So how do you fall in love with what you do? Especially when you're not exactly working on The Muppets?
The thing about big, goofy things like love is that it's easy to forget how simple they are, especially as you become an adult member of a society that's obsessed with money and very good at cynical manipulation. For a while now I've been trying to learn how to tell stories and create things. I'm even mad enough to try to make a living off it. I like getting excited and absorbed in what I'm doing and bouncing around like a little kid. But being a professional creator is tough work. You often find yourself doing things you'd rather not be doing - things that really aren't The Muppets, to put it another way. Sometimes, inevitably, amid the long hours and stress and creative cul-de-sacs and bills to pay, you forget the basic reasons for doing it in the first place.
I find the main symptom is a tendency to focus too much on the craft itself, the schematics of storytelling and narrative. Knowing the theory is crucial, and the ability to apply it properly is what separates professionals from amateurs. But intellectualizing, at least for me, is a retreat from passion. When I do it too much, something probably isn't working.
The real key - simple and goofy though it may be - is to allow yourself to be a person constantly capable of falling in love. Not just with your own precious ideas, either. Very few professional creators get the luxury of making their own things on their own terms. You have to be capable of finding a spark of joy in whatever you're working on, no matter how damn dreary it may seem on the outside. Toilet cleaner ad? Facile political speech? Dive in. You have to be, in some sense, a sucker.
People will manipulate that. Of course they will. They'll turn your ability to get rosy-cheeked into long hours and your emotional investment into things that often shouldn't be invested in. You'll get your heart broken sometimes. But at the end of it, you'll be the one doing things you love. Like a warrior panda or pig-kissing frog or one-eyed clay beast, no one will be able to take away the essence of who you are and what you stand for.
Whatever mad quest John Stevenson's off on, I'd like to thank him for his time at AnimFX '09 down in New Zealand. And now I think I'm going to play some Castle Adventure.
Colin Rowsell hails from Wellington, New Zealand. Tell him your cyclops list at [email protected].