I watched the Bradley Cooper movie Limitless this week, about a struggling writer who takes a pill that allows him to access 100% of his brain. Although I thought the film was pretty patchy overall it did remind me of some rather familiar feelings. Despite all the cliches on display (unshaven, unkempt hair, drinks too much) a writer who is crippled by his own lack of success or breakthrough moment isn’t purely confined to fiction. But it wasn’t the scenes riddled with apathy and self loathing that made it feel recognisable , it was the effects of the pill itself.
His world changed from grey to technicolour, he walked taller, he saw the good in people and his head was brimming with ideas. He was just one step away from singing “I’ve got everything that I need” from the opening to The Muppets. And that’s what being a creator is like, at least for me. I don’t believe in writer’s block as such but I do believe that sometimes we’re the biggest obstacle stopping us from achieving our goals. But we also hold the keys that can release us from that creative cage (I’m sorry for that 6th form poetry moment). By doing the work, by sticking at it, by finding our own little pill usually in the shape of a eureka moment. Writing a line of killer dialogue, finding a solution to a plot problem or reshaping a seemingly unworkable scene until it clicks into place in a way you didn’t even think was possible. Writers spend a lot of time in their own head, so it stands to reason there will be times when your inner voice (much like Eddie in the movie) will gradually grind you into submission.
It struck me recently that it’s been a long time since I had anything new in print, it seems like a lifetime ago that The Interactives and my contribution to Tales of the Fallen came out (August and October 2011 respectively). The thing is I listen to comic book podcasts every day and I follow literally hundreds of writers, artists and editors on twitter so I’m constantly bombarded with other people’s shiny new work. Add to that the groups I’m part of on Facebook and Linkedin centred on creating comics and for someone who balances huge insecurity with immense competitiveness social media can easily become a black dog curse. This time of year is always a bit like this anyway, it’s my birthday in a month and that always means the same ritual. A downward spiral into the realms of self doubt, a decision to give up writing comics altogether, which last about 20 minutes, and then a bit of internal regrouping and a sudden surge of energy. Sometimes you have to be broken and rebuilt to have your little pill moment I guess.
The reality of the situation is that I’m hard at work on lots of comic projects I just can’t talk about most of them yet (my inner showman is terribly frustrated by that) . And the main reason for this is that I took a conscious decision at the end of last year to approach 2012 differently. This year is all about pitches and submissions, getting enough together to be a proof of concept and then trying to get things picked up. The book I’m working on with Steve Aryan is one such project and it’s moving along nicely. After a few months of Skype calls, emails and one meet up we have the whole mini- series plotted out. We also have an artist currently working on the character designs and we’re getting stuck into writing the first issue. As it’s our first collaboration we’re going further than the 6 pages or so needed for creator owned submissions to get used to working this way. I have three other projects that I’m busy writing treatments for and have been talking to artists about. I’m working on a second outing in the Unseen Shadows universe for later in the year, talking about a collaboration with another good friend who approached me a little while ago and I have two stories already approved for FTL from my old cohorts at Orang Utan Comics, and another one for 10thology from Fat Boy. And it seems like I have a new idea for a project on almost a daily basis, so there will be plenty more to come in the future without the help of a fictional unlicensed narcotic.