5 Common Creative Myths and How to Overcome Them
What do werewolves, apes bent on world domination and the Loch Ness Monster have in common? No, it's not that they're all owned by Disney - at least not yet. While the cycle of not being able to disprove something that's never been proven like Nessy may keep that debate going indefinitely, it's pretty safe to say the commonality behind these three random things is that they're simply not real. Unfortunately, in our day-to-day work as creatives, it's not always so easy to tell the difference between what's real and what's fake. It doesn't matter if you're brand new to the creative world or if you've been a working creative for years, there's a lot of untruths out there that surround creative professions and creativity in general. Without further ado, let's look at some popular creative myths and some ways to avoid falling prey to them. "I don't have enough time." While this myth certainly isn't limited to the creative world, it's probably one of the biggest self-fulfilling prophecies out there. Sorry if this sounds harsh, but you have exactly the same amount of time in each day as the next artist. So when it comes down to it, there really is no such thing as "not enough time". Although Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hour rule attempts to quantify mastery of a subject, getting yourself to the point to where you can make a living from creative work is, well, a lot of work. As they say, practice, practice, practice. Well, all of that practice takes up a lot of time. Until someone manages to actually invent bullet time, the only way you'll ever be able to generate more time is to make it yourself. One of the most popular things people jump to right away when looking for how they spend their time is to think the only way to do this is to cut back on how much time you spend watching movies or playing games. As a CG artist it's only natural that you'll spend a ton of time in front of a screen of some sort. So while it never hurts to cut back on time in front of a screen, if you make a living by creating movies or games then watching the work of others isn't necessarily a bad thing. Unfortunately in life there's no clear-cut answer to what you should give up to make time for other things. So to break this myth, you need to be honest with yourself. It sounds simple, but it could very well be one of the most difficult things you've done. Simply put, to get more time you'll need to give something else up. Think of it sort of like budgeting you're money. When you first went through the process of seeing where all of your money is actually going, it was probably an eye-opener. The same is true for your time. We'd recommend two steps to helping you decide what you give up. The first is to identify what you currently spend your time on. Give yourself a couple of weeks and start to track what you do with your time. You could jot it down or use a timer app. After a couple of weeks, review how much time you're really spending on things. Then comes the hard part where you really need to start asking yourself difficult questions about how you spend your time. Where else can you start to cut back to free up time? Do you really need to check Facebook every ten minutes? Can you get a dishwasher instead of manually washing dishes to save fifteen minutes a day? As silly as it may seem at times, getting into the habit of consciously budgeting time for things is a great way to make more time for yourself. After you've started to ask yourself some of those types of questions, don't be afraid to jump to the next step and make some hard decisions on what you need to cut back. Maybe you only check Facebook once a day. Or maybe you follow in the footsteps of LeBron and turn off social media altogether so you can focus on other things. "I'm not as creative/talented as [Insert Artist Name]." This is something that I've found a lot of aspiring artists who are brand new to the world of CG tend to believe. While there's no scientific data to back this up, I think a lot of this comes from when you look at some amazing artist's work and compare it to your own. Except there are usually detrimental flaws to this sort of comparison. For one, most of the time the absolutely amazing artwork is usually the "best of the best" of someone's work. There's a reason why a demo reel is made up of your absolute best work; no artist wants to show off anything but their best. While there's no scientific data to back this up, we firmly believe that every artist has some work in their past that they're not so proud of. It might be the first 3D model they built or it might be a project they regret doing, but somewhere along the line every artist has done work they don't want to showcase. Thomas Edison once said, "Genius is 1% inspiration, and 99% perspiration." To paraphrase, we'll go so far as to say that talent is also 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration, especially when it comes to creativity. No artist ever sits down to a computer and makes beautiful art on their first try. In fact, for most artists it takes years of hard work before they're able to make a living off of creating artwork. The key to turning that work into successful artwork is to treat everything about the project as a learning experience. It's all really just a matter of how you look at it. Instead of looking at a project as a failure, focus on what you can learn from this project to make your next project that much better. "Artists don't (or can't) code." This myth is, of course, completely incorrect. A more accurate way of saying this is, "Most artists don't like to code." It makes perfect sense, seeing as creating art is a very visual thing while coding is not. Like it or not, CG isn't just about creating graphics. It's about using a computer to create graphics. And, like it or not, the way you tell a computer to do anything is through code. So as a CG artist who's going to be working day-to-day doing things a lot more complex than checking Facebook, there's a distinct advantage to being able to talk to a computer through code. Are you opposed to learning keyboard shortcuts or ways to move around the interface of your favorite CG program faster? Of course not. You want to move around the interface of your favorite software as quickly as possible so you can spend your time focusing on creating art and not fighting a software's interface. Again, we don't mean for this to sound too harsh but using the myth of "Artists