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January 2010



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How to be creative and successful

Recently I stumbled over a link to Hugh MacLeod's well-read post

"How to be Creative"

I read it a couple of years back, like many others, but had since forgotten it was there. Rereading it yesterday I found it interesting to see where I agreed and differed from him.

It also seemed - at last - to focus all my fretting and faffing about recently on Modernism, Commercialism, Decorativism (is that a word?), where we are going - the usual. And it made me want to talk about this whole "being a full-time artist, or artiste, thing".

So - here is my list. It differs from MacLeod's because it's about being creative and successful. I may live in a garret, but it's a very nice garret right beside Prague Castle and I am far from starving. Nor do I believe in that whole mythology (see point 21).

I'll expand on each of these. I doubt I'll make one a day, but I'll do my best. Intervene, comment or kick me as or when you'd like to of course.

How to be Creative (with a big C) and Survive and be Successful.

  1. Take risks – even big ones.

  2. Don’t worry about starting in a small, modest and slightly embarrassing way.

  3. Accept you’ll be laughed at. Welcome it as a good sign.

  4. Work hard. Then work harder.

  5. Forget the “exit strategy”. If exiting is that important to you, maybe you shouldn’t have gone into it in the first place.

  6. Don’t moan, don’t blame.

  7. Let some things go - that might include your own sense of your own identity.

  8. Think. Even a little bit, but regularly.

  9. Don't cling to your day job. Those shackles are holding you back, not keeping you safe.

  10. Don’t confuse creativity with novelty.

  11. Find a few people you trust. Use them mercilessly - and let them use you just as much.

  12. Avoid all the people who would rather pull you back. If you can't avoid them, hum loudly while they're talking to you.

  13. Don't believe other people’s hype and spin unless you can see clear evidence.

  14. It usually takes years – don’t merely accept that, welcome it and love what time brings.

  15. If you find yourself nodding off while talking about your work – either you’re up far too late or you’re doing the wrong thing.

  16. Look to the future constantly. But understand that you can’t predict it.

  17. If it’s cool and fashionable – run from it before it eats you up.

  18. Don’t worry about what happens after the current project. Long before you get there, you’ll know.

  19. You remember that silly, unrealistic dream you had when you were twenty-one? Now just might be the time to chase it.

  20. Get a “feel” for recognising clearly what your best work really is – regardless of what others think.

  21. Don’t buy (with your few pennies) into the starving artist myth. Unless, that is, you really, really want to starve.

  22. Talk to people. Listen to customers. Then make your own decision.

  23. Know that you can do it. You can do it.


Your list sounds more optimistic! Thank you very much for this post and the first item's elaboration, I'm really looking forward to all of them!

(will there be an extra bonus - a Tarot card for every item? ;)
Ahhhh, this is all good, and somehow timely. ;) If pneumonia doesn't knock me out of the race, there are good times ahead.

Looking forward to the elaborations!
Ha, interesting list (and link), and very timely!
I'll be reading your ideas with great interest.

regarding 19

I do believe that if you can do something that fueled your heart when you were 5 or 6 or at least something with a component of that desire people would be fulfilled.
I don't usually read comments before posting my own, but I did and it's amazing that so many, including myself, see this as timely. For me. As little creativity as I may possess, there is music in me needing to be nurtured. There is a person volunteering to help me nurture it. And there is the fear that everything I choose is silly and unimportant. I'm working on it.

I love your idea here and thank you for doing it. I can't wait to absorb it all!