Acclaimed author and illustrator Curtis Jobling is a creative whirwind. He’s a veteran of the UK animation and publishing industry, being production designer of the original BAFTA-winning Bob the Builder and creator of Frankenstein’s Cat and Raa Raa the Noisy Lion.
He has written and illustrated numerous picture books for young readers, while his novels for middle grade and young adult audiences, including the epic Wereworld series, Haunt and Max Helsing novels are published the world over by Penguin, Simon & Schuster and Orchard.
I recently caught up with Curtis at the Children’s Media Conference to ask how he keeps his creative juices flowing.
What do you do when you aren’t inspired?
I try and break through the wall, treat it like any other job. I think writers are the only people who are afforded the luxury of ‘writers block’ – no other profession has that Get Out Of Jail Free card when they’re finding things tough. If that still doesn’t work, I try and get out, walk the dog, spend some time with my kids, clear my head. Fresh air is a real invigorator.
How do you know if an idea is any good?
I only have my gut instinct to go by, and a knowledge of what else is out there. If I fear it’s too similar to something that already exists, I bin it off. It isn’t worth pursuing.
If it IS original enough to stand apart from the crowd, and it excites or interests me, then that’s the catalyst for me to take it forward.
I have many projects that are works in progress – animation, novels, picture books etc. Some of them are just Word documents with the title alone, others may be story ideas or even opening chapters. It’s important to keep creating if you’re serious about working in creative industries.
What do you do to gain momentum with a concept?
I graft. I work hard. I try and remain disciplined.
In the case of novel writing, I set myself a word count I can hit every day. In the case of animation concepts, I set myself the challenges of coming up with six working outlines for storylines, character thumbnails etc. Working solo means there’s more pressure than ever to be productive.
What helps you?
Blocks of time, the space to be able to work uninterrupted. I write best when I’m alone with no other distractions, when I’m travelling, when I’ve no other deadlines to contend with.
What gets in the way?
What do you do about self doubt? Rejection? Life gets in the way! I’ve a young family who have a hundred and one things, hobbies and places that they need to attend to.
As Number One Dad, I need to be there for them. The self doubt can be crippling when it raises its ugly head – the best thing to do then is consult a family member or friend, preferably somebody who works in the same field as me. That’d be other animation professionals, writers, artists and the like. They can talk you down or talk you up when you need it. As for rejection, you have to be resilient. Keep working at your craft. Self belief is a big part for any creative’s success.
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