On Creativity

Category

Why I never give characters temporary names

If I give a character any kind of temporary name, it might stick. That’s why I never do it. I give them the name they will keep, or I identify them in strictly descriptive terms—the Prince, the Enemy Leader, the Chief. The less descriptive, the better. (Though sometimes, even those stick. I’m looking at you, True Head Cultist.) It’s a lot easier to give a name to the Swordsman than it is to rename a character with an ill-considered temporary name. Temporary...

Rejection, the secret place, & fundamentals

From writer, producer, & director Brian Koppelman, on rejection (emphasis mine): You must do a dispassionate evaluation. The step you try to take is, “Okay, that’s a body blow. My emotional reaction is anger and hurt. Now let me step back and dispassionately, to the best of my ability, evaluate the rejection. Is there something in that rejection that hits home in the secret place, where I know the thing is flawed? If it does, is that addressable? If it doesn’t,...

Absence (from work) makes the heart grow fonder

A year or two ago, I begin lifting weights. As a lifelong skinny bastard, I wanted to fill out my body, and deserve my nickname (Stilts) slightly less. And not long after I started lifting, I learned a valuable lesson that extends to other work as well. I learned the value of rest. In weightlifting, rest is extremely important. Not only does it prevent injury, but if you workout too much, you can actually hurt your goal of getting stronger or looking buff or shredding fat...

From LEGO to author

To many of those who knew me when I was younger, this whole writing thing came as a surprise. It surprised me too. I had to break down a lot of mental models to get to the point where I could call myself an artist without sarcasm or scorn. I’ve tried to trace it back. For the longest time when I was younger, I considered myself a realist—which, as we know, is a cynic who doesn’t want to admit it. I was dismissive...

Your best work is behind you

From 1989–1998, Jerry Seinfeld co-created, co-wrote, and starred in one of the most beloved and important TV sitcoms of the last fifty years. It’s impressive that he was able to make such a remarkable show for nine seasons, and perhaps even more so that he stopped before he defiled his own legacy. But to me, there’s one thing that’s even more impressive. He still does stand-up. His best work is quite probably behind him, but he still gets on that stage anyway. There’s a...

Watch your reaction

One of the greatest benefits of writing in public is that I’ve grown a thick skin. The readers at Random Curiosity are absolutely wonderful … most of the time. With any website of its size, you inevitably get a few trolls and assholes, and in dealing with them I learned how to process criticism. Here’s my trick: Watch your reaction. If someone says something mean to you, it usually comes in one of two flavors. It’s them. You read their comment and go “What an asshole!”,...

Impostor syndrome

Some creatives suffer from Impostor Syndrome. It’s a very real problem, and it’s always fascinated me, because I have no trouble with it at all. Neil Gaiman, in the commencement speech which I reference frequently, said: The first problem of any kind of even limited success is the unshakable conviction that you are getting away with something, and that any moment now they will discover you. It’s Imposter Syndrome, something my wife Amanda christened the Fraud Police. In my case, I was convinced that there...

Save it for your daydreams

I once was talking to a young writer—I say young, though he was probably around my age—who watched anime, just as I do. We were talking about the stories we were working on, and at one point, he began tell me about his grand designs. He wanted it to be an anime, done by this studio and with these seiyuu. He could see a live-action movie as well, and described how some of the special effects would look. He thought it could then make...

Delusions of importance

“Don’t you think that that’s why we ended up here [on TV]? It takes a slight delusion … to believe that what I have to say is worthy of people sitting there and paying money to listen to.” “That seems natural to me.” “It does to me too, but I don’t think it seems natural to everybody else.” -Jason Segel and Stephen Colbert, The Colbert Report, 9-9-14 I’ve always thought it was the height of arrogance to want to write. Who am I...

You’re not good enough

I remember reading an article some time ago about how men and women approach new job positions. It said that while women waited until they were 100% qualified, men would jump at a new position when they were only 60% qualified. Men figured they would learn the rest once they were on the job, the article explained. I don’t know if that’s true, and it’s a generalization regardless, but if it is I think men have it right this time. If we all waited until...