Every person working in a creative medium has been struck dumb with the absence of ideas. It happens to all of us. And there are thousands upon thousands of techniques to cure the drought. Over the years I have tried many of them–writing from prompts, taking a different person’s point of view, not writing at all (this never works), taking a long walk to get the juices flowing, staring directly into a blank white screen until my eyes bleed wishing I could conjure with mystic forces just one paragraph, one sentence, hell, one word even. A respected elder once told me the only trick is to just keep writing–even if it’s nonsense–but that’s easier said than done (at least for me). The starting is the hardest part.
Over the weekend I decided to try something new. Although I am absolutely no artist, and possibly the worst painter/sketcher/doodler/anything-involving-my-hands-er I have ever known, I turned to DrawQuest, an iPad app. You can download it for free here. The reason I chose this particular app is because it gives you a daily prompt to do precisely what I wanted it to: make you think creatively. Each prompt, or “quest”, gives you just enough to get going and let’s you finish out the drawing any way you please. It takes out the hardest part of the block–the getting started.
I may not have gleaned any brilliant beginnings to the great American novel but I did make some discoveries about what’s kicking around in my home base while going through the daily and saved prompts in the app. What follows are the things I learned, drawings accompanied:
Firstly, and this is more “confirmed” rather than “learned”, I can not draw to save my life. I still see humans as shapes and in three colors max. My artistic abilities in this field peaked in first grade. Behold, a stamp with my face on it:
And that’s about as accurate as I will get. What I quickly learned through the following quests is that when I’m bored or searching for an idea, I usually lean to the depressing parts of my life. I derive most of my comedy from the dark, but looking back at what were supposed to be “fun” prompts and seeing where I went with them, well, it only highlighted that fact.
Quest: “You Shall Not Pass.” Seeing as how I somehow managed to fail geology twice (two times!) in college, this was the fitting answer:
Quest: “What Prize Did You Win?” And apparently if given the opportunity to create whichever prize I desired most I opted for not money, a new car, nor everlasting love and happiness, but the option to get a free pass from ever having to work a real job again:
Quest: “What’s For Breakfast?” Well this one seems lighthearted enough! I could have drawn some fun eggs or a nice piece of buttered toast…
Outside of whining about the woes of academic and adulthood, I was reminded of two obsessions I’ve had for what seems to be all my life. The first is aliens. Given any space related prompt I will always insert an alien or UFO because I wholeheartedly believe they exist and wish so badly, like my main dude Fox Mulder, that they’ll come down and say “hi” sooner rather than later. This quest was about the stars, naturally:
The next one, however, was only about volcanoes. I somehow managed to theorize that certain aliens are maybe borne from the depths of lava and enter our world upon eruption. One would assume their skin is made to withstand extreme levels of heat (I mean, probably!) as this is a happy occasion rather than one filled with third-degree burns:
The second obsession is not as tame, unfortunately. Passed on by my flatulent father, a lifelong love of butts and potty humor has plagued me (I’m fine with it, actually, though I use the word plagued because it probably turns the majority of people away from my poopy personality). This quest was called “What’s Dad grilling?”
By the way, I am extremely into the way that dad looks (I did not draw him, he was part of the quest). This next one was “what’s under the bridge?” and of course, as you can tell by my Louvre-standard level of digital painting skill, it is a slime monster that steals the good ideas from my brain:
Last, but definitely not least, is a cool, trippy chameleon that exhibits qualities I’ve possessed since childhood: a love of the messily colorful and complete disregard for staying within the lines.