Doug TenNapel – EWJ and GEAR

November 29, 2012

There are really only two of my projects that could apply to start up video game designers or graphic novelists and that’s Earthworm Jim and GEAR. One is my first original video game, and the other is my first original graphic novel… both were the exact kinds of things that don’t get made by other content creators every day.

I recall writing and drawing Gear where I had no idea where the story was going, and I was changing paper stock, inks, even page dimensions as I learned along the way. It’s hard to tell if this is good advice to give, or if it’s just the way I did it, but I always do something before I’m really good enough at doing it. This isn’t something I learned in the art department, it’s something I learned from life.

I didn’t learn to be a father before I had kids. I didn’t become an expert at marriage before I got married and I didn’t get good at graphic novels and video games before attempting to make them. Our desire to do the thing comes long before we’re good enough to do that thing. I fell down 15 times learning to waterski before being able to do it. So why do so many gamers and comic book artists wait to make something before some magic moment happens?

This is your excuse to get in the game. I’m not trying to fill you up with empty promises and poofy dreams, your game will likely be bad, as will your graphic novel. I think my own characters weren’t polished masterpieces; they were clunky, energetic, creations of a young mind that didn’t know he couldn’t do it.

Lest you think I make it look easy, you probably don’t know that I cut a record in the late 90s in a band called TRUCK. Horrible music, but I made a record. I know of musicians and bands that are still talking about recording music one day, and I’m terrible at making music yet I’ve recorded more than them. I ran a marathon before I was any kind of serious runner.

So let’s make it! Go-go-goooo! Have that child, write that book, make a play, build that boat! It’s better to make than not to.

8 Responses to “Doug TenNapel – EWJ and GEAR”

  1. krodista Says:

    I think its the fear of failure can often defeat us before we are able to see if we would fail or succeed.

    Good solid advice to counter that


  2. Thanks for posting this! So often, you say what I need to hear.

    I read books worked workbooks and even went through mentoring before marrying my wife, and I researched the heck out of chicken coops and building materials before starting on our coop (both of which are operating more or less as intended, for better or worse!), but I never came close to becoming an expert in either respect before getting started–come to think of it, that’s when the real learning began! This is great advice for my crippling fear of making something that sucks.

  3. Jason Says:

    Thanks for the logical kick in the proverbial pants Doug. I’ve wanted to create a graphic novel using my own characters since I was 13. At 37 it’s still on my someday/sometime list. Now, with 2 kids and one on the way, it seems extremely unlikely, but given your advice, I think I’ll try to commit a small portion of time during the week and just get it started. Any advice on using small portions of time during your day to make progress on your story? I feel like it takes me a long time to warm up creatively.

  4. santosh Says:

    Great article Doug!


  5. […] – Doug TenNapel […]

  6. c Says:

    Very solid, and heartfelt advice. The bottom line is, if you don’t do it, you never will, and you never will know if you could.

    By the way- I have searched far and wide for a CD by the band named Truck after hearing them do “Incredible Shrinking Man” on the Daniel Amos Tribute CD, When Worlds Collide.
    Best version ever!!!! (no offense, DA)

    Bless you!

  7. Jessica Says:

    Thank you for the encouragement! The scariest part of a project is right before you start, but it’s nice to hear that it can be done from someone who has been there before. I’m learning that before my artwork gets better, I need to make some crappy work first (but at least I’m learning a lot!)


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