One Quick Way To Rekindle Enthusiasm For Your Story

One of the annoying things about any writing project that is longer than a short story is the inevitable drop-off of enthusiasm that can happen after you’ve been writing it for a while.

This is when the story goes from being something new and exciting to being something that you’re a little too familiar with. Something mundane which you really have to push yourself to write more of (when you aren’t procrastinating from writing it, of course). Basically, it is when writing your novella or novel or whatever goes from being fun to being a chore.

It’s when you read stories by other people and think “I wish I was writing that instead of this boring old thing”. If you’re writing something “low-brow”, then it’s when you think “This is silly! I should write something with some intellectual depth“. Then, when you try to write something with the intellectual depth that you envied, you secretly wish that you were writing something a bit more fun.

And, for whatever reason, the excitement and enthusiasm goes out of your story. You think about abandoning it, before begrudgingly finishing the next chapter and telling yourself that you’ve come this far and that it would be pointless to abandon it, regardless of how fresh and exciting the idea of just throwing it aside and writing something else seems.

So, how do you deal with this?

Whilst there are lots of different techniques (and, of course, different things work for different people), I thought that I’d talk briefly about one that helped me to finish a chapter of a novella-length project that I was trying to write at the time of writing this article.

In short, just remember the core idea of your story. The point that you were trying to make when you started writing it. The thing that inspired you in the first place. The reason you started telling the story. The thing that made you feel enthusiastic in the first place.

So, try to sum up the core idea of your story in a couple of sentences. Think about things like the point that your story is trying to make, how you want your audience to feel whilst reading it etc…

In short, remember why you started writing the story in the first place. When you’re in the middle of a story, it can be easy just to see it as an ordinary, never-ending thing that is familiar and boring compared to the novels that have inspired you. But, if you’ve come this far with your story, then there’s usually a good reason for it. And it can be easy to forget this reason.

So, remind yourself of why you started writing your story and you might start to feel more enthusiastic about it again.

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Sorry for the short article, but I hope that it was useful 🙂

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Two Quick Tips For When Your Artistic Enthusiasm Runs Low

Although I’ve probably talked about this topic more times than I can remember, I thought that I’d take another look at the subject of artistic enthusiasm. This is mostly because I’ve had a somewhat variable level of artistic enthusiasm over the past month or so (due to being busy with various things, feeling uninspired occasionally etc..).

So, I thought that I’d give a couple of quick tips about what to do with your artistic enthusiasm is running low.

1) Find an inspiration: This can be a little bit of a challenge to get right, but finding a topic that really fascinates and inspires you can be one way to regain some of your enthusiasm for making art. If you’re unsure about how to take inspiration properly, then check out this article.

For example, I got over a brief period of unenthusiasm-based artist’s block earlier this month when I happened to find some fascinating Youtube footage of abandoned and semi-abandoned shopping centres in America.

Thanks to the combination of opulent 1980s/90s-style architecture, the eerie nature of the videos and the retro nostalgia, this was a subject that I found fascinating enough that I wanted to explore it in my art. This, of course, led to a highly-inspired art series that included digitally-edited paintings like these:

“The Forgotten Food Court” By C. A. Brown

“In The Ruins” By C. A. Brown

So, randomly trawling the internet for topics that seem interesting in some way can be one way to rekindle your artistic enthusiasm. The trick is, of course, to find a subject that fascinates you, but which you don’t know a gigantic amount about – since the feeling of curiosity that this evokes can propel you into wanting to explore a topic via making art about it.

2) Do something easier: This one is a little bit of a double-edged sword, but finding some way to make your art easier to make can either help to rekindle your enthusiasm (by making your art feel more spontaneous to make) or it can help you to keep producing art until you feel enthusiastic again. The thing is not to get too used to making art the easy way, since this can make getting back into making “proper” art a bit more challenging.

For example, due to being busy with various other things, I didn’t have as much time or enthusiasm left for some of this month’s art and/or comics. So, one way that I’ve found to make the experience easier is simply to switch to making monochrome art (hopefully just for 8-10 days). It looks a bit like this:

“The Gloomy Study” By C. A. Brown


Although it can take a bit of practice to learn how to make monochrome art, once you’ve learnt it – then it’s easier to make than “ordinary” colour artwork. So, it’s one of many ways to make art a bit more easily when my enthusiasm is running low.

