August 1, 2004

id like my crayons back, please

zzzzsteak12.jpg

More thoughts on "How To Be Creative":

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, "Id like my crayons back, please."

So you've 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 don't know where the itch came from, it's 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 don't know if you're any good or not, but you'd 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 don't know any publishers or agents or all these fancy-shmancy kind of folk. You have a friend who's got a cousin in California who's into this kind of stuff, but you haven't talked to your friend for over two years...

Besides, if you write a book, what if you can't find a publisher? If you write a screenplay, what if you can't find a producer? And what if the producer turns out to be a crook? You've always worked hard your whole life, you'll be damned if you'll put all that effort into something if there ain't no pot of gold at the end of this dumb-ass rainbow...

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

Your wee voice doesn't want you to sell something. Your wee voice wants you to make something. There's a big difference. Your wee voice doesn't 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 didn't 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. There's something you haven't said, something you haven't 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.

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

Posted by hugh macleod at August 1, 2004 10:13 PM | TrackBack
Comments

well said.

Posted by: Raspil at August 1, 2004 11:39 PM

Best thing I've read on gapingvoid ("That's not your wee voice asking for the crayons back... Your wee voice doesn't give a damn about publishers or Hollywood producers.")

Posted by: Firas at August 2, 2004 1:22 AM

Brilliant.

-someone who gave up the crayons far too young

Posted by: ice at August 2, 2004 3:39 AM

What a good message. I will never give up my crayons ever again for anyone or anything.

Posted by: Lu at August 2, 2004 2:58 PM

I take offense to the Algebra comment;

Mathematics is a form of Art, though many have forgotten this. Algebra is (often overtaught, I admit) technique, no different, and just as important, as learning how to control strokes when painting or the essentials of color theory.

Granted, an excellent artist can choose to disobyy these rules, but the artist must also have (in the vast majority of cases) first learned the rules.

Unfortunately Math tends to be taught by some very uncreative people. I was lucky to always (in general) have very creative Mathematics Instructors up until a few drull years in High School (which just rehashed Middle School anyways).

Posted by: com2kid at August 2, 2004 7:43 PM

Great !!

Posted by: Herv at August 2, 2004 8:45 PM

You can be as creative as the day is long, you can have most of the necessary elements to be successful. But, there are un foreseen things out there that will kick your ass so bad it will take years to recover. Business is business and there are always risks. When we are young and think we will live forever and walk around like we're 10 feet tall and bullet proof we sometimes refuse to respect the risks. A word from the older and wiser, respect them! They are very real! ...and they hurt!!!!

Posted by: Mavrick at August 2, 2004 9:19 PM

You can be as creative as the day is long, you can have most of the necessary elements to be successful. But, there are un foreseen things out there that will kick your ass so bad it will take years to recover. Business is business and there are always risks. When we are young and think we will live forever and walk around like we're 10 feet tall and bullet proof we sometimes refuse to respect the risks. A word from the older and wiser, respect them! They are very real! ...and they hurt!!!!

Posted by: Mavrick at August 2, 2004 9:20 PM

You can be as creative as the day is long, you can have most of the necessary elements to be successful. But, there are un foreseen things out there that will kick your ass so bad it will take years to recover. Business is business and there are always risks. When we are young and think we will live forever and walk around like we're 10 feet tall and bullet proof we sometimes refuse to respect the risks. A word from the older and wiser, respect them! They are very real! ...and they hurt!!!!

Posted by: Mavrick at August 2, 2004 9:20 PM

com2kid: I had similar thoughts about math being stereotyped as anti-creative, but I think Hugh had to pick *something* to play the bad guy in this little story, else his quick and simple allegory would have derailed into a tangled spiral of qualifications and disclaimers.

Myself, I would have gone with my own demon, which was phys ed ("gym").

