How to Be Creative :: Sections 23/24

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: A conclusion that I’m drawing is …

23. Worrying about “Commercial vs. Artistic” is a complete waste of time.

You can argue about “the shameful state of American Letters” till the cows come home. They were kvetching about it in 1950; theyʼll be kvetching about it in 2050.

Itʼs a path well trodden, and not a place where one is going to come up with many new, earth-shattering insights.

But a lot of people like to dwell on it because it keeps them from having to ever journey into unknown territory. Itʼs safe. It allows you to have strong emotions and opinions without any real risk to yourself. Without you having to do any of the actual hard work involved in the making and selling of something you believe in.

To me, itʼs not about whether Tom Clancy sells truckloads of books, or a Nobel Prize Winner sells diddlysquat. Those are just ciphers, a distraction. To me, itʼs about what YOU are going to do with the short time you have left on this earth. Different criteria altogether.

Frankly, how a person nurtures and develops his or her own “creative sovereignty,” with or without the help of the world at large, is in my opinion a much more interesting subject.

24. Don’t worry about finding inspiration. It comes eventually.

Inspiration precedes the desire to create, not the other way around.

One of the reasons I got into drawing cartoons on the back of business cards was I could carry them around with me. Living downtown, you spend a lot of time walking around the place. I wanted an art form that was perfect for that.

So if I was walking down the street and I suddenly got hit with the itch to draw something, I could just nip over to the nearest park bench or coffee shop, pull out a blank card from my bag and get busy doing my thing. Seamless. Effortless. No fuss. I like it.

Before, when I was doing larger works, every time I got an idea while walking down the street Iʼd have to quit what I was doing and schlep back to my studio while the inspiration was still buzzing around in my head. Nine times out of ten the inspired moment would have passed by the time I got back, rendering the whole exercise futile. Sure, Iʼd get drawing anyway, but it always seemed I was drawing a memory, not something happening at that very moment.

If youʼre arranging your life in such a way that you need to make a lot of fuss between feeling the itch and getting to work, youʼre putting the cart before the horse. Youʼre probably creating a lot of counterproductive “Me, The Artist, I must create, I must leave something to posterity” melodrama. Not interesting for you or for anyone else.

You have to find a way of working that makes it dead easy to take full advantage of your inspired moments. They never hit at a convenient time, nor do they last long.

Conversely, neither should you fret too much about “writerʼs block,” “artistʼs block,” or whatever. If youʼre looking at a blank piece of paper and nothing comes to you, then go do something else. Writerʼs block is just a symptom of feeling like you have nothing to say, combined with the rather weird idea that you SHOULD feel the need to say something.

Why? If you have something to say, then say it. If not, enjoy the silence while it lasts. The noise will return soon enough. In the meantime, youʼre better off going out into the big, wide world, having some adventures, and refilling your well. Trying to create when you donʼt feel like it is like making conversation for the sake of making conversation. Itʼs not really connecting, itʼs just droning on like an old, drunken barfly.