When I talk to people about pursuing their creative dreams, I’m often asked ‘What if I fail?’
The thing about creative work is not if you’ll fail, because you will, repeatedly.
Every writer has a drawer filled with terrible words, every artist has sketchbooks filled with ugly drawings, every film maker has hours of unwatchable trash hidden away and every game designer has painful prototypes stinking up their hard drive.
In creative work, you literally need to fail your way to success.
Embrace your failures and grow from them (but don’t ship them).
Back in 2005, when I was working at Relic, a small group of artists would regularly get together for life drawing. They would each take turns as the model while everyone else drew. As an aspiring artist, I occasionally joined them to eke out whatever practice and knowledge I could.
The amount of art talent at Relic was incredible and one of the most talented artists in the studio was Cheol Joo Lee. During these life drawing sessions, Lee’s 30 second gestures were better than most people’s 5 minute studies. His mastery was amazing and drawing alongside Lee was akin to a white belt studying Tae Kwon Do under a world champion black belt.
One day during life drawing, Lee asked another artist, Stephen MacDonald (now Head of Production at Harmony Arcade), why he didn’t draw hands. Stephen replied that he was terrible at drawing hands. Lee, like the wise master that he is, replied with something that has stuck with me ever since.
“If you want to get better at drawing hands, draw more hands.”
This is a mantra I repeat regularly, not only to remind me to identify and address my weaknesses, but also to remind me that how I choose to spend my time is very important.
Every day we make choices about what we do. If we are doing something, we are getting better at it. If we spend enough time doing something, we develop a mastery of it.
Earlier this year, I shelved a sequel to Ray Ardent: Science Ninja halfway through development. The primary reason was about how I spent my time as a developer and where I wanted to grow.
My passion has always been for strategy and RPG’s. They are what I play, what I obsess about and they have been the most successful games I’ve made in my career.
Yet there I was, an indie developer making platformers. And because I was making platformers, I was getting better at making platformers – and I wasn’t getting better at making strategy and RPG games.
I needed to start working on the games I wanted to make. Even though it was risky. Even though it meant scrapping a couple of months of work and ignoring a year spent learning to make platformers.
If I wanted to get good at making strategy/RPG games, I had to make more strategy/RPG games.
When faced with a decision on what to work on — whether it’s a new job, a personal project or what you do with your spare time tonight — think about where you want to go, what you want to learn and what you want to get better at.
If you want to get good at drawing hands, draw more hands.
In a few short days, I’ll be celebrating 1 year of self-employment and life as an indie developer. The past year has definitely had it’s share of ups and downs and it went by incredibly fast. Time to look back on the past year, at my productions and inspirations.
Moving across the country and setting up in Vancouver has been an amazing experience.
The Olympics were great and the city feels more alive than it ever has. Cities, and their energy/spirit have always fascinated me and seeing how Vancouver changed for the Olympics was amazing. Perhaps my favorite part of the Olympics was seeing a city full of bitter, government-hating, anti-Olympic Vancouverites transform into a bunch of smiling, high-fiving party animals when the Olympics began.