If you thought I was lying on a beach somewhere, you are thoroughly mistaken! Here’s part of what I’ve been up to this past year or so. Probably the busiest time of my life ever – and still is. Watch the video to find out why.
The great thing about the new year is it’s a chance to get some perspective and stop and think for a moment. Look back on the year that went by too quickly and evaluate. What worked and what would you like to change for the new year?
Rather than making some grand resolution like “draw 2 pages every day”, try setting small, achievable goals that build a habit. As my friend Kody Chamberlain put it:
I’ve found that small ongoing adjustments are more effective than attempting a major and sudden change. Try that if you need a resolution.
I’ve made a habit of doing resolutions, not because december 31st is the only day you can make changes and take action – you can do that every day – but because people tend to ask me. And having to answer a question is a good excuse to think.
Maybe you’ve already made a plan for 2015 but in case you’re not sure, here are 5 ideas for New Year resolutions for artists and other creatives:
1: Spend an hour every week cleaning up the clutter around your drawing board and/or office. It’s really easy to get behind on simple things like these, and eventually it can bog down your workflow, having to look for tools or references or just having to work in a mess. Clearing physical clutter cleans out mental clutter as well.
2: Take at least one coffee meeting every month with someone you admire. This could be another artist, a writer or someone completely outside your industry. Someone you have a gut feeling there’s something to learn from. Prepare a few questions but try to be open and curious. Ask about their struggles, their strategies and their workflow.
3: Take a walk every day. Clear your head and get some movement into your joints. As artists and writers, we spend a lot of time sitting down and that hurts our bodies. You don’t have to go to the gym, just walking or doing 15 minutes of exercises and back stretching can really make a diffference.
4: Get in the habit of asking yourself: Is this helpful? Whenever you’re asked to do something, evaluate if it’s helpful for your overall goal, whatever that is. And every time you get angsty, depressed or start to worry about your story, your craft or if people will like you, stop and think for a moment: Is this helpful? If the mood or your worrying is not helping you produce better art, stop it. Do something helpful instead, like sitting down and getting the work done.
5: Quit one of your social media platforms. I know this one hurts. But think of the many hours a week you’re spending clicking links from Facebook, scrolling your Twitter feed or liking pictures of art (or cats!) on Instagram. You don’t have to shut down your account, just consider removing the app from your phone or simply don’t go in. We see it as a deserved break in our routine but more often than not, it’s a huge time suck. You’re better off looking out the window for 5 minutes and clearing your head.
This year my personal resolution is to spend the first hour of my work day, EVERY work day, on my own business. Whether that’s this site, my own comics or that novel I’m working on. Every day I come in to work, I don’t answer the phone or check my email or put out that brush fire. It can wait an hour, surely.
I also believe in the power of commitment, of accountability. So now that I have told you, I guess I have to keep my promise to myself, right?
What’s your resolution? Please share! Maybe there’s an idea someone else can stael to make their 2015 the most productive and epic creative year ever.
When you’re writing your script, it’s important to take the pressure off and ban your inner critic from meddling.
Writing a script for my comics was the lesson that took my process to the next level. And after I learned to write a script, the next most important lesson was to think of my script in terms of drafts. After all, if it’s a first draft, you don’t have to be Alan Moore right from the go!
Here are some pointers for getting that first draft done:
- Empty your head as fast as you can. Get it on paper, beginning, middle and end. You can always change the particulars later.
- Perfection is not what you’re going for. It’s a first draft and it will be edited later! Don’t worry about grammar or mull over character names or location description, just get the story beats down.
- Resist the urge to show your writing to anyone before the first draft is finished. Stephen King talks about writing with the door closed or door open in his book On Writing (which I can highly recommend). This means the first draft is yours and yours alone. If you have people critizing or asking the wrong questions it can totally derail your process. Write your first draft with the door closed.
- Think through scenes before you sit down to write them. Take notes or just run through the scene in your head. The good thing is you can do this anywhere, anytime. And it makes the actual writing SO much easier.
