August 20, 2004

the choice of media is irrelevant


More thoughts on "How To Be Creative":

20. The choice of media is irrelevant.

Every media's greatest strength is also its greatest weakness. Every form of media is a set of fundematal compromises, one is not "higher" than the other. A painting doesn't do much, it just sits there on a wall. That's the best and worst thing thing about it. Film combines sound, movent, photography, music, acting. That's the best and worst thing thing about it. Prose just uses words arranged in linear form to get its point across. That's the best and worst thing thing about it etc.

Back in college I was an English Major. I had no aspirations for teaching, writing or academe, it was just a subject I could get consistently high grades in. Plus I liked to read books and write papers, so it worked well enough for me.

Most of my friends were Liberal Arts Majors, but there the similarity ended. We never really went to class together. I dunno, we'd meet up in the evenings and weekends, but I never really socialized with people in my classes that much.

So it was always surprising to me to meet the Art Majors: fine arts, film, drama, architecture etc. They seemed to live in each other's pockets. They all seemed to work, eat and sleep together. Lots of bonding going on. Lots of collaboration. Lots of incestuousness. Lots of speeches about the sanctity of their craft.

Well, a cartoon only needs one person to make it. Same with a piece of writing. No Big Group Hug required. So all this sex-fuelled socialism was rather alien to me, even if parts of it seemed very appealing.

During my second year at college I started getting my cartoons published, and not just the school paper. Suddenly I found meeting girls easy. I was very happy about that, I can assure you, but life carried on pretty much the same.

I suppose my friends thought the cartooning gigs were neat or whatever, but it wasn't really anything that affected our friendship. It was just something I did on the side, the way other people restored old cars or or kept a darkroom for their camera.

My M.O. was and still is to just have a normal life, be a regular schmoe, with a terrific hobby on the side. It's not exactly rocket science.

This attitude seemed kinda alien to the Art Majors I met. Their chosen art form seemed more like a religion to them. It was serious. It was important. It was a big part of their identity, and it almost seemed to them that humanity's very existence totally depended on them being able to pursue their dream as a handsomely rewarded profession etc.

Don't get me wrong, I knew some Art Majors who were absolutely brilliant. One or two of them are famous now. And I can see if you've got a special talent, how the need to seriously pursue it becomes important.

But looking back, I also see a lot of screwy kids who married themselves to their medium of choice for the wrong reasons. Not because they had anything particularly unique of visionary to say, but because it was cool. Because it was sexy. Because it was hip. Because it gave them something to talk about at parties. Because it was easier than thinking about getting a real job after graduation.

I'm in two minds about this. One part of me thinks it's good for kids to mess around with insanely high ambitions, and maybe one or two of them will make it, maybe one or two will survive the cull. That's what's being young is all about, and I think it's wonderful.

The other side of me wants to tell these kids to beware of choosing difficult art forms for the wrong reasons. You can wing it while you're young, but it's not till your youth is over that The Devil starts seeking out his due. And that's never pretty. I've seen it happen more than once to some very dear, sweet people, and it's really heartbreaking to watch.

Posted by hugh macleod at August 20, 2004 2:17 PM | TrackBack

Amen, brother!

Very succinctly put.

Been quietly drawing inspiration from your musings for a couple months now, but had to reply on this one-- I'm in the throes of quitting a safe, boring, lucrative traditional media job to try to launch the multimedia entity that will challenge the old-school local newspaper. Feels Quixotic at times, but it's nice to read others who "get it."

Talking to prospective investors, my lithmus test is this: When they ask what "it" REALLY is-- newspaper, website, newsletter, TV show; what is the medium?: I answer carrier pigeon news service. If they look confused, the meeting's over.


Posted by: Peg at August 20, 2004 3:22 PM

Precisely why one should strive to understand the fundamental principals of as many arts as humanly possible.

Posted by: Love Detective at August 20, 2004 11:35 PM

Wow, great post! I found your site from a blog,

Keep them coming.

Posted by: heather at August 24, 2004 1:37 AM

I am a graphic designer who has had to wear the hats of copywriter, photographer, illustrator and worst of person. I feel the graphic arts were a calling to me. I'm in North Carolina and yes, Jesse would call me a "damn liberal"

After reading this #20, I have a question to you...I have a son who is 15. He is the closest thing to a rockstar that his school has. He sings in his own band, writes his own songs/music, (which aren't too bad really) plays guitar and piano and has big-time Robert Plant rock star hair. He already has groupies. But, he is really smart. 1380 on SAT and is only a sophomore. He wants to get out of our 'red state' and go to school somewhere like a 'blue state". But he really really wants to make it in music. How do I sort this all out and give him any advice? I want him to follow his dreams, but I know what you've been saying too...fine line between believing in yourself and believing your own b.s.

What would you say if he was your son???

Posted by: clementine at December 29, 2004 8:46 PM