I'm making some solid progress with Limerick. I'm at around 6k words now, but there's still plenty more to go. I'm really happy with it so far.
I wanted to write about this little book I read 4 or 5 years ago that's stuck with me. It's a book I come back to fairly often, and it's been a huge shaping force in my life as an "artist."
The book is called Ignore Everybody: 39 Keys to Creativity, and there's actually a free PDF sample version you can read here: http://changethis.com/manifesto/6.HowToBeCreative/pdf/6.HowToBeCreative.pdf
I wanted to go through some of the points the author makes and how they've impacted me.
- Ignore everybody. The more original your idea is, the less good advice other people will be able to give you.
This is fucking fantastic advice. As writers, artists, filmmakers, musicians, etc, we're all on our own creative journeys making art for our own reasons. We love sharing our work, and part of sharing your work is having other people comment on it or critique it. And ya know what? Most of the comments are usless.
That's not to say all criticism or critique is useless, but when you throw your work up online and ANYBODY IN THE WORLD can give their two cents, you've gotta take what they say with a grain of salt.
I'll give you a personal example: every text adventure game I've created has drawn comments like "would be better with art" or "needs graphics - 0 stars."
The funny thing about those comments? I make text games! By their very nature they are made purely of text, not graphics. It's like that Einstein quote: If you judge a fish by it's ability to climb a tree, it will spend it's whole life believing it's stupid.
That's like saying a book sucks because it doesn't have a joystick and buttons to shoot the bad guys, or that a 2D movie sucks because it isn't a 3D sculpture in a museum.
I know the advice for adding graphics is well-intentioned, but that's not the medium I'm working in. If you're a creator, you've probably run into similar "advice" on how to change your work to make it "better," but following that advice would leave you doing something totally different than what you set out to do in the first place!
So who's advice do you take? As a smart, up-and-coming artist like yourself knows, you PROACTIVELY seek out knowledge and advice! You ask advisors and trusted friends or perhaps other professionals whose work you respect how they would approach a project. You watch YouTube videos and read articles on how to improve your craft. You see what kinds of things are possible, and then you work towards achieving your goal.
THAT is useful advice- advice that is tailored to your needs. A bazillion seagulls squawking on the beach is nothing but noise.
- We all spend a lot of time being impressed by folks weʼve never met. Somebody featured in the media whoʼs got a big company, a big product, a big movie, a big bestseller. Whatever.
I call this the social media effect, and I truly believe it is the #1 reason for depression in 2018. We all have a tendency to compare our "behind the scenes" with everyone else's "highlight reel."
You check facebook and twitter and everyone around you is living these fantastic lives, going on vacations and attending comiccons or partying with friends, meanwhile you're sitting at home watching Netflix.
What we forget is that they're only at those events for a few hours. After that, they go home and watch Netflix (probably).
We spend all this time trying to show off for random strangers and we don't take the time to make ourselves happy. My happy place is on the couch with my wife and dog, eating pizza and re-watching Spartacus or Avatar or Red vs Blue. Another happy place is getting lost in a good book or video game. Another happy place is writing text adventures.
I've got 9 games online right now, but they didn't just spring up out of nowhere. It took me 8-9 months to create those, and I'm still working daily on new ones. So don't compare your behind-the-scenes to someone else's highlight reel. Just keep chugging away and soon you'll have a highlight reel of your own!
- Nobody can tell you if what youʼre doing is good, meaningful or worthwhile. The more compelling the path, the lonelier it is.
This is similar to the first point, and I think the key here is to satisfy yourself first. Art for the sake of art. Create because you want to create, and because you genuinely enjoy the process of creating. If you're creating something to be "commercial" or hoping you'll get discovered, you'll probably give up pretty fast.
Text adventures are just about the least commercial and profitable thing I can think of creating, but that doesn't matter. I've got a job that pays the bills, and writing archaic adventure games makes me happy. It's something I can put my whole self into without any expectation of reward or payment.
If other people like it, that's a nice bonus. If everybody hates it, it still doesn't matter because I enjoyed every second of creating it. I don't spend hours, weeks, or months writing games because I want to win the popularity contest (is there one going on right now?). I do it because, like I mentioned earlier, writing weird adventures to amuse myself is one of my 3 major happy places, and I'd do it even if nobody read anything I wrote (and that's exactly what I was doing when I first started!).
- The more talented somebody is, the less they need the props.
