How to Be Creative :: Sections 11/12

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 post your own, well crafted reply; using this sentence to start your reply: The most important message here is …

Sentence Starter Today: The most important message here is …

11. Don’t try to stand out from the crowd; avoid crowds altogether.

Your plan for getting your work out there has to be as original as the actual work, perhaps even more so. The work has to create a totally new market. Thereʼs no point trying to do the same thing as 250,000 other young hopefuls, waiting for a miracle. All existing business models are wrong. Find a new one.

Iʼve seen it so many times. Call him Ted. A young kid in the big city, just off the bus, wanting to be a famous something: artist, writer, musician, film director, whatever. Heʼs full of fire, full of passion, full of ideas. And you meet Ted again five or ten years later, and heʼs still tending bar at the same restaurant. Heʼs not a kid anymore. But heʼs still no closer to his dream.

His voice is still as defiant as ever, certainly, but thereʼs an emptiness to his words that wasnʼt there before.

Yeah, well, Ted probably chose a very well-trodden path. Write novel, be discovered, publish bestseller, sell movie rights, retire rich in 5 years. Or whatever.

No worries that there are probably three million other novelists/actors/musicians/painters etc with the same plan. But of course, Tedʼs special. Of course his fortune will defy the odds eventually. Of course. Thatʼs what he keeps telling you, as he refills your glass.

Is your plan of a similar ilk? If it is, then Iʼd be concerned.

When I started the business card cartoons I was lucky; at the time I had a pretty well-paid corporate job in New York that I liked. The idea of quitting it in order to join the ranks of Bohemia didnʼt even occur to me. What, leave Manhattan for Brooklyn? Ha. Not bloody likely. I was just doing it to amuse myself in the evenings, to give me something to do at the bar while I waited for my date to show up or whatever.

There was no commercial incentive or larger agenda governing my actions. If I wanted to draw on the back of a business card instead of a “proper” medium, I could. If I wanted to use a four-letter word, I could. If I wanted to ditch the standard figurative format and draw psychotic abstractions instead, I could. There was no flashy media or publishing executive to keep happy. And even better, there was no artist-lifestyle archetype to conform to.

It gave me a lot of freedom. That freedom paid off in spades, later.

Question how much freedom your path affords you. Be utterly ruthless about it.

Itʼs your freedom that will get you to where you want to go. Blind faith in an over subscribed, vainglorious myth will only hinder you.

Is your plan unique? Is there nobody else doing it? Then Iʼd be excited. A little scared, maybe, but excited.

12. If you accept the pain, it cannot hurt you.

The pain of making the necessary sacrifices always hurts more than you think itʼs going to. I know. It sucks. That being said, doing something seriously creative is one of the most amazing experiences one can have, in this or any other lifetime. If you can pull it off, itʼs worth it. Even if you donʼt end up pulling it off, youʼll learn many incredible, magical, valuable things. Itʼs NOT doing it when you know you full well you HAD the opportunity—that hurts FAR more than any failure.

Frankly, I think youʼre better off doing something on the assumption that you will NOT be rewarded for it, that it will NOT receive the recognition it deserves, that it will NOT be worth the time and effort invested in it.

The obvious advantage to this angle is, of course, if anything good comes of it, then itʼs an added bonus.

The second, more subtle and profound advantage is: that by scuppering all hope of worldly and social betterment from the creative act, you are finally left with only one question to answer:

Do you make this damn thing exist or not?

And once you can answer that truthfully to yourself, the rest is easy.

How to Be Creative :: Sections 9/10

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 post your own, well crafted reply about using this sentence to start your reply: This is relevant to my life because …

Sentence Starter Today: This is relevant to my life because …

9. Everybody has their own private Mount Everest they were put on this earth to climb.

You may never reach the summit; for that you will be forgiven. But if you donʼt make at least one serious attempt to get above the snow line, years later you will find yourself lying on your deathbed, and all you will feel is emptiness.

This metaphorical Mount Everest doesnʼt have to manifest itself as “Art.” For some people, yes, it might be a novel or a painting. But Art is just one path up the mountain, one of many. With others, the path may be something more prosaic. Making a million dollars, raising a family, owning the most Burger King franchises in the Tri-State area, building some crazy over-sized model airplane, the list has no end.

Whatever. Letʼs talk about you now. Your mountain. Your private Mount Everest. Yes, that one. Exactly.

Letʼs say you never climb it. Do you have a problem with that? Can you just say to yourself, “Never mind, I never really wanted it anyway,” and take up stamp-collecting instead?

