Four Ways To Find Creative Projects That “Almost Make Themselves”

Sorry about the scratchy writing, my pen was running out of ink at the time.

Sorry about the scratchy writing, my pen was running out of ink at the time.

If you’ve ever had the experience of making a creative project that “pretty much made itself”, then you’ll know how exhilarating it can be. Making these kinds of projects can involve a lot of effort, but it never really feels like effort. In fact, it feels more fun than anything else. It feels like the project was something you were meant to make.

It’s probably best to describe it as the project pulling you along, rather than the other way round. These kinds of projects have a momentum to them that many other projects don’t always have.

Since I experienced this again a few days before writing this article ( when I was making this year’s Halloween comic), I thought that I’d see if I can give any advice about how to find these kinds of project ideas. I may or may not have written about this subject before, but it certainly bears repeating.

1) Look at the things you love: Every time that I’ve had one of these “it almost made itself” experiences, it’s always been related to things that I really love. Or, more accurately, a combination of several things that I will geek out about at every possible opportunity.

For example, the interactive comedy/horror story that I wrote last Halloween [LINK] was heavily inspired by 1990s computer/video games (eg: “Blood” in particular). It was also inspired by my memories of the “Fighting Fantasy” gamebooks that I read when I was younger.

In addition to this, it was in the comedy/horror genre – which is one of my favourite genres these days. Lots of Halloween-related stuff was also appearing on the internet at the time. With all of these things swirling around in my mind, it wasn’t long before they combined themselves into a project idea.

So, if you want a project that will “pretty much make itself”, then think of things that you enthusiastically consider to be “cool” or “fascinating”, then surround yourself with them as much as you can. Read about these things, think about them, re-visit them etc.. until they all start to come together in an interesting way. Immerse yourself in these things until you suddenly start feeling an irresistible urge to turn your fascination into something creative.

As soon as you start feeling this feeling, then good creative ideas (inspired by the cool things you’ve been reading about or looking at) will probably follow fairly soon.

2) Know your characters: When you’re planning or starting your “pretty much makes itself” project, one thing that will help to keep your project flowing smoothly is to know your characters well.

This works best if you already have several pre-existing characters that you can use but, if you don’t, you can always create some characters that are inspired by (but different from) your favourite fictional characters. The thing here is to know your characters quite well.

Once you know your characters well, then planning your story, comic etc.. is an absolute joy. If you know your characters, then all you have to do is to ask yourself “how would they react in this situation?” and the rest will pretty much write or plan itself. Writer’s block can still happen, but it’ll be less of an issue.

For example, my upcoming Halloween comic features the four main characters from a long-running occasional webcomic series of mine. Since I’ve known these characters for several years, working out how each of them would react to a zombie apocalypse was surprisingly easy. Although I had a mild case of writer’s block when planning the ending to the comic, this wasn’t too much of a huge issue for the simple reason that I knew all of the characters very well.

3) Imagine it in other formats:
Without fail, I’ve found that these project ideas seem to exist independently of the medium you choose to express them in.

These ideas seem much larger than just one medium. In other words, once you’ve found one of these ideas – you’ll probably start wondering what it would look like if it was turned into a movie or a TV series, what it would look like as a videogame, what the promotional trailer for it would look like etc…

For example, with my upcoming Halloween comic, I suddenly just knew that two panels on one of the later pages would have the first part of The Offspring’s cover version of “80 Times” (by TSOL) playing in the background if this comic was ever turned into a TV show. In fact, several scenes would have a 1980s/90s California punk soundtrack if it was ever made into a film.

I also knew that if it was ever adapted into an animated film, then there would be several extended versions of various scenes (and a totally different ending, which would be a parody of the whole “dream within a dream” thing that turns up in horror movies sometimes). These ‘extended’ scenes never made it into the comic, but they just suddenly appeared in my mind. Likewise, I found myself wondering what certificate the BBFC would give my comic if it was adapted into a film.

So, if you find that you suddenly spend a lot of time wondering what your fascinating novel, comic, art etc.. idea would be like if you’d chosen another medium, then this is a good sign that your project will make itself.

In fact, if you can easily and quickly imagine a lot more things about your project than you could ever actually fit into the finished thing, then this is a very good sign that your project idea is one of those things that will make itself.

4) It’ll find you: In the end, the very best project ideas rarely seem to come from within you. It’s almost like they exist separately and are just waiting for the right moment to appear to you. But, once they appear, they don’t exactly go away easily.

Yes, you might put off working on the project – but you’ll still be absolutely fascinated by the idea. it will seem like one of the coolest ideas in the world. Even if you don’t make it, it’ll probably still lurk in the background of your mind and wait for an opportunity to appear (possibly with changes) in one of your other projects several weeks or months later, when you least expect it.

Creative projects that “make themselves” aren’t always things that you have to find. Sometimes they find you.


Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

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