Of course, every artist finds some types of art easier to make than others. So, there’s no “one size fits all” advice when it comes to finding an easier type of art to make when you’re feeling less enthusiastic. But, if you’ve tried a few different types of art and you know where your strengths lie, then temporarily making an “easier” type of art can be a way to rekindle your enthusiasm and/or buy time until you feel enthusiastic again.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Three Quick Thoughts About What To Do When Making Stuff In Your Favourite Genre Feels Less Exciting

The night before I wrote this article, I was making a painting that will be posted here in a few days’ time. Since I was feeling mildly more inspired than I had been over the past few days, I decided to make a slightly more detailed painting in one of my favourite genres – the cyberpunk genre. Here’s a preview of it:

This is a reduced-size preview. The full-size painting will be posted here on the 14th July.

Although the painting turned out ok, it felt a bit like I was just going through the motions. I thought back to how the times when I’d started making cyberpunk art more regularly (in 2016/early-mid 2017) felt a lot more interesting and exciting.

So, what do you do when making stuff in your favourite genre starts to lose it’s “spark”?

1) Move to one of your other favourite genres: This is the obvious one, but if you find that making stuff in one of your favourite genres isn’t evoking the feelings of excitement, fascination and “this is awesome!” that it used to, then move to a genre that does evoke these feelings in you.

Whether it’s just a passing fascination with some random topic, or another genre you really love, you probably have more than one thing that really fascinates you at any one time. So, focus on one of the other ones.

After a while, when you start to feel temporarily bored with that thing – you’ll have probably had enough of a break from the genre that you were getting bored with for it to start to seem interesting again.

2) Change how you think about it: One of the interesting shifts that I’ve noticed in my attitude towards making cyberpunk art is that it has gone from being “let’s make something really cool-looking” to “let’s making something easy, that also looks cool“. Because I’ve had a fair amount of practice with this genre of art, I can pretty much make cyberpunk paintings in my sleep these days.

Still, this isn’t a bad thing. At the very least, it now means that I can still make good-looking art on less inspired or moderately inspired days. In other words, it is a sign of artistic progress. It is a sign that I’m progressing as an artist. It’s another backup for uninspired days. In other words, it isn’t a bad thing.

If you can find some kind of silver lining to your current lack of enthusiasm for your favourite genre, then this can help a lot. Because, even if it just means that it’s time to find a new favourite genre (and experience all of those feelings of excitement again), then this is certainly better than just feeling miserable about the fact that your favourite genre doesn’t excite you as much as it used to.

3) Find more inspirations: Simply put, the times when I’ve felt really thrilled about making cyberpunk art have been when I’ve discovered something “new” in this genre that I haven’t seen or played before and have been absolutely entranced by it.

So, one way to rekindle your enthusiasm for making stuff in one of your favourite genres is simply to find more stuff in this genre. The only problem with this is, of course, that finding “new” stuff becomes progressively more difficult over time since not only will you have already seen or played even more stuff in this genre but you’ll have already learnt a lot about that genre (and the thrill of learning new stuff is an important part of those feelings of fascination).

So, this approach isn’t perfect. But, if you’re experiencing this jaded feeling for the very first time – then, time and budget permitting, it can be a good temporary solution.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

What To Do When Unenthusiasm Strikes In The Middle Of A Painting

Well, for today, I thought that I’d take yet another look at the topic of artistic uninspiration. In particular, I’ll be looking at when you suddenly feel a total and utter lack of artistic enthusiasm during the middle of a drawing or a painting. Mostly because this happened to me the evening before I prepared this article.

At the time, the drawing/ painting I’d started making was going well. I’d planned to make a digitally-edited painting of a 1990s-style video rental shop and, at first, the line art was going well. But, parts of the picture started to be a bit less well-drawn than I’d hoped, my planned background just seemed far too complex (and there seemed to be no way to remove, reduce or simplify it).