Ah, this brings me back to my film school days. Students blamed their crappy short films on everything from cameras to lighting to editing software. They truly believed that if they didn't have the best tools, they couldn't make the best films.
Those things are props. My movies were crappy because I had no idea what the fuck I was doing. Would shooting those shitty movies on a nice camera have magically made them good movies? FUCK NO! They would have just sucked in high definition!
Master the fundamentals of your craft and get rid of the props and obstacles. I bet you could shoot and edit a better movie with the free apps on your phone than I made with the fancy gear in college.
- Don’t try to stand out from the crowd; avoid crowds altogether.
Another solid piece of advice. There's like a million people going the route of "I'll just wait tables for a while after college... don't worry, I'll get discovered someday!" That's what everyone else is doing, right?
That's a crappy plan. You can have a lame job that pays the bills and still create fulfilling art on the side. What you do for money doesn't define you.
I also feel like the guy who's got a steady income and makes art for fun has a much better shot at getting paid for his art in the future since he's not worrying about paying rent every month and forcing himself to be creative when he's not in the mood, as opposed to the artist who quit his job and put 100% of his time and effort into making oragami cartoons on Instagram hoping Steven Spielberg will call him up tomorrow.
I could be wrong on that, but I'm probably not.
- Sing in your own voice.
For whatever reason, text adventures have become the outlet for my voice. I don't know why, it was just kinda random and it amused me (still does). But I bet you wouldn't confuse a kungfuspacebarbarian adventure with anyone else's, would ya?
I may not be the best writer and maybe my dialogue sucks, but at least it's mine, and to me that's all that matters. Sing in your own voice!
- The choice of media is irrelevant.
I really like this point. I've been inspired by artists, filmmakers, authors, pro football players, businessmen, game designers, philosophers, finance gurus... the list goes on.
It doesn't matter what the medium is, what matters is the sincerity of the creator. Indie comic book artists who post their webcomics on tumblr inspire the shit out of me, but so do sushi chefs who dedicate their lives to making the perfect sushi.
I don't think it matters if you paint, sculpt, make movies, or design games, I think it's your passion and sincerity that shine through and inspire other people.
I'm not making AAA adventure games and I'm not a famous Hollywood star but I've gotten dozens of messages over the past year from people saying I inspired them to write a story or make a game. That's a fucking incredible feeling! But I can pretty much guarantee it's not because of the medium- text adventures are kinda boring.
I'm just me being me, and as much as I like sharing what I create, I love encouraging other people to create even more. Inspiring people is so much more satisfying than getting a pat on the back for some weird game I wrote. So the choice of media is irrelevent- just be true to yourself and other people will be drawn to that "real"-ness.
- Nobody cares. Do it for yourself.
Odds are against you ever becoming rich and famous from your art. It happens, of course, but you can't go into this thinking you're going to be the exception to the rule.
Everybody else in the world is worried about themselves- their business, their family, their own games and movies. Nobody gives a shit about your book, your game, your movie, or even this blog post. Whatever you're pursuing, do it for yourself! If you're not happy, then nobody's happy. Because nobody else really gives a shit.
- You have to find your own shtick.
I'll let you in on a little secret: I'm not actually a barbarian. *gasp!*
But for some weird ass reason the kungfuspacebarbarian username caught on a few years ago and now everyone writes funny comments acting like I'm some sage barbarian space wanderer with a 20 Charisma score. So I dutifully play the part and write back ridiculous sage and charismatic shit whenever they do! That's my shtick.
Maybe you love it. Maybe you hate it. But that's what I've got.
- Write from the heart.
Last but not least, write from the heart. It's a cliche, but it's true. I think it encompasses pretty much all the other points above, but I'll write it here again:
Make shit because you love making shit. Being a creative person is hard. You're going to get hit with anxiety and depression, you're going to run into trolls who come back and bash you over and over and over and over again, you're going to meet people who don't like your work and other people who know your work better than you do yourself.
Just remember that people experiencing your work are only going to interact with it for a very small amount of time before moving on with their lives. Maybe they'll watch your 3 minute video and leave a comment, or favorite a piece of artwork you created after glancing at it for 9 seconds. And then they move on to someone else's artwork and favorite them.
But you will have spent HOURS, maybe even YEARS working on this thing that they barely glance at. And that's okay!
Don't do it for the likes, don't do it to impress anybody, and definitely don't do it because you think it's "commercial" and will make you money.
Do it because you fucking love it.
Write from the heart.