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<   No. 3197   2011-10-28   >

Comic #3197

1 {scene: a home somewhere}
1 Someone who doesn't even slightly resemble Me: I'm watching a Multiverse-TV episode where my name is David Morgan-Mar.
2 Someone who doesn't even slightly resemble Me: He's been making "Irregular Webcomic!" for many years.
3 Someone who doesn't even slightly resemble Me: I could have done that!
4 Someone who doesn't even slightly resemble Me: I've got plenty of great ideas.
5 Someone who doesn't even slightly resemble Me: It doesn't even look all that hard.
6 Someone who doesn't even slightly resemble Me: I wonder what it'll be like to get fan mail...
7 Someone who doesn't even slightly resemble Me: Maybe after the first book deal, the buzz will cause a battle over the movie rights...
8 Someone who doesn't even slightly resemble Me: Wait, no. That's silly.
9 Someone who doesn't even slightly resemble Me: {Looking back at TV} An HBO series. That's where it's all happening nowadays.
10 {Someone who doesn't even slightly resemble Me watches TV a bit}
11 {Someone who doesn't even slightly resemble Me reaches for the remote, which is just out of reach}
12 {Someone who doesn't even slightly resemble Me slumps back and just keeps watching the same channel}

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Today's guest strip is by Andrew Shellshear, who does not actually have a webc...

Wait, silly me. Andrew is one of the authors of Darths & Droids, as well as being a contributor to Square Root of Minus Garfield, and one of the creative geniuses behind mezzacotta. He's also contributed a previous Irregular Webcomic! strip.

When I mentioned I was doing a guest week, Andrew decided: why the heck not, he should contribute a strip!

So he went ahead and did it!

He wanted his strip to convey... that idea. If you want to do something creative, go ahead and do it.

In our years of interaction as friends, collaborating on various creative projects, Andrew says he has taken great inspiration from me as a creative driving force. Andrew's thing is not really making comics though, it's making films. He has a great passion for film that comes through whenever we discuss movies, and I feel similarly inspired by his enthusiasm and drive in that field. I haven't quite got around to making films of my own yet (though I strongly want to), but I have assisted Andrew in making a few, including the film he showed at his wedding as his wedding speech* (which brought his bride, and half the guests, to tears), a music video for a band that one of his friends is in, and the two scenes we filmed for the Star Wars: Uncut project.

(Aside: Our second scene was selected to be included in the final Star Wars: Uncut film, which went on to win the 2010 Emmy Award for Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media - Fiction. Yes, that's right, Andrew directed and filmed and I acted in an Emmy Award winning film.)

Anyway, Andrew and I have had many discussions about the creative process - how people go about being creative and making cool and interesting things. These discussions often centre around a point we keep coming back to. 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. And if you're not making new things... you're not making new things. Andrew has stated repeatedly that the biggest lesson he has learnt from observing what I do with Irregular Webcomic! and how I oversee our Darths & Droids joint project is that you should not fear making something worse than what you've made before.

He expresses it as follows (copied from an e-mail he just sent me earlier this evening while assembling the above comic):

It's better to have something than 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 happens 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?

* I'm one of the ninjas.

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My comics: Irregular Webcomic! | Darths & Droids | Eavesdropper | Planet of Hats | The Dinosaur Whiteboard | mezzacotta
My blogs: (daily updates) | 100 Proofs that the Earth is a Globe (science!) | Carpe DMM (long form posts) | Snot Block & Roll (food reviews)
More comics I host: The Prisoner of Monty Hall | Lightning Made of Owls | Square Root of Minus Garfield | iToons | Comments on a Postcard | Awkward Fumbles
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