ve probably noticed, not even to be commercially successful.

Yeah, you’ve noticed.

In fact, someone can actually create with little talent in the medium and still be good. No offense to John Porcellino, for example, but the indie-American comic Perfect Example is… well… a perfect example of that. His drawings aren’t particularly great – I don’t know if that’s intentional or not – but it’s effective in telling his story; and that’s something I can appreciate.

From my readings, watchings, listenings and attempts of creativity, these, in no particular order, are some of the traits that creators just need.

1.       Something to Say
It seems to me that creativity is synonymous with self-expression. That may seem really obvious… or that may be a statement that people take exception to. But at least for me, a person who loves to draw and write, all creative endeavors come about because I want to show the world, or at least my audience, something about myself.

Now Justin seems pretty content creating simply for the fun of it. He makes music, and not always to express emotion (often not, in fact), and The Lotus War really came about because he wanted to make a video game. Not because he wanted a statement about racism or war or anything. It is, however, at core, an expression of Justin’s fondness for video games. That is the statement he’s making with that (in addition to the rest that we decided to add in); he likes video games (and making music and computers and good stories and working with me, of course) and to the extent that he wants to participate in the creation of one.

And there’s nothing wrong with creating for the sake of creating; it’s fantastic to really just enjoy the act of creation. Lots of people start each and every project that way. Writers, musicians, visual artists… they start with the feeling of “I like sculpting” or “I liked writing” and then think “What can I write/sculpt/draw about?” I’m pretty sure Stephen King didn’t write Carrie because he was swept up in the idea of “bullies are not cool… how I can I use supernatural phenomenon to show that? Huh… and in what medium?” It was probably “I need to write. What should I write about?”

So it may start with a base of “I want to show my love of [insert medium here] to the world!” but eventually that desire will latch onto a theme, and that theme will shape the work.

2.       An Audience
So this is the point when people are going to say, “I have a whole bookshelf full of notebooks with poetry/drawings/My Little Ponies/Beast Wars fan-fiction that I’ve never shown anyone!” And to this I say: great, me too. In fact, for the longest time, I could not be in the same room when a person read/viewed my work. I couldn’t sit there and see their face because I’d analyze them in terror as they analyzed me on page. Also, I’d keep interrupting, “Have you gotten to that point yet? Because let me explain why I did this one thing…” so they’d have my verbal explanation rendering their feedback moot before they could ever give it to me.

Still, regardless of whether My Little Beast-Ponies’ War: A Romeo and Juliet Story has ever or will ever see the light of day, you cannot deny that it was written for someone – even if that someone is only you, as you sit in your room sketching ponies riding rainbows into combat against robo-organic entities.

The catch is, Firefly Meets Outlaw Star (oh, wait, that can’t happen; they’re the same thing. BURN!) probably will end up seeing the light of day… or at least the digital light of the internet. Even if you post it anonymously in a fan forum or have a little LiveJournal dedicated to odd mash-ups, you’re casting a net for an audience of your work because creativity thrives on a give-and-take/show-and-tell relationship.

3.       Time

Oh, and what time. And who has that time? Most work, if lucky, 40-hour-per-week, soul-sucking jobs that eat up our time and kill our creative instincts. No wonder artists need to be starving. It’s either starve and make or eat and don’t. Or at least it certainly feels that way. I mean, after an eight-hour day of working by compulsion, all we want to do is decompress and watch The X-Files re-runs. Hurrah. Even if you really, really enjoy playing clarinet or whatever, by the end of the day, you’re drained of creative energy. And that’s a sad state to be in. That’s the kind of state that makes me hate work. My job itself doesn’t do it; it’s the all-consuming energy that it takes.

But I find that carving out the time to do it helps. Just like most of us got home drained from school and then had to do homework on top of that, if we set a time and then sit down and make ourselves do it, we’ll find that it’s not that hard. And it’s a lot more enjoyable than homework to boot.

4.       Endurance (or, in lieu of that, a partner with endurance who will spur you on)
This is something that has historically eluded me. No matter how much I long to create, really, really at the core want to and respect people who do, I’m horrible at follow-through. Inspiration strikes and for a while, I’m really excited by the prospect of this new project… and then half way through, a new idea comes to mind and I get excited about that instead. And the cycle continues. Then a while later, I’ll try to pick up the first idea (which in itself had supplanted some other now-antiquated one) but my style or my “something to say” or my vision has changed so drastically that I feel compelled to start again… from the beginning. Scrap what I had and re-do it all. Not exhilarating work.

Even now, with The Lotus War, this lack of “stick-to-it-ness” has afflicted me. Justin and I already have ideas for two more games – one of which was my idea for a comic that’s large and exciting to me, so I’m really motivated to do that. Not to mention, little side comics I’d like to do of a personal nature. It’s getting difficult to keep trucking along drawing character portraits – especially since now all the major players are done. I don’t have a clear picture of what else I want to say.

Two saving graces are keeping me going: the multi-faceted nature of video game making (I can do portraits or make battlers or work on the origins comic or map or…) and Justin – who is very good at project-oriented work. He’s the little nudge that keeps me trucking.

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