ymmv .10 – Writing Resolutions
I love New Year’s Eve.
Long gone are the wild nights of my youth, fuelled by Passion Pop [google it], raging on the beach, and blasting through the moment where the dawn stare us down. I’m beyond 6 years married, with two kids in the hole, and there’s little opportunity I’ll be meeting someone atop a monumental skyscraper upon the stroke of midnight as it carries us to the new year – reality is that the wife and I are asleep well before 12am rolls by because having two kids is tiring, and then having anything close to two beers puts me to sleep like a malty lullaby.
No, these days NYE means just one thing – resolutions.
I love them. Like crazy.
I know a few peeps who think if you want to change something up, well, just do it. Why wait for some arbitrary ‘date’ or ‘rule’ to make you do it? And they are right – but they’re also the people I know who make the least positive changes in their life. They’re more stagnant than dianoga piss. So, basically, to them I raise my boombox and play them some hearty Liam Lynch [LINK].
For me, the resolution is key because you feel a touch more accountable to do it, and you also have a finite date. You can ditch it in 365 days, if you want/need to. The hope is it becomes a lifetime kinda deal but if it’s something short term, something fun, or even a failure, then that’s all fine. Sometimes it’s just the act of shaking something up, trying something new, that unlocks something crazy.
Case in point: I once set myself the challenge of no chocolate for a calendar year as a resolution. And I completely nailed it. Sure, I maybe once slipped when at a work function I thought it was a blueberry muffin, but it was choc-chip, and I didn’t wanna be the freak in the corner chugging up half chewed muffin so I just swallowed that mouthful and gave the rest a sly ditch into the bin. But aside from that totally out of my control moment, I rocked that year. With ease. And after that, I barely ate chocolate for the next year. And the year after that the wife wanted to do it and she wanted solidarity, so I did it again. No hassle at all and I feel changed.
Plus, the crazy success I felt after completing year one was insane. I was the master of my own destiny. I could do anything. Which is why I’ve set other goals. One was to combat the fact I felt too busy and sometimes would go days without reading [again, wife, two kids, day job teaching, night job pretending to be important in comics] and I HATED not reading. So I set myself the task of reading one comic a day. I could go over, but never under. That was 3 years ago and I’ve been reading at least one comic a day ever since. I’m so thankful I do, and my to read shelf also thanks me.
Beneath all of this Lifetime Achievement Award speech, let’s move into the meat of this meal. What kind of creating resolutions could we make? Well, I’m probably going to focus mostly on writing ones but I’m sure artists could find visual equivalents, and so with letterers, and colourists, maybe even designers, flatters, whomever. Everyone join the party.
tl;dr, I think you should make one high quality comic creating resolution for 2016, and you should make it realistic, and you should make it fun, and you should damn well swing hard for them there bleachers.
My advice, before we dive into suggestions, is: don’t shoot the moon. Unachievable targets, or even overly unrealistic goals are just going to dissuade you before they pay off. Use the KISS model and Keep It Simple Sweetheart.
To that end, I have every year steered away from aiming to write a page of script a day, because sometimes I’m not writing script, I’m deep in breaking one story, promoting another thing, and researching another. Scripting isn’t an everyday occurence for me, maybe it is for you [insert column title here]. [NOTE: rereading this, man, whatever, if you wanna write a page of script a day, go for it, make it about anything, have fun with it, rock those splash pages on time short days]
Comic Creating Resolutions
Create a Character a Day
Imagine filling a room with 365 characters over a year. Man, there’d be some titanic failures wandering that admittedly very large room, but there’s gotta be some fantastic bastards and amazing people in there, too.
And be specific with your metric for success on this one, come up with the characters name, whether they are good/bad, and what they want. That can be the baseline. If you suddenly know more, then write their dog’s name, the first album they bought, or who they’re currently dating. The value add is good but don’t overreach in order to say you got it – KISS and just create someone every day.
Buy a specific notebook and fill it with half page profiles. If you only end the year with 1 usable character, around whom you suddenly have a story, then it’ll be worth it. But I highly doubt that’ll be the outcome. The more you use that creative churn in your head, the more it yields. You’ll find your loom spinning gold with regularity soon enough, and it’s also just a resolution so you’re giving yourself room to fail also, to get through those 10k pages of rubbish.
Create a High Concept a Day
As above, get a small notebook, and just fill it with ideas. But don’t go too broad, make it a short elevator pitch per day. Don’t feel you need to elaborate, unless you truly want to. The success bar is just getting one line down. For example:
- A small camp in Antarctica finds a lake full of strange aquatic creatures, as well as one humanoid underwater who they try to contact or capture.
- It’s Die Hard meets Blacksad when a tree full of peaceful creatures/bugs/things are assaulted by a lost and angry stray cat.
Coming up with 365 of those will be insanity – which is why I’m aiming to do just that for 2016. There’ll be so much hot trash I could start a dumpster fire every week and not get rid of all the run off, but if just one or two gems come out of it – or can be tweaked from what is initially polished – then it’ll be worth it.
And I can’t stress enough how much using these creative muscles just fuels more creativity. I’ve taught creative writing to kids for over a decade and I always find the kids improve, and I also find during those lessons that my mind starts coming up with ideas, connecting ideas, making music.
But the best part is it is fun.
NOTE: You can also do this one with just story titles.
Make Daily Time for Comics
Say you’re going to spend 30 minutes every day just working on writing a script, or breaking a story, or editing your work. No twitter in this half hour, no Facey. No excuses.
You’d be surprised how much committing the time will make you want to commit more time. It’s an avalanche, an addiction. And you will be getting stuff done. I can promise you that.
Write a Daily Conversation
Pick two characters, they can be creator owned, people you know or from history, or ones you have made up. Stick them in a room and then type a rapid fire dialogue exchange between them. See what they come up with, and how they talk about it.
This is a writing exercise Bendis uses for new characters he’s tackling, and to warm his brain up, and I think it’s golden.
Once you hit the end of the page, bail, you’re done.
Quit or Limit Something
Be reductive. Nuke your Instagram from orbit if it’s a timesuck. Or, because that’s a bit drastic, set yourself new 2016 social media guidelines. Only check them at the top of the hour, for five minutes, then close them for the next 55 minutes and make some four colour magic.
Or delete one of the apps off your phone if you know it’s a lure. Take comic making reading material on your commute instead of your phone.
You don’t even need to be too heavy handed on this one, but I will tell you that social media is addictive and it will actually be hard but then you will feel more free. And let’s face it, spending five minutes with a Matt Fraction written comic before you write is going to help you a hell of a lot more than some Facey video about “Watch what happens when this New Zealand guy ties himself to a Californian redwood and then puts paint cans at his feet.”
These are just the tip of the iceberg but I hope they get you thinking. If they start you on a journey, well, giddy up. If not, no problem. Nothing is for everyone. But all I can say is, grab 2016 by the hair, pull its head back, and chop that exposed throat quickly. Then repeat it once a day. Guaranteed, you will crush your enemies and see them driven before you.
Ryan K. Lindsay is a comics writer who has logged time at Dark Horse, Monkeybrain, Vertigo and other esteemed publishers. He currently writes Negative Space, a comic we here at Loser City love quite a bit. You can (and should) pick Negative Space up from your local comic shop ordirectly through Dark Horse.