Every once in a while I write or say that my life seems to be a loop and never elaborate on that. Let’s try that for today, and let me be specific about my creative process.
The loop usually goes like this. It starts with an awful boring lack of will to start working on something new. This is what I’m starting to define as the “absorption stage”. I usually watch a ton of movies, series, read like a maniac, good and bad things, there’s not much judgement about what I’m ingesting. Some bits of this overload of information are picked from their original source – a specific shot, a camera move, a particular vfx, the way a sequence sounds, the visual style of a game, the plot that interconnects multiple characters in different situations, that kind of thing. Every once in a while I come across a piece of entertainment which I can’t seem to make up my mind whether I liked it or not, so it sticks to the brain and I can’t think about anything else BUT that movie/game/book/song. These are the best ones. It happened with Nightcrawler, Life Is Strange and at least one or two songs every week. These ones are stored in a special place, and will very likely be used as master references for a particular project.
At this stage I feel like I can’t come up with anything new or original. Later on, all those small selections and master references will be mashed together and recombined somehow. This is the tricky part, when I have several ideas which I like. I have to write them down so they don’t vanish completely. Some seem doable, some sound more like dreams. I say it’s tricky for a few reasons. Number One: I don’t feel like I can start developing them all, which leads to number Two: which one is the most doable with what I have and what I know? Most of the times I can’t focus or start any specific idea so there’s a constant feeling that, at any moment, a brilliant plan will show up, which never does and the loop restarts.
When I’m more grounded I have the clarity to sit down and take a look at the possibilities. It’s always a matter of practice. If I give in, I’ll end up doing nothing. After one idea is picked, there’s still some mental wrestling while the other ones try their best to be convincing and doable and I have to keep it under control. Then the real hard part starts, when I have to bring it into reality and deal with all of its limitations. Sometimes this completely defeats the purpose of the idea, and the loop restarts.
If not, if it still seems doable, comes the part of going out and doing it. Shooting, or animating, or drawing, or whatever, something practical. And then it’s never how I expect it to be so there is some more time to fine tune it. There’s also the danger of everything that I thought would be hard simply worked out perfectly. This is dangerous because it puts the plan in a pedestal and I feel afraid of pushing forward and discovering flaws or hitting unexpected problems. When this happens – before the flaws and problems – it’s usually late at night and I’m working on my own. Something unpredictable comes out perfectly, or someone gives me a very positive reply, or the universe simply converges onto making that work, and that drives me into a state of super excitement in which I can’t stand still. This is when life seems to be absolutely perfect and everything means something, and that something is good. When it happens, I can’t keep working and have to go out for a walk, or bike ride in amazement. Yeah, it’s very self-centric, I know. This is also another trap to restart the loop.
There are at least a few times along the process when everything seems to be going right. These always act like pitfalls and I have to stay alert whenever it happens, clearing my head and getting back to work quickly.
WHEN I eventually get to the end and avoided restarting the loop midway through the process, I get to the results. Sometimes the entire process takes less than a day (like the Little Talks project), sometimes a few months (Zona SSP), and once in a while, almost an entire year, such as Hovering Lights. Finishing something, for me, is MUCH MUCH harder than starting, and that’s why I tend to make the start so rough. I feel bad for any project I drop along the way, I know I learned with it, but it didn’t get to where I wanted to go. So, if I’m very careful with what I start, I make sure that I’m going all the way with it. Of course, this also leads to the risk of never starting anything, but lately I’ve been having so many new ideas that at least a few of them have to be worthy of some time. Time is pretty much all I have now! So, after the cycle is completed, it restarts.
It has got to a point that I know what’s going on when I start to just watch too much TV or play for too long, so I start going through the ideas to get to the next stage and not get stuck enjoying other people’s work but having none of my own.