A Trick About Where (Some) Of My Ideas Come From

Okay, let me talk about this doodle comic for a minute.

This was drawn during my semester at The Center for Cartoon Studies, which was really the last time I doodled besides the ones I put in letters to friends and fans. I stopped doodling once I really started making comics seriously, but for years that was all I did. I did fine art for school, but really, all I cared about was the doodles and art in my sketchbook (some of which is on my sketch page). The way I learned how to make comics was to obsessively doodle for 25 years (ok ok maybe 23, I probably started making art at 2, not at birth) while writing unrelated embarrassing Mary Sue fan fiction in my head every night for hours as my way of falling asleep. Oh, and I read comics all the time too. All of those things gave me the chops that I had to be able to pretty much start making decent comics right off the bat. 

ANYWAY THAT WAS NOT WHAT I REALLY WANTED TO TALK ABOUT AT ALL!

What I want to talk about is how I come up with ideas, bc I feel like people have trouble doing that. The first comic I linked earlier I did when I was 19. I then didn’t do another real comic until I was 25. The second one was a response to a prompt that Square City Comics gave at the first meeting of theirs I ever attended, which was, “a brush with the law.” 

After that, I went to CCS. I did a few more comics before, but really I only did 3 or 4 real comics total before going “Fuck man, I need help with this.”

What CCS taught me more than anything else, is that what gets me to make comics faster and easier than anything else is having restrictions and prompts. So the first semester, my teacher would say something like, “You need to do a comic about a vacation in 8 pages. Each page needs to have three tiers. You’ve got a month.” (please keep in my mind most of us were full time students at that point so 8 pages in a month was pretty painless, if it sounds like a lot it would be for me now).  And then I would panic because I wouldn’t have an idea for 3 days but I’d doodle and fret like crazy. Then BOOM! IDEA! Having the restrictions of a page count and the tiers, and having a prompt that was vague but still concrete ended up being what ended up making me inspired to make comics and stories on a consistent basis. 

To this day, I still use prompts when I feel low on ideas. It’s the reason I do as many anthologies as I can. It’s a prompt  with certain restrictions (most often page count, but sometimes other things) that will eventually give me a story that people will pay me to make! Plus, I get to network with other cartoonists that are in the anthology. Anthologies rule, seriously.

And even if you aren’t accepted into the anthology, you can still do the story. The webcomic I’m working on started as a failed pitch to the Beyond anthology. It’s now a completely different animal, but the prompt of “queer urban fantasy,” is how I came up with the idea.

Not every prompt is going to be fruitful. I wish that I could be in every cool anthology, but certain themes and ideas are just not gonna cut it. But anyway, my advice if your stuck not being able to think of comic ideas is to look up some writing prompts and find one you like and make a SHORT comic about it.