- Break it down into manageable parts if you feel looking at your entire story is overwhelming. 1st act, 2nd act, 3rd, act, individual scenes. Decide how many scenes is necessary to get from point A to point B and deal with each scene as its own little story, with beginning, middle and end.
- Always be moving forward. Force yourself to get to the end before you go back and change things in what you’ve already written. Take notes of what you want to change but save the editing for the second draft.
- Know the ending before you write the beginning. No, you don’t need to know the particulars but have an idea, a destination. At least know if it ends on a happy note or if it’s a tragic journey you’re setting out on.
- Bonus tip: When you DO get to the end and write that the way it’s supposed to be, go back and rewrite the beginning so you can put in little clues about the ending!
Now, as I say in episode 2 of the tutorial videos, it’s time to put your script in a drawer and forget about it!
Related video: Writing your script
Richard Starkings is the creator and writer of HIP FLASK and ELEPHANTMEN. Born and raised in England, Starkings worked for five years at Marvel UK’s London offices as editor, designer and occasional writer of ZOIDS, GHOSTBUSTERS, TRANSFORMERS and the DOCTOR WHO comic strip. He is perhaps best known for his work with the award-winning Comicraft design and lettering studio, which he founded in 1992 with John ‘JG’ Roshell. Starkings & Roshell also co-authored the best-selling books COMIC BOOK LETTERING THE COMICRAFT WAY and TIM SALE: BLACK AND WHITE.
What made you decide to work in the medium of comics?
I always loved comics — at the age of 9 I started reading a comic called COUNTDOWN featuring strips based on TV shows like DOCTOR WHO, UFO and THE PERSUADERS. In some ways I preferred them to the TV shows they were based on. That comic inspired me to draw comics and cartoon strips myself and from that young age I started identifying the artists and styles I liked.
Years later, I remember reading an article in Dez Skinn’s WARRIOR magazine in the 80’s about breaking into comics. I was on a train from Weymouth to London and I kind of realized at that moment that it was possible to get a job in comics and committed myself to that goal. I never seriously considered anything else.
What part of the process is the most challenging or frustrating to you?
As a writer, you’re dependent on your artist to make real your imaginings. So it’s important to find artists with whom you are sympatico. Finding those creators can be very rewarding and challenging all at the same time.
If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring comics creator, what would that be?
Write! Draw! ALL the time. Write about life, draw from life.
More about Richard Starkings and Elephantmen on hipflask.com
The most important thing about making comics, is finishing what you start. No one will get anything out of a half-finished story, least of all you!
Be aware that when you are working on a project, it can be very tempting to bail when problems arise. You get stuck on some aspect of the story or things that are hard to draw. That other story you have brewing somewhere in the back of your mind suddenly seems way more attractive. You feel like that’s the one you should really be working on.
But with every new story, comes new problems! You just don’t see them now, because you are not deep in the story yet. It is simply the dream of what it could be, so much better than what you are currently working on.
And of course you can work on any story you feel like. I would just advice that you finish them eventually. One by one.
Another thing that happens as you’re working, is that you learn. You grow. You look at the work you’ve already done, and you think you could do better. If you go back and change that particular scene or redraw that particular panel.
My advice? DON’T!
You’ll end up re-drawing the same three pages over and over again.
Finish the story. Then go back. If it still needs some work. 9 times out of ten, what seemed hopeless and bad during the process, will seem irrelevant and pretty OK after you have finished the story.
The most important thing to gain by finishing a project, is the confidence you build. Making comics is a lenghty and often gruelling process. It’s easy to feel like it’s all for nothing. You start beating yourself up. You feel you are not good enough, that nobody cares.
Having something finished changes that. Now you can show it to others, get feedback, respect. You have achieved! You are a success!
Abandoning a project half way through has the opposite effect; You feel like a failure. Do you think feeling like a failure helps your productivity?
The short answer is NO.
You learn more from one finished comic, even a three page one, than from ten projects that are halfway done.
Get to the finish line. Even if you have to stagger or crawl to get there.
Another look into the my process as I sketch a page of Thomas Alsop (out now from BOOM! Studios).
For more on Thomas Alsop go to http://thomasalsop.com/.