October 21, 2005

how to be so-so creative


I wrote "How To Be Creative" well over a year ago and it seems people are still linking to it pretty regularly. Thanks, Everybody. Yeah, it's amazing how things can take on a life of their own.

Not that I'm feeling that "creative" these days, of course. Too busy on other things.

I drew cartoons there quite obsessively for about a decade; but I've slowed down a lot in the last year or two. In retrospect, it's not difficult to see why I worked so hard at it. A wee voice told me this was my ticket out of the dreary and nebulous world of Madison Avenue. An obsession born out of desperation etc.

Once gapingvoid started doing quite well and I no longer needed the crummy day job, the obsession & desperation was no longer there.

Sometimes I miss it.

Posted by hugh macleod at October 21, 2005 9:35 AM | TrackBack

When times were bad I used to shriek 'necessity is the mother of invention!!' over and over - it never worked though

Posted by: Andrew Macfarlane at October 21, 2005 2:12 PM

I had almost forgotten that "How to be Creative" was the reason I started visiting this site. I still have quotations on post-its all over my cube.

Oh how the small things that keep designers going. Small, yellow, semi-sticky things I suppose.

Posted by: Juls at October 21, 2005 2:59 PM

You're naming the unnamed black dog of hard work and talent: fame brings on shit that takes you away from the shit that brought fame.

Looks to me like you've escaped the trap of believing your own press... but when those cameras and lights come poking around, man, I don't blame you for missing the old desperate days.

Could this be the curse of The Global Microbrand?

Whatever it is, you've laid ink on paper in a way that most can't or won't.

And you've done it with style.

Posted by: Larson at October 21, 2005 3:58 PM

I'm a (wanna be-professional) cartoonist (working a real job because I have to, of course) and just discovered this site recently. HTBC has been a great help in re-focusing my attention on why I wanted to make a living at cartooning in the first place. And your recent posts about the GMB is another element that is equally as important and makes my "cartoons" my brand and something I should be paying attention to more often. I am working on being a GMB or a PFS (ala TP) at my "cash" job(s). This site is "Work that matters" -keep up the good work.

Be well.

Posted by: Scott at October 21, 2005 5:16 PM

Comments from the HTBC that got me to thinking were: do something productive everyday, do it for yourself, and You are responsible for your own experience.

I'm having more fun with my photography, webdev biz, and my latest blog/biz attempt biz-story.com. I'm striving for that millionaire-artist goal.

I even used that cartoon on our resources page.

Thanks for the inspiration. I wish you continuted success.

Posted by: eSearing at October 21, 2005 5:24 PM

The acid test of whether or not you're being creative is not the kind of work you're doing so much as how involved you are in it. ie: if you're bored with your work, then yeah, you probably aren't maxing out your creative energy.

I know what you mean about losing the desperation. When I set out to make a living as an artist, everyone (yeah, Everyone) told me it would never fly. I worked like a dog to prove them wrong. About a year ago, when the last few hold-outs came over to my side of the fence and admitted it was possible, well, I had a little crisis for a moment. Because I no longer had anything to prove, you know? I had to find some other reason to get up and work every afternoon. I love making art, but once I had proved that I could do and show it and get paid for it, what was the challenge?

There was still the challenge of continuing to make better work, and the challenge of getting paid better for it but I had always been working on those anyway. I needed something bigger to try and climb. So I've been focusing on learning the business end for the last couple years, building the GMB, etc. And that's been fun because it kept things fresh and new...

HTBC is how I found gapingvoid, and I've been reading ever since. Although it's true that the cartoons are still my favorite part, everything you've done since has also been interesting... On the whole, there's only so much to say about creative work before it's just time to go out and do something. Which is where you've been at, I think... doing something. It might not seem as creative on the surface, and I suppose it probably entails a lot of tedious detail at times, but hey, I'm guessing that you're sincere in your posts about how much you dig being able to live in a remote area and reach out to a broad audience. If the cartoons drop from the main focus for a while, that doesn't necessarily mean that you're less creative or that they'll never come back. It just means you have other stuff on your plate.

And, you know, unless you're one of those people who defines a narrow focus and never, ever budges, the work will change. I think the model of getting famous for one thing only and never branching out is as dead as the whole advertising game you rail against. There's a certain comfort in knowing that when you enjoy something someone does you can count on getting more of it (like bestselling authors). But I'm a lot more interested in people who surprise me with something new all the time and who can still hold my interest most of the time.

So don't sweat it. Have a little faith. If the lack of desperation bothers you, just chant "you can never go homeless again" a few times or, maybe, take a vacation for a bit.

Posted by: john t unger at October 21, 2005 6:38 PM

i had an obsessively creative spell that lasted many years. then, it kinda led me to sonething else and i've been a bit dry with many false starts since. lately the obsession has returned, but not enough.


creativity is an obsession. sometimes you find other things for one's obsessive nature (in your case - microbrands, wine, bespoke suits, hughtrain). hugh, the cards you produced were the output back then, now you have other outputs to your obsessions.

at least that's how i see it with where my obsessive outputs end up.

lookin forward to seeing you again in paris in december at loc's shin-dig.


Posted by: charlie at October 23, 2005 11:40 AM

Isn't running a business requiring you to be creative just as well?
I'd guess you'd need to blow off steam by drawing when you started running a business... But you just slowed it down.
I find myself less regularly checking the site out because I don't find the cartoons here anymore. The stories you tell of the business should be just as interesting to me but I just can't be bothered enough.

Sometimes I really miss it too.

Posted by: Gregor at October 23, 2005 11:48 AM

"Isn't running a business requiring you to be creative just as well?"

Yes, Gregor, that's why I put "creative" in quotation marks.

And apologies if my making a living and writing about what interests me gets in the way of your cartoon viewing pleasure. Heh.

Posted by: hugh macleod at October 23, 2005 11:58 AM

"Satisfaction is the death of desire." I wish I could recall the author of that saying, it sustains me.

Posted by: Tony at October 24, 2005 12:10 AM

"Satisfaction is the death of desire."

Yeah, that is a great line.

Unrequited desire is unsustainable. Anybody who disagrees probably hasn't tried doing it themselves for any length of time.

A bit of satisfaction now and then isn't to be sniffed at, either. Especially after you've spent decades working hard at something.

Posted by: hugh macleod at October 24, 2005 12:37 AM

Just hoped you'd get inspiration for new cartoons from running a business / making a living.

Posted by: Gregor at October 25, 2005 10:03 PM

I'm still drawing cartoons, Gregor. Just taking my time about it more.

Posted by: hugh macleod at October 26, 2005 9:48 AM

I wonder if "satisfaction is the death of desire" couldn't be a remembered version of "Cezanne found that desire without obstacles could easily be the death of desire." That's John Elderfield (MOMA chief curator of painting and sculpture) writing about Cezanne.

Posted by: marly at November 1, 2005 8:38 PM