Posted by: AcouSvnt at August 3, 2004 3:35 AM

algebra, gym, latin, whatever ;-)

Posted by: hugh macleod at August 3, 2004 8:07 AM

As much as I am enjoying this article, this point doesn't ring 100% true to me. It's worth noting that not everyone is equally creative. Kids are in the midst of a development period in which they are learning intensively, so they can appear to be wildy creative because they are constantly experimenting. But individuals are different, for better and worse. Some are more analytical; some are creative; some are swift; some are fearless. Some kids put themselves out there constantly to try new things, but many others don't. It's true that most kids are willing to play with crayons, but I don't know how appropriate it is to extrapolate from that a larger philosophical point, as tempting as it may be to think that our weaknesses as adults in fact arise from strengths that were muffled when we were children.

Posted by: Stephen at August 3, 2004 7:34 PM

It's not so much that we need to be equally creative, talented or whatever. The point is, we all have that kind of urge, and it should be listened to.

I'm in the throes of writing a novel. Is it commercially salable? Dunno. It's the best I can do at this point, and it's very satisfying.

That's enough. When it's done, I'll probably go look and see who else might like it.

Posted by: Barbara at August 3, 2004 8:51 PM

my little girl (almost 1 1/2 yrs old) is just starting to get creative...gave the lil' one her first crayon the other day....she loved drawing! of course a nibble or 2 on the crayon was good fun too!

Posted by: Allison at August 4, 2004 4:03 AM

my little girl (almost 1 1/2 yrs old) is just starting to get creative...gave the lil' one her first crayon the other day....she loved drawing! of course a nibble or 2 on the crayon was good fun too!

Posted by: Allison at August 4, 2004 4:03 AM

IMHO -- It's not about what strengths or weaknesses we have in relation to society, but those things in us that need to be fed, nurtured and realized. Mainly a sense of individuality. Yes, we're all different. And I "think" that creativity is the kernel of difference. It's what opens eyes...

Posted by: Jeff at August 4, 2004 3:23 PM

Followed the trail of crumbs over here from a link at jimformation.com, and I'm so glad I did. This piece was really great, and I'm sure I'll be back to absorb the rest of them too. Really great piece of writing that sparks a bit of enthusiasm for the creative process. Good stuff. Really good stuff!

Posted by: ntexas99 at August 5, 2004 6:22 AM

This does make sense, but I use my mathematical skills to create art. I guess you could say I turned math formulas into crayons. And I love to do it. I sell some, but that is not why I do it.

http://www.vivalet.com/

By the way -- I LOVE the business card at the top of this page. Thanks for the great laugh!

Richard.

Posted by: Richard at August 5, 2004 10:57 PM

Inspiring commentary Hugh!
One other note about puberty:
I noticed people stopped smiling at me when I began sprouting hair under my arms. Just as quickly as my voice (think Al-falfa from the television) shot to the moon, people stopped making eye contact with me. It weirded me out and brought me to become generally more cautious with strangers. I thought, "Yesterday, they smiled at me. Why are they ignoring me now? And why do they look so darn serious?"

People love puppies, but are scared of big dogs.
Weird.

Posted by: billyb at August 8, 2004 7:32 AM

Inspiring commentary Hugh!
One other note about puberty:
I noticed people stopped smiling at me when I began sprouting hair under my arms. Just as quickly as my voice (think Al-falfa from the television) shot to the moon, people stopped making eye contact with me. It weirded me out and brought me to become generally more cautious with strangers. I thought, "Yesterday, they smiled at me. Why are they ignoring me now? And why do they look so darn serious?"

People love puppies, but are scared of big dogs.
Weird.

Posted by: billyb at August 8, 2004 7:36 AM

i printed this out and put it up by my computer... it's so easy as an artist to focus on the audience or the applause and forget that driving force inside that speaks in paint and not in profit. i pray that all my days painting and drawing might be so sincere and honest and so utterly free from what others think of them.
and by the by, they don't teach you this stuff in art school either.

