Restrictions as opportunities.
Total creative freedom is wonderful. The ability to express yourself however you wish at whatever pace you want is a dream come true, and thanks to webcomics many people, myself included, have that opportunity. But as liberating as total creative freedom can be, sometimes it’s a good idea to exercise restraint, even to the point of putting restrictions on yourself. It’s something I did to myself when I began STAR POWER with Garth, and it was one of the best decisions I ever made.
During my time working on my first webcomic, Dominic Deegan: Oracle for Hire, I gave myself total creative freedom. Storylines were written at whatever pace I felt was necessary. Some were fast and furious, others were slower character studies. The same applied to the length of those stories. Others only lasted a month, while my longest storyline took over one year to tell from start to finish. I did what I wanted with pacing and length, and it was fun. Perhaps I could have used an editor in some cases, but that’s where I was as a creator.
For STAR POWER, I knew I had to change my approach. With total creative freedom my focus was starting to wander, and I needed something to help me zero in on narrative targets. So I set a hard limit on the length of storylines here: Each story is five chapters (or Issues) long, and each chapter consists of twenty four pages. We’ve only broken that rule once, with the last Issue of The Mystery of the Zel Gux Dynasty getting a few extra pages, but otherwise we’ve kept to that hard limit. Giving myself restrictions forced me to exercise restraint and edit myself heavily. It challenged me to capture all the character development and emotion I put into Dominic Deegan: Oracle for Hire in half the narrative space. At first I felt way out of my comfort zone, but getting uncomfortable is how you grow and develop.
Give it a try sometime. Give yourself some creative restrictions. See how you adapt to limitations. Will they hinder you, or will you make them work for you?