Gaping Void: How to be Creative

I was reminded this morning of a blog I love, but haven’t been reading as much recently (for no good reason). Hugh MacLeod’s Gaping Void is as good as it gets: smart, funny, honest, and instructive.

To give you an example of his fine work, check out this amazing post on How to be Creative. Here are the bullets:

1. Ignore everybody.

2. The idea doesn’t have to be big. It just has to be yours.

3. Put the hours in.

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

5. You are responsible for your own experience.

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

7. Keep your day job.

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

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

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

11. Don’t try to stand out from the crowd; avoid crowds altogether.

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

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

14. Dying young is overrated.

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.

16. The world is changing.

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

18. Avoid the Watercooler Gang.

19. Sing in your own voice.

20. The choice of media is irrelevant.

21. Selling out is harder than it looks.

22. Nobody cares. Do it for yourself.

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

24. Don’t worry about finding inspiration. It comes eventually.

25. You have to find your own schtick.

26. Write from the heart.

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

28. Power is never given. Power is taken.

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

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

31. Remain frugal.

32. Allow your work to age with you.

33. Being Poor Sucks.

34. Beware of turning hobbies into jobs.

35. Savor obscurity while it lasts.

36. Start blogging.

37. Meaning Scales, People Don’t.

37. When your dreams become reality, they are no longer your dreams.

What makes Mr. MacLeod’s writing so great is that far from just being a list, each of the items is given full exposition. As an example, here’s what Mr. MacLeod says about number 4, “If your biz plan depends on you suddenly being “discovered” by some big shot, your plan will probably fail.” (I find this advice particularly relevant to many aspiring musicians waiting for that label to swoop in and give them a deal):

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

I was offered a quite substantial publishing deal a year or two ago. Turned it down. The company sent me a contract. I looked it over. Hmmmm…
Called the company back. Asked for some clarifications on some points in the contract. Never heard back from them. The deal died.

This was a very respected company. You may have even heard of it.

They just assumed I must be just like all the other people they represent- hungry and desperate and willing to sign anything.

They wanted to own me, regardless of how good a job they did.

That’s the thing about some big publishers. They want 110% from you, but they don’t offer to do likewise in return. To them, the artist is just one more noodle in a big bowl of pasta.

Their business model is to basically throw the pasta against the wall, and see which one sticks. The ones that fall to the floor are just forgotten.

Publishers are just middlemen. That’s all. If artists could remember that more often, they’d save themselves a lot of aggravation.

Anyway, yeah, I can see gapingvoid being a ‘product’ one day. Books, T-shirts and whatnot. I think it could make a lot of money, if handled correctly. But I’m not afraid to walk away if I think the person offering it is full of hot air. I’ve already got my groove etc. Not to mention another career that’s doing quite well, thank you.

Please do read the linked post in its entirety, and also cruise around the blog; tons of great information, such as this fantastic line about marketing wine (a theme that I keep coming back to, as it seems to relate so closely to marketing music):

“…stop thinking so much about the product- the grapes, the vineyards, the terroir, the hummingbirds gathering nectar in the early morning sun yak yak yak. Instead, I find it far more useful to be interested in the actual people drinking it. Who are they? What do they need? What’s their schtick? What works for them?” [my emphasis]

Gaping Void, definitely one for the RSS

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