don't code" as an excuse not to learn how to code is really nothing more than an excuse to get out of work. No matter how great of an artist you are, it took a lot of work to get your skills where they are right now. The same can be said for programming. Even if you have no desire to become a full-time programmer, learning some scripting can be a huge boost to your productivity. By extension, it only makes sense that you'll be able to spend more time tweaking your artwork to make it beautiful when you can spend less time doing mundane tasks. This is where learning some code helps you shine. Think about what programs you use and look into what programming languages they use. For example, Maya can be customized with MEL or Python while NUKE uses just Python. So many artists either believe this myth that artists shouldn't code or they're simply afraid of code that if you're willing to go the extra step to get your hands dirty with some code now and then, you'll not only become a much more effective artist, that effectiveness can make you a lot more valuable to your current (or potential) employer. "I don't need to take notes." [caption id="attachment_27478" align="alignnone" width="800"] Sketching can be a great way to capture ideas.[/caption] If you're someone who can always remember every idea you have, more power to you! However, if you're like most people you might have ideas for your current project when you least expect it - when eating dinner, watching a movie or even in the shower. Simply put, the human brain is really good at remembering things at the most inconvenient times. I'm sure you love your smartphone as much as I do, but sometimes by the time I pull out my phone and open up an app to jot down or sketch out the idea I've forgotten what the idea was. A really easy way to avoid losing those great ideas is to have pen/pencil and paper ready. This is another one that certainly isn't limited to creative artists, but we've found that for some reason many artists tend to regard words as their natural enemy. If this is you, kudos to you for making it this far in the sea of words in this article. Unfortunately this avoidance of words can result in a lack of learning how to take good notes. As scary as words may be, don't let this stop you from taking notes because good notes can free you from being forced to be creative only when you sit down at your desk. Remember, too, not all notes are words. Since taking notes is really just intended to be a way to capture ideas, whether they're yours or someone else's, something like capturing ideas for a site design like you can see in the image above can be seen as just another way of note taking. So don't limit yourself to words in your notes. In many cases it can be a lot easier to sketch your notes. Either way, the point is to jot down or sketch out the idea really quickly to be able to get it out of your head. To do this, try having a small notebook with you at all times. There's even water proof pads if your best ideas come in the shower. The point here is that everyone can benefit from taking notes and creative artists are certainly no different. Next time you've got a great idea for your shot you'll be ready. Once you've done that, try going the next step and snapping a photo of it with your phone and sending it to yourself. That'll remind you when you get back to your computer to work on the project of your amazing idea. "I can't draw well, so I can't be creative." By this same logic if you can't write a masterpiece novel you must not be able to take notes, right? It might come as a shock, but not everyone in the CG industry is a master sketch artist. Just like taking notes is a far cry from writing a novel, being creative in today's technology-enhanced world means so much more than drawing. From 3D modelers, rigging TDs and animators to compositors, game developers and motion designers, there's an incredibly wide range of skills that are needed to be creative. Believe it or not, for many of those roles being a master at drawing is not something that will make or break your ability to be creative in those roles. The more you think about it, though, it shouldn't really come as much of a shock that the skill it takes to draw well is completely different than the skill it takes to push and pull vertices or to animate a character. With that said, there certainly are some creative roles where drawing is a necessity. Fortunately, for most of those roles it should be pretty self-evident. For example, creating a character concept for 3D would be tough to do without some drawing skills. However, the process of taking that concept and translating it into 3D takes a completely different skill. To sum up this myth, it's important to keep in mind that even though drawing may not be a requirement for many creative roles, it certainly can be helpful in just about every role. The more you invest in becoming better at drawing, the easier it'll be to use that skill to sketch out quick shots as an animator before jumping into 3D or maybe even sketch out some ideas to communicate how you might tackle a composite with a fellow artist. In those instances, drawing is a means to an end and not an end-all if you can find another means to reach that end. Conclusion Although there's a lot of myths out there that go above and beyond those we've looked at so far, for just about all creative myths there's one common denominator. They're usually a self-fulfilling prophecy. For example, if you think you don't have the time to do something, you won't make any effort to make the time to achieve your goals and, by extension, you'll never have the time to hit those goals. The best way to avoid falling victim of any creative myth is to believe in yourself. Set yourself a goal, figure out how you need to get there and along the way don't let any sort of barrier stop you from reaching the goal you've set for yourself. You can get an idea of how this principle in action with our recent interview of Allan McKay. When you read the interview, you'll get a great sense of how Allan set a goal for himself of working in the VFX industry. It may have seemed like a pipe dream at the time, but it was achieved thanks to what boils down to a ton of hard work and the determination of not letting any barriers get in the way. What sort of barriers are keeping you from reaching your creative goals? Or how did you overcome some of these (or other) common creative myths to reach your goals? Let us know in the comments below!