How to Be Creative :: Section 3&4

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

You will read a section of the manifest each day and blog about your findings. Blog about what you have learned? Main ideas, keywords, etc.

3. Put the hours in.

Doing anything worthwhile takes forever. 90% of what separates successful people and failed people is time, effort, and stamina. I get asked a lot, “Your business card format is very simple. Arenʼt you worried about somebody ripping it off?” Standard Answer: Only if they can draw more of them than me, better than me.

What gives the work its edge is the simple fact that Iʼve spent years drawing them. Iʼve drawn thousands. Tens of thousands of man-hours.

So if somebody wants to rip my idea off, go ahead. If somebody wants to overtake me in the business card doodle wars, go ahead. Youʼve got many long years in front of you. And unlike me, you wonʼt be doing it for the joy of it. Youʼll be doing it for some self-loathing, ill-informed, lame-ass mercenary reason. So the years will be even longer and far, far more painful. Lucky you.

If somebody in your industry is more successful than you, itʼs probably because he works harder at it than you do. Sure, maybe heʼs more inherently talented, more adept at networking, etc., but I donʼt consider that an excuse. Over time, that advantage counts for less and less. Which is why the world is full of highly talented, network-savvy, failed mediocrities.

So yeah, success means youʼve got a long road ahead of you, regardless. How do you best manage it?

Well, as Iʼve written elsewhere, donʼt quit your day job. I didnʼt. I work every day at the office, same as any other regular schmo. I have a long commute on the train; ergo thatʼs when I do most of my drawing. When I was younger I drew mostly while sitting at a bar, but that got old.

Put the hours in; do it for long enough and magicallife-transforming things happen eventually.

The point is, an hour or two on the train is very manageable for me. The fact I have a job means I donʼt feel pressured to do something market-friendly. Instead, I get to do whatever the hell I want. I get to do it for my own satisfaction. And I think that makes the work more powerful in the long run. It also makes it easier to carry on with it in a calm fashion, day-in-day-out, and not go crazy in insane, creative bursts brought on by money worries.

The day job, which I really like, gives me something productive and interesting to do among fellow adults. It gets me out of the house in the daytime. If I were a professional cartoonist, Iʼd just be chained to a drawing table at home all day, scribbling out a living in silence, interrupted only by frequent trips to the coffee shop. No, thank you.

Simply put, my method allows me to pace myself over the long haul, which is important.

Stamina is utterly important. And stamina is only possible if itʼs managed well. People think all they need to do is endure one crazy, intense, job-free creative burst and their dreams will come true. They are wrong, they are stupidly wrong.

Being good at anything is like figure skating—the definition of being good at it is being able to make it look easy. But it never is easy. Ever. Thatʼs what the stupidly wrong people conveniently forget.

If I was just starting out writing, say, a novel or a screenplay, or maybe starting up a new software company, I wouldnʼt try to quit my job in order to make this big, dramatic, heroic-quest thing about it.

I would do something far simpler: I would find that extra hour or two in the day that belongs to nobody else but me, and I would make it productive. Put the hours in; do it for long enough and magical, life-transforming things happen eventually. Sure, that means less time watching TV, Internet-surfing, going out, or whatever.

But who cares?

4. If your biz plan depends on you suddenly being “discovered” by some big shot, your plan will probably fail.

Nobody suddenly discovers anything. Things are made slowly and in pain.

I was offered a quite substantial publishing deal a year or two ago. Turned it down. The company sent me a contract. I looked it over.


Called the company back. Asked for some clarifications on some points in the contract. Never heard back from them. The deal died.

This was a very respected company. You may have even heard of it.

They just assumed I must be just like all the other people they represent—hungry and desperate and willing to sign anything.

They wanted to own me, regardless of how good a job they did.

Thatʼs the thing about some big publishers. They want 110% from you, but they donʼt offer to do likewise in return. To them, the artist is just one more noodle in a big bowl of pasta.

Their business model is to basically throw the pasta against the wall, and see which one sticks. The ones that fall to the floor are just forgotten.

Publishers are just middlemen. Thatʼs all. If artists could remember that more often, theyʼd save themselves a lot of aggravation.

Anyway, yeah, I can see gapingvoid being a ʻproductʼ one day. Books, T-shirts and whatnot. I think it could make a lot of money, if handled correctly. But Iʼm not afraid to walk away if I think the person offering it is full of hot air. Iʼve already got my groove, etc. Not to mention another career thatʼs doing quite well, thank you.

I think the gaping void-as-product-line idea is pretty inevitable, down the road. Watch this space.


  1. What I have learned from this section is to use your time while also only focusing on yourself and not a company. This is mainly shown where he says use an hour or two every day to get better and stay away from big companies. This shows to me that time used wisely to practice on something will always win against someone who is inherently better at something. It also tells that not always joining a company is the best idea. Joining a company could be a detriment rather than a good thing.


  2. What this means to me is that, work as hard as you can to make your art work look good. People may want to take your work and make it seem like its there’s. Well, thats okay! Why? because that person cant draw as best as you can also, that they do it just because its just something for them to do as for you, you do it because you actually enjoy to do it. Always remember that it takes time to make something look good. Hey, it may even take a whole entire year but thats fine. All of the hard work that you put in will pay off at the end of the day. In section 3 the author states, “only if they can draw more than me, better than me”. What this mean is that yeah you may take more work, but just make sure that you can do it better than I can. 9 times out of 10 everyone art work isn’t the same. Section 4, the author states “things are made slowly and in pain”. This basically means that everything takes time.


  3. To me, these sections means to put in a lot of effort and time into your idea and don’t expect to be discovered right away. You should put in effort and time into your work because you will be able to make changes and come up with new ideas for that idea. You shouldn’t expect to be discovered or have a piece of work that needs to be discovered because it might not happen.


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