Saturday, September 13, 2008

Ignore everybody and be creative!

"Work Hard. Keep at it. Live simply and quietly. Remain humble. Stay positive. Be nice. Be polite."
gapingvoid lands a book deal... - this is "how to be creative" summarised in one line
The more original your idea is, the less good advice other people will be able to give you.
How to be creative - Chapter 1 - Ignore everybody
I've been following Hugh MacLeod of Gaping Void since I first got involved in blogging back in 2005. In terms of people who write about how to be creative and how to make both ideas and marketing work in a web 2.0 world I find him to be one of the more insightful - and he has a demonstrable track record of success. Plus his drawings make me smile and sometimes they make me laugh out loud! :)

Hugh's 2004 blog post about How to be creative (HTBC) has been read well over a million times and is also available in pdf form - which has also been downloaded over 19,000 times (figures as at April 2008)

Back in December 2006 I wrote about Hugh on "How to be creative" in which I said I considered it very much a recommended read.

Hugh talks a lot about companies and marketing strategies and his ideas have resonance - which I guess is why he got a book deal with the same people who publish Seth Godin.

They also have the potential to resonate a lot within the art world at large. You just need to consider the concepts and ideas he's talking about and then check out how applicable they are to things you observe and the things you know go on - or at least they do for me! ;)

Every so often I sit down and read a number of Hugh's posts in one sitting and track back and too across his blog in doing so. Some of the latest ones have been to do with the creation of his new book and reviewing what he's written in the past.

The one which triggered this post today is "Good ideas have lonely childhoods". It comes from his review of the idea that starts HTBC which is the injunction to 'ignore everybody'.

Plus this point which came up within that post.
"I want to be part of something! Oh, wait, no I don't!" I've seen this before so many times, both first-hand and with other people. Your idea seems to be working, seems to be getting all sorts of traction, and all of a sudden you got all these swarms of people trying to join the team, wanting to get a piece of the action. And then as as soon as they get a foothold inside the inner circle, you soon realize they don't really understand your idea in the first place, they just want to be on the winning team. And the weirdest bit is, they don't seem to mind sabotaging the original idea that got them interested in the first place, in order to maintain their newfound social status. It's probably the most bizarre bit of human behavior I've ever witnessed first-hand in business, and it's AMAZINGLY common.
"good ideas have lonely childhoods"
For me, that describes almost exactly what I saw happening about two years ago when "daily painting" blogs took off.

At the risk of offending quite a few people, I've never quite been able to understand why people talk about having a daily painting blog if they don't produce a painting every day. THAT was the original idea which captured people's attention. That was what made the blogs which did that actually stand out. Blogs like Duane Keiser's A Painting A Day and Julian Merrow Smith's Postcard from Provence literally did post a painting each day.

Don't get me wrong - I'm very happy with blogs that don't post a painting each day. Lots of the painting blogs that I really like viewing a lot do not post every day. The reason I like them is because of the way they paint - in their own individual and unique way.

What I'm talking about here is having your own idea about how to make art and presenting your own individual and unique appeal in your own unique way - while being prepared for the fact that other people may not actually 'get it' or might even resist your idea. It's about being true to your own way of doing things and delivering the visual equivalent of 'singing in your own voice'.

Other good recent posts from Hugh which are also worth reading include the following:
See any parallels?

An idea for Hugh from me - something which seems to be missing from the original list of tips - "humour often helps".

How come Hugh MacLeod doesn't have an entry on Wikipedia? I just ask.............



Anonymous said...

Awesome post Katherine!!!

I loved reading his Gaping Void blog.

Jan Blencowe said...

Hi Katherine,

This may be your best post at Making a Mark EVER. At least it is for me, because you're singing my song regarding the "painting a day movement" . What you have observed, and what the quote points out is absolutely TRUE. I have been in the trenches and fought for keeping the original idea, but to no avail with the masses of artists out there wanting to use that catch phrase for themselves, regardless of how often they paint!! The fact that one must first and foremost be themselves and offer to the world what is unique in their work/vision/style is another hot button issue for me right now, in both honing my own particular visual voice and preparing for and dealing with those who just don't "get it". It was so refreshing and encouraging reading your post this morning I just had to say THANK YOU!!


VickiRossArt said...

Katherine! I can't WAIT to study Hugh's site. Love Love the cartoons. These past few weeks have been a struggle because of a few sheep...and I am reminded again that I am not a sheep and won't be pigeonholed that way.


Maggie Stiefvater said...

GREAT post. I love his blog because I feel like he really "gets" the creatively ambitious mindset.

And wonderful point on the daily painting blogs. As someone who did that for quite some time, I always rolled my eyes at people who climbed onto the daily painting bandwagon . . . and then didn't do it. Why bother? Find your own wagon!

Judybec said...

Katherine, Thanks for the links to Hugh's site... sounds fascinating--I plan on checking it out.
BTW-I'm one of those "Painting a day" blogs and I just wanted to add my 2 cents. I named it "A drawing a day keeps the doctor away" when I began in 2006. I guess you could say I jumped on the band wagon but in reality it restarted a more serious study of drawing and painting for me. I was doing very little art before I stumbled onto Duane's daily paintings. The whole movement sounded so intriguing that I began doing a drawing a day and I've been motivated to paint and draw everyday since. Even though I don't post everyday the title became a description of my habits.
Just wanted to say the wagon has been good for me.... so far.

All the best!

Felicity Grace said...

I discovered Hugh about the same time and admire his honesty - someone not afraid to tell it exactly like it is and without some hidden agenda. The one sentence that really struck me and still does, and I think of it all the time is 'do it for yourself, nobody cares'. That really is the bottom line, like it or not. I'm sure psychologists could have a field day analysing the games that are played online (in the quest to look cool and/or popular) that ultimately gets nobody anywhere. Illustration Friday is I think a great example of how to play it!

Ellen said...

Great post! I've followed artists who adhere to the painting a day concept for several years and yes, considered creating a similar blog myself, but for personal, not marketing reasons. I simply like the self imposed deadline and discipline involved. However, much of the work I would prefer to show, can't be created in a day. I imagine many who got on the bandwagon did so with good intentions, but realized you're likely limited to smaller formats and techniques that may not fit your particular style.

Glad to have discovered this blog.

Anonymous said...

Fabulous post!

The whole creativity concept is so interesting to me. The more I flex and stretch my creative muscle, the more I see and respect creatives in other areas: music, fashion, advertising, and even politics.

I guess I'm a literal person and thought that "Daily Painter" meant painting daily. That's probably why I was so hesitant in starting a blog; kicking and screaming the whole way that I didn't have time. I knew I could never live up to it. However I wanted the extra spur to get me to commit to painting more often in search of my ever elusive "visual voice".

I decided a couple times (or paintings) a week was what I could handle as a goal. As a title, though, doesn't roll off the tongue quite as fluently (with exception to Robert Genn's Twice-Weekly Letters).

Thanks for bringing to light again Gaping Void. I've seen it here, but haven't explored in a while.
Again, marvelous words today, Katherine.
Thank you!

Sharon said...

Oh this is just wonderful! Thank you SO MUCH for posting it!

Anonymous said...

Hi Katherine - thanks so much for introducing me to Hugh MacLeod's blog - amazing stuff - love the 'How to be creative' post

Every artist should read - puts a lot of stuff in perspective.
Best wishes
Emma Brooks

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