Creating a daily strip is a lot different than reading one. Each day I post a new part of an ongoing story, and you see it for the first time. Generally speaking, each story takes place now as of the time of posting whether it reflects a current event, the current season, or just seems to be an event that takes place in non-specific time.
That’s how you see them… but it’s not how I create them.
Many of the stories you see are created out of order. Sometimes even the parts of a story were created out of order or as segments intended for an entirely different plot. I never know when an idea will hit me or what time of year that idea might best take place, so I take notes and make scribbles and build story arcs as they come to me. You don’t want to lose a good idea just because it comes to you at the wrong time of year!
So… I’m building stories out of order, constantly reshuffling the publishing hierarchy, and creating story arcs several months in advance. That takes me to the subject of this post, Halloween in July. As I looked over my completed stories today I realized the timeline of currently complete stories takes me into October. It made me realize that I need to start planning now for holiday-themed posts before I write myself into a corner.
Why is that, you ask?
Well, I’m not going to stop writing today (I hope)… and I know that over the next couple of months I will come up with new ideas that will push other ideas to a different publishing schedule. If I don’t pay attention to the future, I could find myself a few months from now in the middle of an uninterruptible story arc that doesn’t allow a timely Halloween-themed story to be published.
That means today, on the last day of July, I found myself drawing a jack o’lantern and candy canes and holly. You will see none of this for several months, and when you do it will seem timely and appropriate… but maybe you’ll also remember that for me Halloween started in July this year.
I see people everyday who proclaim to not be creative. They can’t draw or play a musical instrument or write a story, and they will say “I’m just not a creative person.” If this sounds like you, I am going to hopefully change your way of thinking by the time I’m done here today.
Society tends to condition us to believe that creativity must manifest itself in specific ways. This makes it easy to identify creativity in others. We see an actor or a musician perform, and we see the creativity in action. The same holds true when observing a painting, a sculpture, or reading a book. But the creativity we see so easily in others can often be difficult to find in ourselves.
We will sit down to draw only to find that we cannot draw the things we see in our minds, or we try and write but the words do not come to mind to narrate the story in our heads. Some will frustrate themselves trying to learn to play an instrument that never sounds as good as we imagine the tune when we close our eyes.
Additionally, society tends to ignore many other obvious creative outlets. If you look around with an open mind, you can find creativity in every profession. Maybe it is the job itself, or the way the worker completes the task, or perhaps the way in which he finds enjoyment in completing his job in a particular way. Creativity is everywhere and it is an innately human thing that you can’t possibly be without, no matter how you might have been trained to think otherwise.
Everyone can draw or write or play an instrument, given enough time and practice… but for some it comes more naturally than others. Our creativity manifests itself in different ways, and that’s normal. If you give up being creative because you can’t draw, you might miss your calling as a musician. You might miss your calling as a writer if you quit because those piano lessons frustrated you until you began to withdraw. Or maybe you should be a computer programmer or a manager or a leader of others… all tasks that require creativity that is often overlooked.
Because of our societal conditioning, we try to force our creativity through a specific medium. The trick is learning to allow your idea to dictate the medium of expression and not the other way around. If you can learn to do that, you might be surprised at what you can do. In fact, you might even find you can do some of the things you thought you couldn’t do, just not in the way you thought you were supposed to do them.
So, don’t force yourself to write or draw… don’t beat yourself up if you can’t play the instrument you think you need to be creative. You have an idea that you want to express, that’s the heart of creativity! Let your creativity drive you, instead of you trying to drive your creativity, and you might be pleasantly surprised at where it will take you.
From Where I Sit continues… Here’s the first 5-part story all-at-once just to get things off to a fast start. I will also be posting new dailies this week Tue-Sat to keep the story moving forward. Next week will move to the normal schedule of Mon-Fri daily updates.
So… you have an idea but you don’t know where to start. When you ask others how to start, the typical response is to “just start” which sounds kind of enigmatic. How do you know where to start if you don’t know how to start? Hopefully that will make a little more sense when I am through here.
When you watch a movie, or read a book, or appreciate a painting it seems structured and organized. The ideas flow naturally from one to the next, and that’s what you want to create. You want your idea to be that fluid and expressive, but you’re seeing the end-product. You aren’t seeing where that project began, but rather where it ended.
Most people make the critical mistake of believing that you have to start at the beginning. You don’t. You can start anywhere you like. You can start with the end of your story if you want. Many jokes originate from the punchline, with the setup being developed to reach that goal. If you try to force yourself to start only at a specific place, you will stifle your creativity.
So, you begin by writing or drawing and making sure you capture any idea that you have. Even if you don’t particularly like the idea right now, make a note of it and keep it. Keep everything together and never throw anything away. Even if you read something you wrote and don’t like it, keep that too.
If you continue to work with your ideas in this manner, you will eventually find that the creation seems to take on a life of its own. The characters begin to almost write themselves. The art defines and guides itself. It’s nearly an out-of-body experience where you almost become a ghost-writer for your own idea, and you don’t feel like you are creating anymore but are merely communicating something that has already actually happened.
This is when you discover you have actually started.
You will be able to go back over all the earlier work and help it fit the story you are telling now. Concepts you didn’t know how to use, or didn’t fit smoothly, you can more easily work with them. You might even find places to use those random ideas that never seemed to find a home. Good thing you kept them!
So, begin now… you aren’t creating your final product from the start. Work from the end, or the middle, or flesh out a character. Keep adding to your creation, even if things are out of order. Eventually your ideas will begin to connect themselves, and that’s when you actually get started!
From time to time I will post and try to give a glimpse into the madness behind the madness. The creative process is a strange thing to talk about. Let me start by saying that for me it isn’t really a formal process at all.
I set aside some time to work and see what happens. If I find my mind wandering and nothing is getting done, I walk away for a bit and do something else. I might watch TV or browse the Internet or read something. There’s no point in beating my head against a wall when the ideas are not popping.
When the creativity flows, however, I sit at the computer and write and draw until I empty the well. Sometimes the ideas come faster than I can develop them fully, so I have to switch gears and take notes and make sketches so I don’t lose the best stuff. I can always expand upon a good idea later, so making sure I don’t lose those idea nuggets is the top priority.
Next time I’ll try and discuss how your creative project doesn’t really get started until after you have already begun! Trust me, it will make sense when I explain it…
And so it begins…
Imagine a boy with an overactive imagination who grows up to be a man with an overactive imagination… and an abundance of “free” time due to lack of employment. Sometimes he talks to himself, sometimes he talks to a friend, but he always has something to say about everything from the soul-crushing search for a job to current events.
“From Where I Sit” will always feature art from the point of view of the main character. You might never see him or the people he talks to, and they might never even have names. The conversation and thought exploration are the points to be made.
The plan is for this strip to be a M-F (daily) comic strip once I get more storyboards and ideas in the queue. For now, here is a taste courtesy of the first 3 strips I created. Let me know what you think.