Tuesday, 21 May 2013

My Creative Process

This weekend I learned that my creative process goes through a couple of identifiable stages, no matter what it is I'm creating.

For the first time in ages I sat down to do some drawings for other people to actually see. I've been making an in-character reference book for Jessie to take LARPing (live action roleplaying). And I decided - for some reason I'm still not 100% clear on - that it would be a good idea to fill it with illustrations, like a set of Tarot cards.

Symbolism! (C) The Rider Tarot

So, I'd decided to create something and had come up with a concept that was probably beyond my actual abilities. I was excited about it, but it was a bit of a leap of faith.

I am definitely not the worst artist who has ever lived. I'm definitely a better artist than I was when I was four, or ten, or fourteen. I think I've done something I can be proud of... but I'm also nervous about showing off and making a big noise about it, because I'm not exactly Rembrandt or Charles Vess or Julie Dillon or anything. I don't want anyone to think that I think that they're actually good. They're just... pleasantly OK! As an amateur, I'm proud of their not-terribleness!

This all sounds very familiar.

Oh my god, a person drew this. We are all not worthy to look upon the glory (C) Julie Dillon

I'd managed to do all but seven of the drawings in time for the first event at Easter. I'd done my level best, but only been able to submit the first two thirds on time. Unlike missing a publishing deadline, nobody was particularly annoyed about this apart from me. But like missing a publishing deadline, the world did not actually end. An unfinished product went out onto the field, and I felt simultaneously proud and worried people would judge it badly because I hadn't got it all done.

I got a new deadline: finish the last seven pictures in time to add them in before the next event. That was great. I'd done the first 19 in less time than that. I had loads and loads of time.

And then I procrastinated. In my spare time I watched three series of 30 Rock, cross-stitched Game of Thrones bookmarks, played Plants vs Zombies, stared out of the window, and even did a little bit of writing. Every so often Jessie would remind me that I needed to do it, and I'd feel ashamed for not doing it, and then I'd get resentful, and that would make me not want to work on it.

It was around this point that I realised I was not drawing in the exact same way as I don't write.

Eventually, enough time passed that I started to wonder if I even could do it any more. What if I'd only been able to draw as well as I had last time because I spent ages working up to it? What if I now had a week to do seven pictures - still plenty of time - but I'd completely lost the ability?

Finally, this weekend rolled round and I couldn't put it off any more. I had to put pencil to paper. I discovered I'd left myself seven of the hardest pictures to get right. I had a mini crisis over what clothes do and how to hands, but eventually it all came down to doing it: nothing was going to solve my problems until I actually put something down on paper.

And here's one of the results. See? I told you they were pleasantly, almost aggressively OK. (C) me

It's really interesting, identifying your own creative process - with all its hang-ups and flaws and staring out the window - through the medium of a different medium.

In order for there to be a drawing, I had to draw it. And that's the same advice writers have been giving each other since the dawn of time: if you want there to be writing, you have to do writing. Everything else comes later.

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