I’ll make my bed with the stars above my head

How to be Creative by Hugh MacLeod made me smile today.

So you want to be more crea­tive, in art, in busi­ness, wha­te­ver.

Here are some tips that have wor­ked for me over the years:

1. Ignore every­body.

The more ori­gi­nal your idea is, the less good advice other peo­ple will be able to give you. When I first star­ted with the biz card for­mat, peo­ple thought I was nuts. Why wasn’t I trying to do something more easy for mar­kets to digest i.e. cutey-pie gree­ting cards or wha­te­ver? (more…)

2. The idea doesn’t have to be big. It just has to change the world.

The two are not the same thing.


3. Put the hours in.

Doing anything worthwhile takes fore­ver. 90% of what sepa­ra­tes suc­cess­ful peo­ple and fai­led peo­ple is time, effort and sta­mina.


4. If your biz plan depends on you sud­denly being “dis­co­ve­red” by some big shot, your plan will pro­bably fail.

Nobody sud­denly dis­co­vers anything. Things are made slowly and in pain.


5. You are res­pon­si­ble for your own expe­rience.

Nobody can tell you if what you’re doing is good, mea­ning­ful or worthwhile. The more com­pe­lling the path, the more lonely it is.


6. Ever­yone is born crea­tive; ever­yone is given a box of cra­yons in kin­der­gar­ten.

Then when you hit puberty they take the cra­yons away and replace them with books on alge­bra etc. Being sud­denly hit years later with the crea­tive bug is just a wee voice telling you, “I�d like my cra­yons back, please.“


7. Keep your day job.

I�m not just saying that for the usual rea­son i.e. because I think your idea will fail. I�m saying it because to sud­denly quit one�s job in a big ol’ crea­tive drama-queen moment is always, always, always in direct con­flict with what I call �The Sex & Cash Theory�.

8. Com­pa­nies that squelch crea­ti­vity can no lon­ger com­pete with com­pa­nies that cham­pion crea­ti­vity.

Nor can you bully a subor­di­nate into beco­ming a genius.


9. Every­body has their own pri­vate Mount Eve­rest they were put on this earth to climb.

You may never reach the sum­mit; for that you will be for­gi­ven. But if you don’t make at least one serious attempt to get above the snow-line, years later you will find your­self lying on your death­bed, and all you will feel is emp­ti­ness.


10. The more talen­ted some­body is, the less they need the props.

Mee­ting a per­son who wrote a mas­ter­piece on the back of a deli menu would not sur­prise me. Mee­ting a per­son who wrote a mas­ter­piece with a sil­ver Car­tier foun­tain pen on an anti­que wri­ting table in an airy SoHo loft would SERIOUSLY sur­prise me.


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.


12. If you accept the pain, it can­not hurt you.

The pain of making the neces­sary sac­ri­fi­ces always hurts more than you think it’s going to. I know. It sucks. That being said, doing something seriously crea­tive is one of the most ama­zing expe­rien­ces one can have, in this or any other life­time. If you can pull it off, it’s worth it. Even if you don’t end up pulling it off, you’ll learn many inc­re­di­ble, magi­cal, valua­ble things. It’s NOT doing it when you know you full well you HAD the oppor­tu­nity– that hurts FAR more than any fai­lure.


13. Never com­pare your inside with some­body else’s outside.

The more you prac­tice your craft, the less you con­fuse worldly rewards with spi­ri­tual rewards, and vice versa. Even if your path never makes any money or furthers your career, that’s still worth a TON.


14. Dying young is ove­rra­ted.

I’ve seen so many young peo­ple take the “Gotta do the drugs and booze thing to make me a bet­ter artist” route over the years. A choice that was neither effec­tive, healthy, smart, ori­gi­nal or ended hap­pily.


15. The most impor­tant thing a crea­tive per­son can learn pro­fes­sio­nally is where to draw the red line that sepa­ra­tes what you are willing to do, and what you are not.

Art suf­fers the moment other peo­ple start paying for it. The more you need the money, the more peo­ple will tell you what to do. The less con­trol you will have. The more bullshit you will have to swa­llow. The less joy it will bring. Know this and plan accor­dingly.


16. The world is chan­ging.

Some peo­ple are hip to it, others are not. If you want to be able to afford gro­ce­ries in 5 years, I’d recom­mend lis­te­ning clo­sely to the for­mer and avoi­ding the lat­ter. Just my two cents.


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.


18. Avoid the Water­coo­ler Gang.

They�re a well-meaning bunch, but they get in the way even­tually.


19. Sing in your own voice.

Pic­casso was a terri­ble colo­rist. Tur­ner couldn’t paint human beings worth a damn. Saul Steinberg’s for­mal draf­ting skills were appa­lling. TS Eliot had a full-time day job. Henry Miller was a wildly une­ven wri­ter. Bob Dylan can’t sing or play gui­tar.


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, 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.


21. Selling out is har­der than it looks.

Dilu­ting your pro­duct to make it more “com­mer­cial” will just make peo­ple like it less.

Many years ago, barely out of college, I star­ted sch­lep­ping around the ad agen­cies, loo­king for my first job.


22. Nobody cares. Do it for your­self.

Every­body is too busy with their own lives to give a damn about your book, pain­ting, screen­play etc, espe­cially if you haven’t sold it yet. And the ones that aren’t, you don’t want in your life any­way.


23. Worr­ying about “Com­mer­cial vs. Artis­tic” is a com­plete waste of time.

You can argue about “the sha­me­ful state of Ame­ri­can Let­ters” till the cows come home. They were kvetching about it in 1950, they’ll be kvetching about it in 2050.

It’s a path well-trodden, and not a place where one is going to come up with many new, earth-shattering insights.


24. Don�t worry about fin­ding ins­pi­ra­tion. It comes even­tually.

Ins­pi­ra­tion pre­ce­des the desire to create, not the other way around.


25. You have to find your own sch­tick.

A Picasso always looks like Pic­casso pain­ted it. Heming­way always sounds like Heming­way. A Beetho­ven Symphony always sounds like a Beethoven’s Syynphony. Part of being a mas­ter is lear­ning how to sing in nobody else’s voice but your own.


26. Write from the heart.

There is no sil­ver bullet. There is only the love God gave you.


27. The best way to get appro­val is not to need it.

This is equally true in art and busi­ness. And love. And sex. And just about everything else worth having.


28. Power is never given. Power is taken.

Peo­ple who are “ready” give off a dif­fe­rent vibe than peo­ple who aren’t. Ani­mals can smell fear; maybe that’s it.


29. Wha­te­ver choice you make, The Devil gets his due even­tually.

Selling out to Holly­wood comes with a price. So does not selling out. Either way, you pay in full, and yes, it inva­riably hurts like hell.


30. The har­dest part of being crea­tive is get­ting used to it.

If you have the crea­tive urge, it isn’t going to go away. But some­ti­mes it takes a while before you accept the fact.


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