Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Skill Gap

First, as you can see there's not been much stuff on the blog lately, that's mostly because of me. Sorry. Nevertheless, it's not very nice to spam us just because I haven't been whining on the blog for a month or whatever. Keep calm and carry on, we are doing our best.

A perpetual problem with this blog is, I'm sometimes very unsure what I want it to be. Most of the posts I've written (in fact, most of the posts written period) are just sort of random musings with only nominal cohesion. The thing is, we do more than enough random musing on IRC already, so the drive to write on blog relies on the presumed willingness of someone wanting to read all those words. I am not all that convinced that we are doing this blogging thing right at all because the way we do it leads to very weird update schedule and topic spectrum. So a question to you, reader: what sort of stuff would you want to see on the blog? The obvious content, project progress, is out of bounds for reasons we've talked about before – unreliability and so forth.

Anyway, that's that.

What I actually wanted to talk about is in the post title. The skill gap is the difference between your outlook on what is "good creative work" and the quality of your actual output. The skill gap is always there, it's in the gnawing feeling that something in what you do is wrong, in the urge to throw out your hard work and start over, in the jealousness you might feel over someone more talented than yourself. If you are a creative person, you have to deal with it in one way or another.

The skill gap ebbs and flows as one evolves as a creator. The more you study, analyse and think, the more the top line rises, growing the gap. The more you practice, practice and practice, the more your output improves, shrinking the gap.

For me personally, acknowledging my skill gap leads to a very uncomfortable anxiety. Essentially, writing is about putting thoughts out into the real world, into words and phrases and idioms and references. Some are better at it than others, but I don't think anyone can match in writing what they have in their imagination. I certainly can't. None of you will ever read the real story I've imagined, of Rin and Hisao and all the things that happen between them, just the crude translation that I was able to vomit out onto my keyboard. I feel a little saddened by this realization. All things considered, my skill gap is wide, and the effect it has on me is equally vast. I tend to revise my text a lot, write iterations upon iterations, I'm prone to getting writer's blocks and so forth. Every word is a battle.

On the other end of the spectrum, delta has probably the narrowest skill gap in 4LS. He is not only extremely good at what he does, but the nature of his job allows him to stay very close to his potential. Whereas us writers and artists are limited only by our own capabilities, he has additional limits such as those of our engine and the quantity of assets our team can produce. Further, while there are millions of pieces of art and literature for us to compare to, there are not very many visual novels. The full extent of what delta could do might not even be a known factor here, but it shows that skill gap is not only an inner quality.

I'm not sure if there are better, or even any other ways to deal with the skill gap anxiety than trying to beat it into submission. You just have to keep trying to do your best every time you pick up your medium of choice, and not get discouraged by the fact that objectively, you are terrible. It's important especially when starting, but acknowledging your limits is always important. For any given work, you have to decide when it's pointless to try to improve it further. It's all right to tell yourself "this is enough". Don't be afraid to suck, because you always will suck, kind of (unless you are cheating yourself to believe unrealistic things). Acknowledging your shortcomings honestly and working hard to improve are the path to growing as a creator.

The final 4LS anecdote about this is about weee. Most people think she's pretty good at what she does, and she is. However, take a look at her older drawings. When we started out, she wasn't all that great. In fact she felt a bit disheartened at how much better especially moekki and kamifish were back then. But you know, she stuck with drawing, and with KS, and look where she's at just a couple of years later. Weee has shown true growth in what she does and along the way she's become a fantastic artist.

I think the bottom line here is that to be a good creative person, you have to understand yourself. If you can view yourself honestly (and not be discouraged by the truth about how bad you are), a whole ton of avenues for improvement open ahead of you.

- Aura

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