What Work Of Genius Can I Create Today?

By | Wednesday, September 15, 2010 1 comment
"What work of genius can I create today?" That's essentially what I ask myself each and every day. I'd like to say that's what I ask myself every morning when I wake up, but I am so not a morning person. It usually takes me about two hours, a shower and some Mt. Dew between when I drag myself out of bed and when my brain starts working. And even then, I don't generally get my creative on for another hour or two after that. But once the hamster wheel does start turning, I try to figure out what I can do that will be interesting/different/clever/original.

Not surprisingly, I don't always succeed in that goal.

Let's face it: there are some days when you've just got other crap to do and you can't focus your mental energy on a sustained subject long enough to come up with something brilliant. And even if you do come up with something, you have to execute on it because... well, who's going to believe you had a genius idea if you don't deliver on it in at least some form?

Of course, then, the obvious concern with this approach is: aren't I setting myself up for repeated failures? As I suggested, it's impractical to really deliver something genius-y each and every day. At best, my odds are easily worse than 50/50. Knowing this, I don't actually EXPECT to deliver something that good all the time. So when I fail (which is a regular occurrence) it does minimal damage to my ego. I know that I'll start the next day with another blank canvas, and will have the opportunity to try again.

"Wait. You have a goal that you expect not to hit?"

Sure. I think most everybody does in some fashion or another. Think about a pitcher in baseball. His goal is to strike every batter out, ideally with no one even getting a hit. That rarely happens, but the pitcher keeps working at it to see just how close he can get. At a more general level, don't people wake up every day and strive to get through the day without tripping or saying something stupid or spilling your coffee or catching your pant leg on a nail or whatever. You go through the day trying to be your best; some days you do better than others. My "aim to achieve genius" is just a part of that.

What that often translates into is putting extra effort into something which I might otherwise let slide with something less than great. This blog is a prime example. I periodically scan through old posts to see what topics I have or haven't blogged about recently, and to make sure that I don't re-tread over old territory. But in that, I also happen to note when the last time was that I posted something that garnered more attention than usual. If it's been a while, I make a concerted effort to come up with something really good. Same with work. If I don't come up with something that knocks people over on a regular basis, then I buckle down and ramp up my game.

The central tenet behind this methodology is that I can't rest on my laurels. Whatever I've done in the past -- however creative or original or brilliant -- has now been done. I need to go forward. Move ahead. If I don't, I'm going to fall behind the creative curve as other people shoot past. So every day I challenge myself to come up with some new work of genius.

I don't know if everyone in a creative field thinks like that or not. There's certainly an element of just-doing-something-to-pay-the-bills that inevitably gets in the way, but how many comic creators ask themselves to come up with something new and original every day? And not in the minute-variations-on-a-handful-of-themes-in-Blondie kind of way. I don't mean that in an overly disparaging way towards comic strip creators. I'm just talking about being generally creative in your life. You, the reader, might not see me being particularly creative here on my blog, but I could well be doing something cool for my day job or developing interesting riffs on my drum set in the basement or working on something else entirely. That way, I can keep coming back to my blog with genius work periodically -- because I keep from getting stale by making use of other creative outlets. Whatever rut I might get into here can be broken up by doing something new and different somewhere else.

So is that something that folks who create comic books do? Is that why some creators can sustain a lifelong career in the field, while others fall to the wayside after a few years? Or does longevity simply stem from "What work of genius can I create today?" as opposed to "My deadline is when?"
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I find that I need to take periodic breaks from Comics to allow myself to see something else in the world and do something new so that when I get back to the comics, I can be fresh and innovative rather than stale and dull....