I find it hard to be truly original, even when really trying to be. Countless times, I have hit upon what I think is a new and fantastic idea, only to discover that it has either been done before, or that someone else is working on a similar idea at exactly the same time.
In days gone by, if I heard that another project touched on similar territory as an idea of my own, my instinct was NOT to find out any more about the other project. I had an inflated sense of my own innate originality, and simply assumed that I would naturally come up with something different. These days my feeling is the opposite. I have learned that people of similar backgrounds, and sensibilities are likely to have similar ideas at around the same time (probably because we are all drinking in the same influences which inspire similar ideas) and therefore my new strategy is to find out as much as possible about the competition, so as to steer my own project as far away from it as I can.
The bad reviews that I have gotten for my self-published comics mostly focus on two things; my silly sense of humour and use of puns (I am told that puns are the lowest form of comedy) and the fact that my books remind readers of other books that they have already read.
The first critique I make no apologies for; I like silliness and whimsy. The second critique stings but I have no idea how to address it, because I don’t know how to come up with a truly unique idea. Is there such a thing? Even if I do some day hit upon something absolutely original (I live in hope) what do I do in the meantime? If I waited till that singular idea came to me before I started, I may be waiting forever. I do have some ambitious stories that I would like to tell someday, but I don’t yet have the storytelling chops to do them justice.
Although I work these days as a “Story-Artist,” I don’t really have much input in the story itself. That is always generated by someone else, and I know I have a lot to learn about true story-telling. What I DO bring to the game is a childish knack for thinking up and staging physical bits of business; the pratfalling, flatulent stuff that cartoon characters do on screen as they follow the story arcs plotted out for them by bigger brains than mine. The better term for what I do is the older one: “Gag-Artist.” I am not sure why that has fallen out of favour…
On my own projects, my approach has been to go with whatever idea I have NOW for want of something better. Plus, I have consciously decided to start with some silly stories because I think that there is a bit more latitude for learning within comedy. Hopefully, when I am struck by true inspiration someday, I will have already amassed some storytelling skills along the road.