Well, you could try. But I wouldnʼt believe you. I think itʼs not okay for you never to try to climb it. And I think you agree with me. Otherwise, you wouldnʼt have read this far.

So it looks like youʼre going to have to climb the frickinʼ mountain. Deal with it.

My advice? You donʼt need my advice. You really donʼt. The biggest piece of advice I could

give anyone would be this:

“Admit that your own private Mount Everest exists.

That is half the battle.”

And youʼve already done that. You really have. Otherwise, again, you wouldnʼt have read this far. Rock on.

10. The more talented somebody is, the less they need the props.

Meeting a person who wrote a masterpiece on the back of a deli menu would not surprise me. Meeting a person who wrote a masterpiece with a silver Cartier fountain pen on an antique writing table in an airy SoHo loft would SERIOUSLY surprise me.

Abraham Lincoln wrote The Gettysburg Address on a piece of ordinary stationery that he had borrowed from the friend in whose house he was staying.

James Joyce wrote with a simple pencil and notebook. Somebody else did the typing, but only much later.

Van Gogh rarely painted with more than six colors on his palette.

I draw on the back of wee biz cards. Whatever.

Thereʼs no correlation between creativity and equipment ownership. None. Zilch. Nada.

Actually, as the artist gets more into his thing, and as he gets more successful, his number of tools tends to go down. He knows what works for him. Expending mental energy on stuff wastes time. Heʼs a man on a mission. Heʼs got a deadline. Heʼs got some rich client breathing down his neck. The last thing he wants is to spend 3 weeks learning how to use a router drill if he doesnʼt need to.

A fancy tool just gives the second-rater one more pillar to hide behind. Which is why there are so many hack writers with state-of-the-art laptops.

A fancy tool just gives the second-rater one more pillar to hide behind. Which is why there are so many second-rate art directors with state-of-the-art Macintosh computers.

Which is why there are so many hack writers with state-of-the-art laptops.

Which is why there are so many crappy photographers with state-of-the-art digital cameras.

Which is why there are so many unremarkable painters with expensive studios in trendy neighborhoods.

Hiding behind pillars, all of them.

Pillars do not help; they hinder. The more mighty the pillar, the more you end up relying on it psychologically, the more it gets in your way.

And this applies to business, as well.

Which is why there are so many failing businesses with fancy offices.

Which is why thereʼs so many failing businessmen spending a fortune on fancy suits and expensive yacht club memberships.

Again, hiding behind pillars.

Successful people, artists and non-artists alike, are very good at spotting pillars. Theyʼre very good at doing without them. Even more importantly, once theyʼve spotted a pillar, theyʼre very good at quickly getting rid of it.

Good pillar management is one of the most valuable talents you can have on the planet. If you have it, I envy you. If you donʼt, I pity you.

Sure, nobodyʼs perfect. We all have our pillars. We seem to need them. You are never going to live a pillar-free existence. Neither am I.

All we can do is keep asking the question, “Is this a pillar?” about every aspect of our business, our craft, our reason for being alive, etc., and go from there. The more we ask, the better we get at spotting pillars, the more quickly the pillars vanish.

Ask. Keep asking. And then ask again. Stop asking and youʼre dead.

How to Be Creative :: Sections 5/6

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 summarize the main point of the today’s section. 

Summarize the main point of the article.

5. You are responsible for your own experience.

Nobody can tell you if what youʼre doing is good, meaningful or worthwhile. The more compelling the path, the lonelier it is.

Every creative person is looking for “The Big Idea.” You know, the one that is going to catapult them out from the murky depths of obscurity and on to the highest planes of incandescent lucidity.

The one thatʼs all love-at-first-sight with the Zeitgeist.

The one thatʼs going to get them invited to all the right parties, metaphorical or otherwise.

So naturally you ask yourself, if and when you finally come up with The Big Idea, after years of toil, struggle and doubt, how do you know whether or not it is “The One?”

Answer: You donʼt.

Thereʼs no glorious swelling of existential triumph. Thatʼs not what happens.

All you get is this rather kvetchy voice inside you that seems to say, “This is totally stupid. This is utterly moronic. This is a complete waste of time. Iʼm going to do it anyway.”

And you go do it anyway.

Second-rate ideas like glorious swellings far more. Keeps them alive longer.

6. Everyone is born creative; everyone is given a box of crayons in kindergarten.

Then when you hit puberty they take the crayons away and replace them with books on algebra etc. Being suddenly hit years later with the creative bug is just a wee voice telling you, “Iʼd like my crayons back, please.”