Posted by: samantha at August 10, 2004 4:16 AM

Very perceptive observations. The thrust of the article as I read it was "How do you know if you don't try?" I was very artistic as a child but then had academics thrust upon me in Middle School and High School which sidelined my artistic pursuits. I had no skills in mathematics but I tried very hard and did well enough to get by until we got to calculus, which has never made any sense to me. I gave up on math at this point and have never regretted it. I learned to write very well and this skill has served me well over the years but it wasn't until College that I reawakened my sleeping artistic side.

I did my undergrad study in Industrial Design and Graphic Design and am now a professional graphic designer. I remember that it was scary to go back to art after being away for so long. What if I couldn't do it anymore? I hadn't practiced at all. But my fears were unfounded.

You're never too late to try something new either. Just last year I picked up a lump of clay for the first time since grade school and discovered that I have a vast untapped talent for sculpting. I don't know if I can do anything with this skill professionally, and who cares? Just using it is immensly satisfying.

So my advice is this: Try it! You never know until you do.

Posted by: Nathan Skreslet at August 11, 2004 5:23 PM

great site, i've just been referred to it by a friend. I loved this post, about not being concerned about selling something, just allowing your need to create someone take over.

i've linked this post at my site,
http://www.spiralstaircase.us/public_html/2004/08/creativity-can-solve-almost-any.html

thanks!

Posted by: Carrie at August 13, 2004 4:54 PM

Fabulous! I just realized how true this all is. I started my novel two weeks ago, and it is going so well. this was only fuel to the fire, thanks.
Linked you on my blog : laskacleats.blogspot.com

Posted by: Clare at August 16, 2004 10:52 PM

Fabulous! I just realized how true this all is. I started my novel two weeks ago, and it is going so well. this was only fuel to the fire, thanks.
Linked you on my blog : laskacleats.blogspot.com

Posted by: Clare at August 16, 2004 10:53 PM

I cannot thank you enough. I needed to read this. Very helpful. Very very helpful.

Now I know what I've been missing all this time... my crayons!

Posted by: Chris at August 24, 2004 6:44 PM

I cannot thank you enough. I needed to read this. Very helpful. Very very helpful.

Now I know what I've been missing all this time... my crayons!

Posted by: Chris at August 24, 2004 6:45 PM

A month away from turning 33, i have found my crayons. I plan to make an idea i had 3 years ago a reality. I thought i was taking an uncalculated risk, but having read your piece, i'm more determined than ever.
Wish me luck !

Posted by: bobby davies at August 30, 2004 8:11 PM

When I use the term 'repugnant' I do so in my own opinion: I do not use non-free
software on machines I control. This licence is non-free, and masquerading it as free
is offensive. I have contributed lots to the Free Software community myself, and I
would be completely outraged if any of my contributions were being shipped in a
non-free product. Contributions are contributions to public software, not private
profits.

Posted by: gigel at September 8, 2004 10:04 PM

Fucking inspired!

Against your advice elsewhere on the site, I indeed quit my day job in the wake of September 11, 2001. I embarked on a journey as a born-again student, returning to university at the age of 40. I am now in the middle of a documentary film project, for which I have no previous experience - all because I chose to heed my "wee voice."

Which zone am I in, X, Y, or Z? I don't know yet, but I'll be fucked if I'm gonna let somebody else try and tell me which it is. Only I get to do that, and only once I'm satisified that I've fulfilled my own needs for expressing the ideas behind my project.

Posted by: Steve Myers at September 27, 2004 8:47 PM

Fabulous! NOW let's put the FUN back in dysfunctional...

Posted by: RED at October 11, 2004 4:00 AM

aaa
asdfsad

Posted by: nume at October 19, 2004 7:25 PM

distemper

Posted by: displace at November 15, 2004 12:15 AM

distemper

Posted by: displace at November 15, 2004 12:16 AM

I have been going though the pain, I did give up my crayons way too early. And have been trying to pick 'em up.

It is not easy, because it is almost like a part of me that has been shut off.

This blog hits very close to home!

Posted by: ujj at November 18, 2004 9:04 PM