The question I get asked the most, besides “What are you doing with your life?!” and “Why is it called Hot Cakes?” is about where my ideas come from. I think you’ll hear that from any writer/artist/creative person who makes stuff. I mean, I think that in almost every interview I’ve read, this sentiment has been echoed. And that’s by way more famous people than me, so it must be one of those facts of life. So, let’s talk about the process. Or rather, I’ll talk and hope someone’s listening.
The creative process is something that fascinates me. Talking to my friends who make art, I’ve come to find that it’s different for everyone. It’s interesting, to me, to see how someone arrives at their destination. When you’re working by yourself, you can get focused in on your own way of production. Then, when you hear that someone does it a completely different way, it kind of blows your mind. Every time. At least, that’s how it works for me, because some of my friends do things I wouldn’t consider, or things that I think would never work, but do.
Let’s start at the beginning: the idea. Like I said, people ask this a lot, and the people who get that question always kind of laugh because, the ideas just come to us. As much as I wish there was a well I could dip into for comics, it’s sadly all a result of my brain. See, the ideas come from life. From living, from reading books, watching movies, and thinking (at least for me). And then, like a weird gumbo, things have to stew around in your mind. Then, suddenly (and most times in the middle of the night when you are trying to sleep), ideas pop into your head. It’s the darnedest thing. I’m sure that everyone reading this who paints, or writes, or draws, knows this. Often times I’ll latch on to a word I read, and it morphs into an idea like Frankenstein’s Monster. For example, when I wrote “Hitchhiking Through the Afterlife” for Short Stacks #1, I thought about hitchhiking. Then I thought “what’s an unusual place to hitchhike?” and it snowballed into this concept of life and death. Or, often times, my scenes or comic strips are written around a joke. I get something funny in my head, then fill in the parts around it so I can get a good delivery. See, no idea really starts as whole. At least not for me. This is a round about way of saying ideas come from everywhere. They are not precooked, you have to let them simmer until they are golden brown. Yum.
Now, personally, everything I write is first done by hand. I don’t know if this as common because typing is available. But for me, It helps to hammer out that first rough draft (and I mean rough) in a notebook. When I’m typing I have a higher tendency to stop writing than when I’m using pen and paper. The momentum of my wrist keeps me going. And, usually, my hand written scripts are almost in a sort of shorthand. They aren’t super detailed, I just need to get the idea down. Everything I’ll type up is trapped in there, I just need an outline. Plus, I have this one pen that I’ve used for years that really glides. When I’m writing with this pen, it kind of feels like riding in a super fast car. Everything is loose, but it’s fun. Then, I type everything up, add the details that I want for the artist or myself if I’m drawing, and edit, edit, edit, until I think it’s ready.
As for drawing, I usually draw digitally, so this lets me play around a lot without wasting material. Of course, even by hand I tend to experiment. I still know a lot of people who draw traditionally, and I love to listen to how they work. Some people draw and then paint their comics, some people use only loose pencil work. No two comics have the same process, it seems! When I’m working digitally, my pencil work is very loose. Some people cut out their pencil work altogether on Photoshop, but I still need that skeleton to layout exactly what’s going on in the scene. When working by hand, I’m much more careful and paced, because I can’t hit the “undo” button that I’m afforded digitally. This is a little more challenging, and sometimes you need that when working. You have to get out of the comfort zone when you can. And this method is more permanent. When you put a line down in ink, it’s down. Digitally, it can all be redone. It’s provides a different experience.
But the process reaches outside of just writing and drawing. Sometimes I listen to music. If I’m drawing, I’ll put on Spotify, making that membership well worth it. Often times I’ll listen to movie sound tracks, because they don’t hijack my attention. They work in the background, but are still powerful. It’s an interesting dichotomy. However, if I’m writing I can’t listen to music at all. It’s too distracting. My mind has to be clear to get those words out. That’s the only part of the process where I simply cannot listen to music. I know some people who can do that, but it just takes me too far off track. I also do much of my work at my desk, but sometimes that gets too cramped, and you have to go somewhere and write or draw. See, the process isn’t even the same for me every time.
Like I said, I’m always curious about the process of others. So, if you read this, let me know what you do. What’s your method for writing, drawing, painting, photography, web design, anything? I’d love to hear it!