Star Wars. Eternally cheesy, persistently inspiring. Late last year, just before Christmas, I picked up my old "The Art of Star Wars" book. This was after I'd been working at the current 9-5 for a couple of months, the financial pressure that had been on my back since graduation assuaged and relationships at work stabilized. It was the first time in a long time I had to really think about what I wanted to do with my life.
University pretty much passed me by in a haze of artistic wankery. The question of how I was even going to get a job with the skills I'd learned never really came up. I had always managed, somehow. I didn't like most of the time I spent in college. I knew I was learning nothing, and I started fantasising about doing something else. Like architecture or economics. Subjects with even more wank around them, with pretensions to science, and with the possibility of a great job - once you managed to find one (apparently a degree in architecture is among the top tep of useless degrees in this economic climate).
I'd lost track of what I wanted to do, and what I wanted to get ,out of my life. It was easy too, pre-2008. Architecture and economics/business were also very attractive then. It's only on retrospect that I see how I'd been subtly influenced and manipulated by the climate of the times.
So I'd picked up this Star Wars book, took it to bed, and started flipping through all the gorgeous pictures. The one thought in my head was "I really wish I could do that". I spent the night wondering how and why every drawing looked so good. I could draw well from life. I could draw anything. Figures, architecture, moving animals. But whenever I sat down with a blank piece of paper and tried to look into my head to come up with a world, there was nothing. It was like my imagination had been killed by all that academic wank I'd purposefully surrounded myself with. (That, and other things that I was sure were literally killing off my brain cells.)
I can only remember explicitly thinking to myself "I wish I could do that" twice in my life. Looking at the pictures in the Star Wars book and after reading Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon. There must have been other times, but those are the ones I remember.
The thing about novel writing is that it's a hidden skill. Due to high literacy rates in most countries, most people can write well, only very few can draw or play music well. But to write a novel, a genius novel, that's just something that can't be learned. Nobody can teach you how to write a novel. But with a lot of practice, you can learn how to illustrate the universe of Star Wars. Or the Game of Thrones. Or whatever.
Illustration is technique first with creativity applied later. Writing genius novels is... a whole different ball game. I decided it would be easier for me (and more fun) to do the former.