Although I’m between comics projects at the time of writing, I thought that I’d talk about several ways that you can get motivated to make comics.
Before I go any further, I should probably point out that there’s a subtle difference between motivation and inspiration. If you’re inspired, it means that you have a good idea for a comic. If you’re motivated, it means that you actually want to make a comic (and are eager to get started on it).
Both of these things can exist independently of each other (eg: being motivated, but not inspired, can be incredibly frustrating!). Ideally, you should have both of these things before you start a comics project – but, since there are already a lot of articles on the internet about getting inspired, I thought that I’d just take a look at motivation today.
So, how can you build up the motivation to get started on that comics project that you’ve been meaning to make? Here are four tips.
1) Surround yourself with comics: One of the easiest and most obvious ways to get motivated to make a comic is to look at as many comics as you can – these can be print comics, newspaper comics and/or webcomics and they can be in any genre, provided that you actually enjoy reading it.
The thing here is to find comics – in person or online- that you think are “cool” and to remind yourself that you can make comics too. Yes, even if you’ve never made a comic before! I’ll be talking about this topic in much more detail in the next point on this list….
But, yes, there are always comics that you will find cool. Although comics these days are dominated by superheroes and/or various types of manga, these aren’t the only types of comics out there. If you can think of a genre, then there’s a good chance that there will be a print comic and/or webcomic in that genre.
Not only that, go online and read articles about comics. Read about the history of comics, read articles where people praise and/or complain about comics, read interviews with people who make comics.
This is useful if you’re worried that making a comic is a “silly” or “pointless” thing to do. Reading about the rich history and wide variety of subcultures surrounding comics will show you that comics are as valid an art form as any other.
It’ll also show you that comics are something that people actually want to read. Who knows? Someone might want to read your comic, but they’re never going to be able to if you don’t make it first….
2) To hell with the artwork!: If you’re new to making comics, then one thing that might reduce your motivation is a lack of confidence in your own artistic abilities. Don’t let this stop you! For starters, the most important part of any comic is actually the writing. As long as the art shows what is happening, audiences will forgive low-quality artwork because they’ll be more focused on the writing.
The other thing to remember about art and comics is that all comic-makers started by making comics with bad art. Bad art doesn’t mean that you’re terrible at making comics, it just means that you’re still learning. But, you’ll never produce good-looking comics if you don’t make bad-looking comics first. So, the sooner you get the bad comics out of the way, the sooner you can start making better-looking comics.
To give you an example of this, here are two comics from an occasional long-running webcomic series of mine. The first one is from 2012 and the second one is from this year. As you can see, the art has improved somewhat due to four years of daily art practice and learning. Yet, I would never have made the “good-looking” comic, if I hadn’t made lots of “bad-looking” comics first.
This is what my occasional webcomic series looked like in 2012:
This is what it looks like after four years of practice, at least two of which were spent making “bad-looking” comics like the one above:
3) Start something you can actually finish: Motivation is a tricky thing. It’s very easy to feel incredibly motivated at the beginning of a comics project, but it’s a little bit more challenging to stay motivated halfway through the project. So, when you feel that initial flash of motivation, use it to plan out your comic carefully and to make sure that your comic isn’t too long.
This sounds counter-intuitive, but you should always err on the side of caution when deciding how long your comic should be. Yes, you might want to make a 92-page graphic novel, but what use will it be if you run out of motivation by page 20?
Whilst a shorter 10-20 page comic might sound less prestigious, at least you are a lot more likely to end up with a finished comic that you can actually show off. You can always make the longer comic when you have more experience.
I learnt this lesson through hard experience in spring 2014. Back then, I felt really motivated to make a “serious” graphic novel that was based on an unpublished novella I wrote in 2010.
I put a huge amount of effort into this comic (eg: it included detailed colour artwork etc…) but, by the end of page 22, I’d completely run out of motivation. It had gone from being a cool project, to being an exhausting burdensome chore. Since it wasn’t finished, I didn’t even really feel ok about putting it online. So, it ended up being unpublished too.
In fact, it was another year before I my motivation to make comics fully returned. So, yes, when you feel the motivation that comes with starting a new comics project, try to keep the project a reasonable length.
4) Learn how to deal with “endless projects”: One thing that can really kill motivation is the idea of an “endless project”. This can be a serious problem for things like traditional-style webcomics that don’t really have a defined “beginning” or “end”. If you’re constantly stuck in the middle of an endless project, the sheer awesomeness of making comics can quickly turn into the dreary chore of *groan* making more comics.
The best way to keep up motivation with these “endless projects” is to break them down into smaller pieces that you can actually feel a sense of accomplishment when you’ve finished each one. If you’re making a narrative comic, then you could split it into several 10-20 page chapters (and, yes, this is how most “graphic novels” are originally released – as lots of smaller comics, rather than one large book). But, for traditional-style webcomics, you might need to be a little bit more inventive.
For example, a quick look at this year’s section of the comics index on this site will show you that I have a new version of a long-running “newspaper comic” style webcomic called “Damania”. However, if you look closely at this page, you’ll also notice that this comic has been split up into several “mini series” of 6-17 comics. This year, I’ve made at least 70 webcomic updates, but I’d never have done this if I’d just tried to make 70+ comics in one continuous session.
Another way to deal with “endless projects” is to include shorter self-contained story arcs within your webcomic. This way, you can keep your webcomic going for longer, but you’ll still feel a sense of accomplishment and completion when you finish each story arc. This sense of accomplishment will help to keep you motivated.
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