Get Creative and Make a Monster with Stefan G. Bucher

Geek Culture

Stefan G. Bucher certainly knows how to stay busy. A few weeks back, I wrote about his new book, 344 Questions, and how I’d discovered it by being a follower of his previous work with 100 Days of Monsters. I’m now a fan of both works, and I’ve finished working through the book and writing in my own responses to most (not all) of the book’s questions. While a small number of the questions either didn’t pertain to me (or my career) or weren’t relevant to my current personal and work life, I believe that the book succeeded in its mission best described by its subtitle: The Creative Person’s Do-It-Yourself Guide to Insight, Survival, and Artistic Fulfillment. I gained some insight, I survived, and I’d like to think I rolled a +10 on my Fulfillment check after finishing the book.

As a reminder, the book uses an interesting mix of Bucher’s style of graphics and text to prompt you to ponder a bit about your life.

Your work life.

Your personal life.

Your goals.

Your screw ups… and your successes.

You don’t have to actually write your answers in the book, but not doing so would really be missing the point. The book is meant to be interactive, and I treated it as such. It was inexpensive career counseling, honestly, and it really did make me open my eyes to some things I’m doing wrong with my career. Of course, the only advice it offered was my actual (truthful) responses to follow-up questions. The book really only works, I believe, if you’re willing to play along and see where it takes you.

As I finished the book, I quickly realized just how valuable it would have been to me in late high school or early college. While so much of the content isn’t relevant to someone who hasn’t worked in a chosen field as a professional, there are dozens of pages that are relevant to a younger audience who are constantly reminded that they’ll need to decide what they want to do with the rest of their lives before the age of 21. (Which is totally irresponsible on our part, the adults, who try to push kids to figure out fast what they’ll spend doing for the next 40+ years.)

I’ve purchased a few additional copies of the book — two copies will sit on the shelves for some time until my two boys are old enough to see the value in this kind of book. (I remember my dad giving me a copy of What Color is Your Parachute when I graduated high school — still a good book — but I think 344 Questions will be much more fun for them years from now.) I’ve also given away a copy to a college freshman I know along with a suggestion to work through it after her first year is over. Time will tell if she finds it useful.

If you’re looking for a good test to determine if a student you know might find the book helpful, look no further than a recently released set of extra questions from Stefan titled 344 Questions: The Ambitious Student’s Back-to-School Guide to Educational Goals, Social Progress, and Personal Fulfillment. Click the title to download the graphic provided by McSweeney’s The Goods in PDF format.

The single pane of questions isn’t likely to change a student’s world, but it sure might start an inner dialogue or an open discussion with classmates. And the book will be waiting if a student finds he or she wants more.

In addition to the book, Stefan has also been hard at work on another project that I’m just loving. For those of us who love his Monster creations, he’s just released an iPad app called Daily Monster that allows you to try your hand at creating a similar random monster with nothing but a virtually-blown blob of ink and some of Stefan’s custom icons such as claw hands, weird eyes, and other body components.

I let my son take a try at it and, being a boy, he created a monster he called Mr. Poopy Pants. I’m so proud. The app is fairly simple to figure out, but the Help button will give you a complete rundown of the app if you need it. Tap the blob of ink and the stain it creates is just waiting for you to add some creativity. Not feeling so creative? Tap the Insta-Monster button and you’ll have one created for you.

The app provides layer-level control of the different elements as well as resizing and rotation controls. A pen (with varying thickness) is thrown in for your own custom additions and a balloon text window for titles and dialogue needs. Everything you need to create your own Daily Monster!

Between the 344 Questions book, the new bonus questions for students, and the Daily Monster app, Stefan has provided us with plenty of tools to stoke our creative fires. Now I’m wanting to know what he has up his sleeve for us next…

FYI — The Goods is weekly half-page syndicated newspaper feature edited and designed by McSweeney’s. Each GOODS issue consists of between three and six games, puzzles, comics, and activities for all ages. Contributors include some of the world’s best-known picture-book writers and artists. For more information, see Trust me… it’s really cool. Thank you, McSweeney’s Team, for making the bonus questions available to readers.

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