August 15, 2004

merit can be bought. passion can't.


More thoughts on "How To Be Creative":

17. Merit can be bought. Passion can't.

The only people who can change the world are people who want to. And not everybody does.
Human beings have this thing I call the "Pissed Off Gene". It's that bit of our psyche that makes us utterly dissatisfied with our lot, no matter how kindly fortune smiles upon us.

It's there for a reason. Back in our early caveman days being pissed off made us more likely to get off our butt, get out of the cave and into the tundra hunting wooly mammoth, so we'd have something to eat for supper. It's a survival mechanism. Damn useful then, damn useful now.

It's this same Pissed Off Gene that makes us want to create anything in the first place- drawings, violin sonatas, meat packing companies, websites. This same gene drove us to discover how to make a fire, the wheel, the bow and arrow, indoor plumbing, the personal computer, the list is endless.

Part of understanding the creative urge is understanding that it's primal. Wanting to change the world is not a noble calling, it's a primal calling.

We think we're "providing a superior integrated logistic system" or "helping America to really taste freshness". In fact we're just pissed off and want to get the hell out of the cave and kill the woolly mammoth.

Your business either lets you go hunt the woolly mammoth or it doesn't. Of course, like so many white-collar jobs these days, you might very well be offered a ton of money to sit in the corner-office cave and pretend that you're hunting. That is sad. What's even sadder is if you agree to take the money.

Posted by hugh macleod at August 15, 2004 10:04 PM | TrackBack

SO 'anger' is the mother of invention? Hmmmm..... I'm not sure Maslow would agree, and Darwin might throw in an arguement for adaptation.

Personally, I vote for 'laziness' being the mother of invention.

But really Hugh, you have it right....ultimately, sex and cash are the true motivators. To pretty much everything. Including why we became a species in the first place. (even red hot Darwin could see that). Anger, of course, spurs us on; that kick in the butt (so to speak.)

Read "Longitude" by Dava Sobel. A light history sbout man who was creative, saw an opportunity to make some cash, got royally pissed off in the process (literally, because - um, there was some royalty involved) and thus, never gave up on his goal. go. read. read.

Posted by: violetviolet at August 15, 2004 11:31 PM

I read it last year, Violet. Great book =)

Posted by: hugh macleod at August 15, 2004 11:44 PM



Golly, now that I think about it...maybe it was you who recommended the book to me.

Posted by: violetviolet at August 15, 2004 11:56 PM

"Quote Bomber" I am.

"There's no doubt that emotional forces like anger, resentment, desire for revenge, or fear of failure can have very unpleasant side effects, ranging from the destruction of personal relationships to ill health. But not to acknowledge that a great deal of positive accomplishment is birthed by such emotions is Pollyannaish. The real motivations behind many success stories are a far cry from happy-face, positive, noble emotions, and that's a fact." Dan S. Kennedy (No Rules 1998)

"They will here me thunder, Go to hell; and I shall say, You deserted me when I was in trouble, friend, I don't know you, go away, you're standing in my light." Vincent van Gogh (letter to Theo van Gogh, 1882)

Posted by: Nik at August 16, 2004 8:09 AM

Right on, As usual.

A huge amount of what I've done over the years was motivated by the "pissed off gene." I was aware of the symptoms, but I'm really glad you've isolated the strain... or articulated it anyway.

The other half of what I've done was motivated by either the "I just have fun making shit gene" or the "what would happen if I do this gene."

I wonder if anyone can tell them apart?

Posted by: john t unger at August 16, 2004 9:59 AM

Anger is a motivator for certain kind of life. I know, I had one based on it.

Then you need to get laid, or at least feeling less screamingly alone. When attempting this trick, as a sales pitch however, "Come beloved, and live with me in my tower of rage.." lacks that enticing quality.

Hence you tend to go out with people who find suffering interesting, and then you wonder why your life sucks.

So, I think, Go eat the mammoth, but remember to take the time to enjoy feeling full afterwards. After all, that was the sensation required, i.e satiety, not lack of hunger, and I think that the two are different.

Spend a lot of time thinking about the anger of the modern world, and starting to spend more time on the Zen aspects of life.

Getting too old to go to bars helps with this, of course.

Posted by: Hamish at August 16, 2004 2:01 PM

I agree. Anger can be a terrific engine when properly aligned and not directed against anyone in a hurtful way.

Posted by: bluepoppy at August 16, 2004 2:40 PM

Anger and the adrenaline that comes from anger (if focused right) can drive you to do something.

When something doesn't go your way and you want it to, you have to have the determination and strength to do so.

When you get angry at yourself for not being where you want to be in life most people will either sit there and accept, or take that anger, channel it and work their asses off to improve their life.

Posted by: Andrew at August 16, 2004 9:18 PM

Not like my opinion matters but I haven't liked the last two 'how to be creative' posts. They seemed kind of devoid of any real insight unlike the previous entries.

Posted by: Dare Obasanjo at August 17, 2004 2:21 AM

Actually, Dare, your opinion does matter.

"I'm the LISTENING blogger!"


Point taken, though. I suppose right now I'm thinking more about the outside world and how to navigate it, rather than how to navigate the dark reccesses of the psyche.

Some people will find what I have to say about all that less "insightful". So it goes.

Anyway, if you don't like the writing, hey, there's always the cartoons ;-)

Posted by: hugh macleod at August 17, 2004 10:50 AM

"You see things; and you say, 'Why?' But I dream things that never were; and I say, "Why not?""
George Bernard Shaw, Dreams.
I hear what you are saying, and obviously so does George :)

Posted by: Ruok at August 20, 2004 11:21 AM

This blog entry reminded me of the "One Good Enemy" essay over at

Posted by: ohreally at August 26, 2004 8:50 PM