More thoughts on “How To Be Creative”:
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. Aren’t 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 I’ve spent years drawing them. I’ve 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. You’ve got many long years in front of you. And unlike me, you won’t be doing it for the joy of it. You’ll 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, it’s probably because he works harder at it than you do. Sure, maybe he’s more inherently talented, more adept at networking etc, but I don’t 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 you’ve got a long road ahead of you, regardless. How do you best manage it?
Well, as I’ve written elsewhere, don’t quit your day job. I didn’t. I work every day at the office, same as any other regular schmoe. I have a long commute on the train, ergo that’s when I do most of my drawing. When I was younger I drew mostly while sitting at a bar, but that got old.
The point is; an hour or two on the train is very managable for me. The fact I have a job means I don’t 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 day time. If I were a professional cartoonist I’d just be chained to a drawing table at home all day, scribbling out a living in silence, interrupted only by freqent 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 it’s 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. That’s what the stupidly wrong people coveniently forget.
If I was just starting out writing, say, a novel or a screenplay, or maybe starting up a new software company, I wouldn’t 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?