I’m going to be talking about my creative process, then switch gear.
This gives me sheer of terror because, first of all, I haven’t talked to the public for 20 years. The second feeling, I’m not a very self-reflexive guy who doesn’t think about this stuff.
“Where do you get your idea?” I get asked this question a lot. I feel that this has an underlying assumption. Because people feel that if they know where I got my idea, then they would be able to go to that place and get their own. The right question is not “why” but “how.”
And, sad to say, there’s no secret to this. I either get my idea through hard work, or flashes of “religious” inspirations.
As a kid, I wasn’t really into comic. Comic was something that I got at a road trip, or when you stay at home sick. I didn’t understand that there are people who created these things, or that there are series in comic. So while I was aware of comics, I was never aware into how they figure into my creative process.
So by the time I was old enough, all these media got these hooks into me.
For me, the creative process has always been a problem solving one. The first comic I ever wrote for was Star Wars: Infinities – Return of the Jedi. The idea behind the series is: you take one element of a story arc, change it, and focus on how that change impacts the story.
Back then at Dark Horse, I was working to answer reader’s email. The question I get asked the most was “where’s Infinities – Return of The Jedi”? So I went and talked to the editor and he said “as soon as we have a good story, we’ll move forward with it.”
Well, I had been thinking about writing comics, but never expressed it to anyone. I’ve been submitting short stories to magazines and was interested in becoming this Raymond Carver-type of author. But one of the benefits of working at Dark Horse was that I get to read all these comic script drafts.
And I read them and thought “Hey, I can do that, too.”
So one night, I went home, sat on the couch, and started thinking about it. That’s part of the hard work of being a creative. I was playing the movie (Return of The Jedi) back and forth, trying to find the perfect moment to break the story and go on a tangent. And I found it. But I didn’t write anything down.
So, the next day, I went in and pitched in the idea to the second guy at Dark Horse. He said “fire away.” The point of departure was when the scene with Leia in Jabba’s Palace went wrong. He stared at me with that resilient stare, and finally said “write a one page, and we’ll give it to Lucas.”
So my problem was finding the perfect moment to break from the Star Wars movie.
And then many months passed. Until one day, he passed by my office and said “Hey, Gallardo, when are you going to write that script?”
A lot of people asked me if I ever got a hard time from Lucasfilms. Any time they asked me to change, I view that as a problem to solve, too. So by that means, you move along with story by moving from problem to problem.
Admittedly, it’s rather unglamorous. It involves sitting down and writing. But that’s how I did it.
My favorite question to ask is to look at the market and say “what is out there and what would I like to be reading right now?” then solve that.
The good ideas will make it out of the notebook. The ideas that are no good will just sit and fester. Another lesson is, don’t ever throw out an idea. You may be able to repurpose it another day.
Another question: how do you write an idea that is a paragraph, then make it into a pitch that the editor will like and give money to.
Here comes the switching gears part.
I talked about hard work. The other way I get ideas is “flashes of inspiration.” These are instances where ideas pop out to your head out of nowhere. I know it’s a cliche, but taking a shower? It works.
You can’t force these moments, all you can do is record them before you forget. But while you can’t force it, you can cultivate it. So my tips is: read everything. I try to not limit myself in one particular genre. I read everything, watch everything, listen to new music.
As a creator of fiction, I don’t feel like I have a primary document. A curious astronomer can look at tables of planetary motion, etc. But a fiction writer has no text—so in a way, everything is a text. So that was why my advice was read everything.
I mentioned that my storytelling sense has been set by these other media. I hope that I can bring this experience into a comic. As creative people, the worst appraisal we can get is: it’s unoriginal.
So my tips are three:
- I read what I can
- I put endless hours in my notebook
- I wait for flashes of inspirations
Other than that, I’m just waiting for the next problem to solve.