Thanks to the hot weather, the fact that I was tired and the fact that the painting looked like it would guzzle up a lot of time, I suddenly realised that I had no enthusiasm for it whatsoever. Or, more accurately, I realised that there was no possible way that I was actually going to finish this painting. Sure, I made a few vague attempts at adding more detail, but the painting just felt like a total waste of time – even though it would have looked really cool.

This painting could have turned out well, but it was failing quickly and my levels of enthusiasm were running low.

So, I abandoned the painting and decided to do something that I felt that I could finish. In fact, I realised that the quickest and easiest type of art I could make would be a piece of digital art (since I could make it less detailed and because there was no additional drying time or editing time).

The interesting thing was, as soon as I switched to making something that I thought I could actually finish, I suddenly felt a lot more creative and enthusiastic again. In fact, I even tried out a few techniques I hadn’t really used before – here’s a preview of the finished piece:

This is a reduced-size preview. The full picture will be posted here on the 7th July.

So, the lesson here is that if you feel completely and utterly unenthusiastic when you are in the middle of making a painting, try to work out what is causing you to feel unenthusiastic.

Sometimes, this can be external factors (like the weather, your mood etc..) but, more often, it has to do with the painting that you are trying to make. Often, it is because the piece of art you are making isn’t filling you with enthusiasm. Sometimes, this can be because the idea behind it doesn’t interest you as much as you thought, but sometimes it can be because your planned idea is too complex, over-ambitious etc.. when compared to your current levels of enthusiasm.

Abandoning failing paintings halfway through making them is something that gets easier with practice, but it can still be a little difficult if you’ve already invested time and effort into said failed painting. But, if you’re genuinely filled with the heavy, miserable, futile feeling of “I’m not going to finish this!“, then it’s the only thing to do. But, make sure that you immediately start a much easier piece of art (that you feel you can finish) as soon as you do this.

Not only does starting an “easy” piece of art mean that you’ll stop those feelings of failure from festering and becoming worse (because you’re still making art. Not only that, but art that is easy to make look good), but it also means that you’ll feel more motivated because your new piece of art feels a lot easier and more successful in comparison to the painting that you just tried to make.

So, dropping what you’re doing and switching to something easier as soon as you realise that your current painting isn’t going to get finished is one of the best ways to deal with sudden moments of artistic unenthusiasm.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Why It’s Important For Artists To Be Part Of The Audience Sometimes – A Ramble

For a few days before writing this article, making art daily has felt more like a tiresome chore than anything else. All artists go through phases like this occasionally, when making art just seems pointless or when you want to make art but the ideas and enthusiasm just aren’t there. It’s perfectly normal for this sort of thing to happen every now and then.

But, what can help with this?

Simple. Be part of the audience for a while. Find something vaguely interesting and then watch, read or play it. Have fun.

There are several benefits to doing this. The first is that you might be able to take inspiration from whatever you are enjoying and the second is that enjoying another creative work will remind you of why you make art.

Seeing something awesome will remind you of what it feels like to be inspired, amused, thrilled etc.. by something that someone has created. It will remind you that, yes, there is a reason why making art matters. It will also remind you of the feelings you experienced whenever you created some of your best pieces of art.

In addition to this, being part of the audience will also give you space to think and daydream freely, as opposed to staring at a blank page/screen/canvas and frantically thinking “Oh god, I need to paint something!! But WHAT??“.

This relaxed trance-like state of thinking and daydreaming is an essential part of being a creative person. Letting your mind wander freely can help you to think of more interesting ideas or, at the very least, it will help you get out of the nervous or frustrated mood that might be causing you to be uninspired or unenthusiastic.

Finally, creative works that leave a lot to the imagination (eg: novels, indie games with pixellated graphics etc...) can be absolutely perfect for this kind of thing. Because your imagination has to “fill in the gaps”, it actually gets a little bit of a workout. Looking at one of these creative works can help your imagination get back into a more productive state, for the simple reason that you’re actually using it and having fun at the same time.

To give you an example, the day before I wrote this article, I bought an interesting-looking indie computer game called “Hotline Miami”. Although I don’t know when or if I’ll review it properly, one of the interesting things about this game is that it uses 1980s/90s-style pixel art graphics and a rather basic top-down perspective.

