Just do it

If I’ve learned one thing from the short years I’ve been around. – It’s that you need to just do it.

(Yes, I realize that’s a Nike slogan. I can only hope Nike doesn’t own a copyright on the English language.)

I can remember back when I was in highschool, something I really wanted to do, was either make a cg movie or a video game. Often me and my friends would get together to “talk storyboard” which consisted of realizing that creativity is hard, and that playing Super Smash Bros on the N64 is way more fun. So nothing would ever get done, we’d just hang out (which was nice, but left my ambitions unfulfilled).

Something that often held me back from doing the things I wanted to do, was the feeling that I couldn’t do it alone and that my skills just weren’t good enough. Then one day I took a trip up to Seattle. A group of technical skills educators from my favorite website (3dbuzz.com – you’re welcome for the plug), were touring around some of the mainland states, and I went out to meet them when they came to Seattle. I got to sit down and talk one-on-one with the guy, Zak, who literally, taught me how to do 3d modeling and animation from the ground up.

As me an Zak talked over a couple of good burgers, I brought up my problem. I talked about how I want to do animation, I want to make cg movies, I want to make games, but I just don’t have the skills. He told me, paraphrasing here, to just do it. Doesn’t matter if I suck, just do it.

Zak didn’t mean, just go make a blockbuster film (not that he was knocking the idea), he means that the only way to get better at something, is to just do it. He told me flat out that the only difference between me and professional artists who draw for a living, is practice. If you put in the practice, you’ll come out of it with the skill. Make no mistake, it takes a lot of practice to master a skill, but if you don’t start, you’ll never get there.

Maybe this sounds simple to a lot of you, but it goes deeper than that. I know that back when I was thinking seriously about working for a video game company, so many of those companies want to hire you on a contract basis, not even as an employee, and of the few employees they’ll take, they want at least 5 years of previous experience. How can you break into an industry that wants you to have at least 5 years of professional experience before you can break into said industry? Of course there are smaller companies that make the little web-games or the mobile games, and they’ll take you in.

However, how many times have we seen something great come out of the hard labor of just one dedicated individual? Minecraft, Dwarf Fortress, and more. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying they’re amateurs; far from it. I’m saying they didn’t need corporate backing to do what they did. They didn’t go beg the bank for a loan for them to make the games they did. Instead, they built it out of their own hard effort, they didn’t need anyone’s permission first. Now, it’s not like they just sat down and hammered out an awesome game, they had practice, and previous experience, and that was what they built on.

So now let me get to a more practical point. One thing I would love to do, is be an architect / interior architect. There’s only one problem, the college I’m going to doesn’t offer any kind of architecture program, and those colleges that do are too far away and too much money. So what am I going to do? Give up? No, of course not!

You only need a license if you’re going to practice professionally for money. Nobody is telling me I can’t design homes for virtual worlds like Second Life. Or even if I just wanted to design furniture, I can still make the CAD files for them and let people download them for free and print them off their 3d printers. Who know what that would lead to if I designed practical, comfortable furniture that can be printed off a home 3d-printer. Forget about money, what would it mean to have my small signature on everyone’s computer desk?

You will not become an awesome film director by waiting to get into film school. You will become an awesome film director by directing hundreds of shitty backyard skits with you and your friends on the weekends. You do that until you gradually pick up more, and more knowledge, tips and tricks, by just filming the ants roaming around in your back yard. Then you can move on to film school, if you so choose. Although really, if you have the skill, youtube is your best resume.

So today’s lesson is to simply, just do it! Remember, the only difference between you and someone who draws storyboards for PIXAR is practice.