July 31, 2004

avoid crowds altogether


More thoughts on "How To Be Creative":

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. There's 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.
I've 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. He's full of fire, full of passion, full of ideas. And you meet Ted again five or ten years later, and he's still tending bar at the same restaurant. He's not a kid anymore. But he's still no closer to his dream.

His voice is still as defiant as ever, certainly, but there's an emptiness to his words that wasn't 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's probably 3 million other novelists/actors/musicians/painters etc with the same plan. But you see, Ted's special. His fortune will defy the odds eventually. Exactly. That's what he keeps telling you as he refills your glass.

Is your plan of a similar ilk? If it is, then I'd 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 didn't 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 commerical 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.

It's 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 you plan unique? Is there nobody else doing it? Then I'd be excited. A little scared, maybe, but excited.

Posted by hugh macleod at July 31, 2004 12:15 PM | TrackBack

You don't need to go to New York to see that.

I remember going back to my home town for the first time in a long time. I saw the same faces, doing the same things, in the same places. Nothing had changed. At all. It was like being in groundhog day. I apologised to my parents and took a cab to the airport that very evening.

Posted by: Andreas Duess at July 31, 2004 3:11 PM

Of course, the trouble with doing something no one else is doing is that there's no one to ask for advice when you get into trouble... By association, that's also what makes it so damn exciting.

Posted by: Justin Kownacki at July 31, 2004 7:20 PM

Aah, I've seen a very similar idea, in a different context: Paul Graham spoke about it with regard to startups:

"If you do everything the way the average startup does it, you should expect average performance. The problem here is, average performance means that you'll go out of business. The survival rate for startups is way less than fifty percent. So if you're running a startup, you had better be doing something odd. If not, you're in trouble."

(from http://www.paulgraham.com/avg.html)

Posted by: K.H. at August 1, 2004 9:52 PM

makes me think of Charles Ives and his music...(so does the Sex and Cash Theory)


Posted by: mona at August 1, 2004 11:09 PM


there, some info on Ives=)

Posted by: mona at August 2, 2004 3:25 AM

This thread reminds me of something I read the other day by Soren Kierkegaard:

Posted by: Ray at August 12, 2004 2:01 AM

When griping grief the heart doth wound, and doleful dumps the mind opresses, then music, with her silver sound, with speedy help doth lend redress. chuck The sands are number'd that make up my life.

Posted by: chuck at December 1, 2004 4:44 AM

We burn daylight. vinnie If all the year were playing holidays, To sport would be as tedious as to work.

Posted by: vinnie at December 1, 2004 4:53 AM