The game’s cartoonishly bizarre and psychedelic graphics are the sort of thing that instantly shows you how artistic decisions can affect the emotional tone of a creative work. Likewise, the surreal morally-ambiguous story of the game leaves a lot to the player’s imagination and the frantic, strategic, ultra-violent, repetitive action segments of the game can help to bring about the trance-like relaxed state that I mentioned earlier.

Although I didn’t make any art directly after playing it for the first time, I was able to use it to get inspired to make some 1980s-style art that will probably appear here within the next few weeks.

So, yes, being part of the audience for something else can be surprisingly useful if you are feeling uninspired or unenthusiastic about making art.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Two Very Basic Tips For Dealing With Webcomic Exhaustion

2017-artwork-webcomic-exhaustion-article-sketch

Well, at the time of writing, I’m still busy with this year’s Halloween comic. But, I noticed something rather worrying whilst making pages seven and eight of it. I was starting to get a mild case of what I call “webcomic exhaustion”. The art seemed less fun to make than it had been, the project felt endless (despite only having a few pages to go) and I felt myself running low on enthusiasm.

This isn’t as bad as feeling burnt out (eg: the “I need to take a year off from making comics!” kind of feeling), but it can lead to that if you aren’t careful. So, what should you do when you start feeling webcomic exhaustion? Or, even better, before you start feeling webcomic exhaustion?

1) Plan ahead: Although this might drain some of the “spontaneity” out of making webcomics, always be sure to plan ahead –especially if you’re making a narrative comic! Having a plan for the whole comic and/or for the next 5-20 updates before you start means that any feelings of webcomic exhaustion won’t have too much of an effect on the quality of the writing in your comic.

Plus, if you have some experience with making comics, then you can account for exhaustion when you are planning your comic. If your comic is slightly on the longer side (like my upcoming Halloween comic is, relatively speaking), then including more simple interior locations in the later parts of the story – to save drawing time – can be a good idea.

Likewise, making a comic plan in advance also means that you know how many pages are left – and have more of a chance of actually finishing the comic as a result (since it doesn’t seem like a potentially endless thing). As counter intuitive as it sounds, it’s often better to finish a comic (even if the art quality starts declining etc..) than it is to leave a comic unfinished. Not only does this give you a sense of accomplishment (which can help you get back into comics after taking a break), but it also means that the audience will get some resolution to the story too.

Plus, if you start to feel exhausted, you can just look at your plan and tell yourself “I’ve only got [however many] pages to go!“. For example, my current webcomic exhaustion isn’t too bad (compared to, say, the exhaustion I felt in 2013) for the simple reason that I only have about three and a half comic pages to go.

2) Breaks, experience and structure: After experiencing a whole year of webcomic burnout during 2014 (where I produced next to no comics), I tend to be a lot stricter with myself about comic length. What this usually means is that I’ll make “mini series” of 4-17 comic updates (well, it’s more like 6-12 updates these days). Then, I’ll switch to doing daily art practice for a few days to a few weeks before making another mini series.

These regular breaks can be a great way to stop webcomic exhaustion in it’s tracks, whilst the daily art practice helps to ensure that I don’t fall out of the “rhythm” of making things regularly (it also improves the art in my webcomics too!).

From experience, I’ve been able to learn more about my limits when it comes to making webcomics. For example, I knew that the Halloween comic was going to be a longer and more ambitious project than my usual comics are. So, I was actually able to prepare myself emotionally for the possibility of webcomic burnout. I was also able to limit it to twelve pages (including the cover) whilst planning it, because I knew that this was about the upper limit of what I could produce.

Unfortunately, the best way to deal with webcomic exhaustion is to learn your own limits… from experience. But, one less stressful way to learn this might be to start with shorter comics projects and then gradually increase the length until you start to feel like it’s turning into a chore. Once you’ve reached that point once, you’ll know to keep your comics below that length.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Two Ways To Make Webcomic Making Interesting Again (Plus, A Comic Preview :) )

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As regular readers of this site probably know, this site is currently the middle of a bit of a webcomic drought. This was due to a number of factors, but the most prominent one was that I just didn’t feel the enthusiasm for making webcomics that I did a while ago. Although there will be another six (somewhat uninspired) comic updates in September, I’m determined that October won’t be a comic desert.