So youʼve got the itch to do something. Write a screenplay, start a painting, write a book, turn your recipe for fudge brownies into a proper business, whatever. You donʼt know where the itch came from; itʼs almost like it just arrived on your doorstep, uninvited. Until now you were quite happy holding down a real job, being a regular person…Until now.

You donʼt know if youʼre any good or not, but youʼd think you could be. And the idea terrifies you. The problem is, even if you are good, you know nothing about this kind of business. You donʼt know any publishers or agents or all these fancy-shmancy kind of folk. You have a friend whoʼs got a cousin in California whoʼs into this kind of stuff, but you havenʼt talked to your friend for over two years…

Besides, if you write a book, what if you canʼt find a publisher? If you write a screenplay, what if you canʼt find a producer? And what if the producer turns out to be a crook? Youʼve always worked hard your whole life; youʼll be damned if youʼll put all that effort into something if there ainʼt no pot of gold at the end of this dumb-ass rainbow…

Heh. Thatʼs not your wee voice asking for the crayons back. Thatʼs your outer voice, your adult voice, your boring and tedious voice trying to find a way to get the wee crayon voice to shut the hell up.

They’re only crayons. You didn’t fear them in kindergarten, why fear them now?

Your wee voice doesnʼt want you to sell something. Your wee voice wants you to make something. Thereʼs a big difference. Your wee voice doesnʼt give a damn about publishers or Hollywood producers.

Go ahead and make something. Make something really special. Make something amazing that will really blow the mind of anybody who sees it.

If you try to make something just to fit your uninformed view of some hypothetical market, you will fail. If you make something special and powerful and honest and true, you will succeed.

The wee voice didnʼt show up because it decided you need more money or you need to hang out with movie stars. Your wee voice came back because your soul somehow depends on it. Thereʼs something you havenʼt said, something you havenʼt done, some light that needs to be switched on, and it needs to be taken care of. Now.

So you have to listen to the wee voice or it will die…taking a big chunk of you along with it.

Theyʼre only crayons. You didnʼt fear them in kindergarten, why fear them now?

How to Be Creative :: Sections 25/26

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 about what you have learned from the two sections, highlight some key words & post any questions you may have.

Blog about: WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED? MAIN IDEAS/KEY WORDS/QUESTIONS, etc.

25.You have to find your own shtick.

A Picasso always looks like Picasso painted it. Hemingway always sounds like Hemingway. A Beethoven Symphony always sounds like a Beethovenʼs Symphony. Part of being a Master is learning how to sing in nobody elseʼs voice but your own.

Every artist is looking for their big, definitive “Ah-Ha!” moment, whether theyʼre a Master or not.

That moment where they finally find their true voice, once and for all.

For me, it was when I discovered drawing on the back of business cards.

Other, more famous and notable examples would be Jackson Pollack discovering splatter paint. Or Robert Ryman discovering all-white canvases. Andy Warhol discovering silkscreen. Hunter S. Thompson discovering Gonzo Journalism. Duchamp discovering the Found Object. Jasper Johns discovering the American Flag. Hemingway discovering brevity. James Joyce discovering stream-of-consciousness prose.

Every artist is looking for their big, definitive “Ah-Ha!” moment, whether they’re a Master or not.

Was it luck? Perhaps a little bit.

But it wasnʼt the format that made the art great. It was the fact that somehow while playing  around with something new, suddenly they found themselves able to put their entire selves into it.

Only then did it become their ʻshtick,ʼ their true voice, etc.

Thatʼs what people responded to. The humanity, not the form. The voice, not the form.

Put your whole self into it, and you will find your true voice. Hold back and you wonʼt. Itʼs that simple.

26. Write from the heart.

There is no silver bullet. There is only the love God gave you.

As a professional writer, I am interested in how conversation scales.

How communication scales, x to the power of n etc etc.

Ideally, if youʼre in the communication business, you want to say the same thing, the same way to an audience of millions that you would to an audience of one. Imagine the power youʼd have if you could pull it off.

But sadly, it doesnʼt work that way.

You canʼt love a crowd the same way you can love a person.

And a crowd canʼt love you the way a single person can love you.

Intimacy doesnʼt scale. Not really. Intimacy is a one-on-one phenomenon.

Itʼs not a big deal. Whether youʼre writing to an audience of one, five, a thousand, a million, ten million, thereʼs really only one way to really connect. One way that actually works: Write from the heart.