How to Be Creative :: Sections 19/20

MacLeod highlights the value of authenticity and hard work, and reveals the challenges and rewards of being creative.

Read the sections from Mr. MacLeod’s manifesto on how to be creative. Then meditate on what you read and post your own, well crafted reply:


Today’s sentence starter: The author is trying to make me (see, feel, know, do) …

 

 19. Sing in your own voice.

Picasso was a terrible colorist. Turner couldnʼt paint human beings worth a damn. Saul Steinbergʼs formal drafting skills were appalling. T.S. Eliot had a full-time day job. Henry Miller was a wildly uneven writer. Bob Dylan canʼt sing or play guitar.

But that didnʼt stop them, right?

So I guess the next question is, “Why not?”

I have no idea. Why should it?

20. The choice of media is irrelevant.

Every mediaʼs greatest strength is also its greatest weakness. Every form of media is a set of fundamental compromises; one is not “higher” than the other. A painting doesnʼt do much; it just sits there on a wall. Thatʼs the best and worst thing thing about it. Film combines sound, movement, photography, music, acting. Thatʼs the best and worst thing thing about it. Prose just uses words arranged in linear form to get its point across. Thatʼs the best and worst thing thing about it, etc.

Back in college, I was an English Major. I had no aspirations for teaching, writing or academe; it was just a subject I could get consistently high grades in. Plus, I liked to read books and write papers, so it worked well enough for me.

My M.O. was, and still is, to just have a normal life, be a regular schmo, with a terrific hobby on the side.

Most of my friends were Liberal Arts Majors, but there the similarity ended. We never really went to class together. I dunno, weʼd meet up in the evenings and weekends, but I never really socialized with people in my classes that much.

So it was always surprising to me to meet the Art Majors: fine arts, film, drama, architecture, etc. They seemed to live in each otherʼs pockets. They all seemed to work, eat, and sleep together. Lots of bonding going on. Lots of collaboration. Lots of incestuousness. Lots of speeches about the sanctity of their craft.

Well, a cartoon only needs one person to make it. Same with a piece of writing. No Big Group Hug required. So all this sex-fueled socialism was rather alien to me, even if parts of it seemed very appealing.

During my second year at college, I started getting my cartoons published, and not just the school paper. Suddenly I found meeting girls easy. I was very happy about that, I can assure you, but life carried on pretty much the same. I suppose my friends thought the cartooning gigs were neat or whatever, but it wasnʼt really anything that affected our friendship. It was just something I did on the side, the way other people restored old cars or or kept a darkroom for their camera.

My M.O. was, and still is, to just have a normal life, be a regular schmo, with a terrific hobby on the side. Itʼs not exactly rocket science.

Looking back, I also see a lot of screwy kids who married themselves to their medium of choice for the wrong reasons.

This attitude seemed kinda alien to the Art Majors I met. Their chosen art form seemed more like a religion to them. It was serious. It was important. It was a big part of their identity, and it almost seemed to them that humanityʼs very existence totally depended on them being able to pursue their dream as a handsomely rewarded profession etc.

Donʼt get me wrong, I knew some Art Majors who were absolutely brilliant. One or two of them are famous now. And I can see if youʼve got a special talent, how the need to seriously pursue it becomes important.

But looking back, I also see a lot of screwy kids who married themselves to their medium of choice for the wrong reasons. Not because they had anything particularly unique or visionary to say, but because it was cool. Because it was sexy. Because it was hip. Because it gave them something to talk about at parties. Because it was easier than thinking about getting a real job after graduation.

Iʼm in two minds about this. One part of me thinks itʼs good for kids to mess around with insanely high ambitions, and maybe one or two of them will make it, maybe one or two will survive the cull. Thatʼs whatʼs being young is all about, and I think itʼs wonderful.

The other side of me wants to tell these kids to beware of choosing difficult art forms for the wrong reasons. You can wing it while youʼre young, but itʼs not till your youth is over that The Devil starts seeking out his due. And thatʼs never pretty. Iʼve seen it happen more than once to some very dear, sweet people, and itʼs really heartbreaking to watch.