So, I started a new short comics project. At the time of writing, I don’t know how well it will turn out, but I’m actually excited about it. Here’s a cropped, but otherwise unedited, preview of what I’d made so far at the original time of writing:

The full and finished comic update will appear here on the 4th October.

The full and finished comic update will appear here on the 4th October.

And here’s a panel from the finished update, completed a few hours after the first draft of this article:

Yes, this is going to be awesome :) But, how did I rediscover my love of making webcomics... and how can YOU?

Yes, this is going to be awesome 🙂 But, how did I rediscover my love of making webcomics… and how can YOU?

So, how can you rekindle your love for making webcomics? Here are two tips:

1) Deal with feelings of webcomic guilt: If you’ve been posting webcomics regularly or semi-regularly, then it can be easy to feel guilty if you’ve had to drop out of comic-making for a while due to lack of enthusiasm for it. After all, it can feel like you’re letting your audience down. It can even feel like you’re drifting further away from your beloved webcomic characters.

Firstly, it’s important to remember that – if you’re feeling guilty about not making webcomics – it still means that you’re interested in making webcomics. It still means that you love making webcomics. After all, if you weren’t, you probably wouldn’t feel guilty about not making them.

If you let those feelings consume you, then – at best – it’s going to cause you to begrudgingly make a webcomic because you feel like you have to. Chances are, like the crappy webcomic mini series that will appear here in September, it probably won’t be that good. Feeling like this whilst making comics doesn’t lead to good comics.

So, instead, try to produce some filler content that is closer to the things you do currently enjoy making (eg: one of my very early ideas for the mini series which will appear in October was originally just to make a series of paintings featuring my characters). This idea may rekindle your love for your webcomic, or it may form the basis for a much better comic idea.

But, give yourself enough space to think of new ideas (if it makes you feel better, think of it as a “sabbatical”, a “fallow time” or a “holiday” for your webcomic). Be willing to change your comic if you need to. Look for ideas that, at first, seem closer to the things you do enjoy making. Then make them, no matter how different to your previous comics they might be.

Yes, you might feel guilty about not making comics for a while, but try to use this as an impetus to think of better ideas (that also make you feel good), rather than just to do more of the same out of a sense of dreary obligation.

2) Don’t be afraid to make mistakes: Sometimes, the “obvious” solution to your webcomic enthusiasm problems isn’t the best one. Sometimes it is. The only true way to know is to experiment with the ideas that actually make you feel enthusiastic.

You might not get it right the first time, but it will both give your audience some comics to read and give you more of an idea what you need to change about the next project.

For example, the six comic updates will appear here next month were a failed experiment. After getting more and more exhausted by the ever more detailed artwork and complex storylines in many of the comics I’ve posted this year (like this one or this one), I tried to hearken back to the simpler days when comic-making felt a lot more free and spontaneous.

In other words, I tried to produce six self-contained comics that contained much simpler artwork. It was, quite simply, a failure. It almost put me off making comics again. But, when I returned to make some of October’s comics, I learnt quite a few lessons from this abject failure of a comics project.

I learnt that, as time-consuming as it could be, I enjoyed adding detailed art to my comics. Going back to using undetailed art just took some of the fun out of the comics. Likewise, I liked giving my comics a little bit more complexity than just four self-contained panels can offer. But I still wasn’t enthusiastic about including a longer story either.

My solution was simple in retrospect. I’d use a slower production schedule (eg: I’d make one comic a day, rather than two) that would allow me to focus on detailed artwork without getting stressed out by having to make lots of it in a short time. This might mean that the mini series is a bit short, but it shouldn’t affect the release schedule.

In addition to this, I decided that I’d also make slightly larger 6-8 panel self-contained comics in order to allow me to add a bit more complexity to the writing, without committing myself to a longer storyline. It could well be the best of both worlds.

This new project wouldn’t have been started without the lessons I’d learnt from the failed one that will appear here in September. So, if your “new and exciting” comic idea fails, then all this means is that you need to improve it a bit more in order to turn it into something that you’ll love making again.

Don’t let failed experiments make you feel disappointed. If you experimented, then this still means that you care about making webcomics. If your experiment failed, then it just means that you need to change a few more things.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