Wool Wolf is back with another creator interview from Lucheek! Lucheek has since launched her second webcomic, Station: Starseed, and we are here to share her thoughts on mental health and self-projection as a creator.
Originally, Station: Starseed was a story weaved in the Griffia ARPG. What made you want to shift to an entirely original story?
When I was first developing the Station: Starseed story, Griffia was just beginning, and didn't have a lot of concrete lore itself. I was basically given a blank canvas to create whatever story I wanted with my Griffian characters.
As Griffia began to become more grounded in its own lore, it made me realize that the story I wanted to tell was basically my own creation anyways. I was more attached to the original story I had created in my head than the newly developing Griffia canon.
I loved the characters, and I wanted to be able to have complete control over them instead of sharing them with the rules and regulations of an art-based game. These rules serve a very important purpose for a game, but if you're not interested in the game itself and rather the story of the characters, it becomes limiting.
When I became set on telling the full story of these characters I grown to love, I knew it wouldn't be possible to do so in the Griffia ARPG's format.
What are some similarities and differences with the change to making it your own original story?
Honestly, not a whole lot of the story has changed outside of surface details like the names of their species and planet. As I mentioned, when I developed the Griffian Starseed story, I was basically working with a blank canvas because the details of the Griffian world hadn't been totally worked out.
The major point of the Griffian world that got translated into Station: Starseed was the lack of autonomy in regards to reproduction and progeny.... as in, the Nyans don't control when they have children- their political leaders do. In the Griffia ARPG, creating a new character was a reward granted by in-game mechanical items, which was explained in a story context by a Griffian Queen granting magical beans that grew babies as gifts to loyal subjects. Although a sound game-mechanic, I always thought that for the characters inside the story themselves, this seemed pretty dystopian.
While some of the then-established Griffian lore was pretty irrelevant to overall story of Station: Starseed and was just dropped completely in the switch (such as young Griffians going to Earth disguised as humans) the political-control of reproduction was a bigger plot element and probably the most noticeable carry-over from the Griffia ARPG.
Being disabled and working on not one, but two comics is a lot of work. What struggles do you fight with and how do you overcome them?
The biggest struggle is trying to find a harmony between “knowing my limits, and taking a break when I need to” and “recognizing when I can do more and need to push myself to get through the initial anxiety.” If I force myself to keep producing when I am at my limit, I'll get burned out, and worse, have dangerous episodes. However, if I never push myself to work when I'm not feeling totally inspired, I'd barely get anything done. The balancing point between these two “poles” changes every day, so every day I have to work on trying to find it.
It might seem like being able to read yourself is something we'd all be able to do innately, but it's actually a really challenging task for a lot of people who struggle with mental illness and self-doubt in general. Like most things, it takes practice to be able to tell how you feel in an honest and non-judgmental way. I'm still practicing this skill myself... but once I am able to figure out where I stand, its easy to tell what I should do in regards to “push” or “rest”.
Drawing a comic is an incredible amount of work for anybody, so I think being able understand your limits and feel comfortable working on things at your own pace is a practical skill for all creators.
Station: Starseed features Roswell, who seems to struggle with problems similar to your own. Self-projection is a very common part of the creative process. Why did you choose to write Roswell this way and why do you think so many creators self-project?
It brings a sense of comfort to see yourself in stories.. and many of us lack stories that feature ourselves in a satisfying way. We're creators, though, so we make the stories we want to be part of. This is especially true with Roswell, a character I wanted to explicitly have deal with schizophrenic-like symptoms because I feel like there is a near-void of psychotic characters who aren't evil or based on uninformed stereotypes, as well as written by psychotic people.
Also, I think a lot of it goes back to what I mentioned before- many of us struggle with being able to understand ourselves. When you self-project things you might have trouble understanding inside yourself onto something external, it makes it easier to see with clear eyes. You aren't hindered with a lens of self-loathing or criticism, and suddenly you can be a lot more sympathetic and open with the issues the self-projection character faces.
I feel like there is a lot of flack given to self-projection characters, but I think it's unwarranted criticism and coming from a place of parroting and elitism. Self-projection characters and stories don't help just the creator understand themselves and see themselves, they help people like the creator, too. For every creator who feels they are under-represented in stories and media, I guarantee there are others who feel under-represented in the same way.
What advice do you have for creators who struggle with mental illness or other disabilities?
I already mentioned learning to communicate with yourself and understanding your limits, but I'll re-iterate that here too. Don't beat yourself up for being unable to read yourself or feeling confused on where you stand... it's really common, and just takes some practice to get better at.
The other biggest piece of advice I would give is the power of building good habits and routines.
If you can train yourself to get a little bit done on your creation every day, even if it doesn't seem like a respectable amount... you'll go so far. Its hard to fight that negative voice that says you have not done enough, and which paradoxically makes you want to work not at all. A little bit is always better than none, and late is always better than never. One of my mottos that I have repeated to myself frequently is “Product over perfection.” If it exists, it's leagues “better” than a hypothetical creation that doesn't- full stop.
There are other good habits you can establish, too, besides just making time and effort to get a little work done whenever you can manage. Learning to use positive self-talk, for example. The way you think is just as much a habit as anything else!
The last piece of advice I'll offer is, to work on something you feel excited about... even if you're not sure other people will be. Trust me, when you're a creator, your main audience is you. If you're not excited about it, it's not going to be made. If it's not going to be made, what's the point? Make something that you're passionate about, and that passion will spread to others!!