Gaining Knowledge Via Blogs

Warning: This post could be longer than usual, and is based around another very long post at the ‘Gaping Void’ blog. (You are going to have to read today.) However, it happens to be the most popular post ever written at that site, so there must be something in it, wouldn’t you say?

Today I undertook a very strange form of research; one I can very positively say hasn’t existed on Earth for very long. Today I researched, studied, and learnt from a blog: from one human being’s online journal of thoughts and ideas. This feels like a crazy phenomenon, so different from the traditional learning media of books, journals, and lectures; yet today I was deeply affected by this blog post. Let me tell you about it.

You know how people sometimes forward along an email attachment to a link, picture, or article that they obviously thought was cool, funny, or poignant in some way? Well, on more than one occasion and from different people (a rare occurrence that needed some looking into) I was sent this link to an archived page of old blog posts that were written under the general title of How to be Creative by Hugh MacLeod. Ok, so it’s not a single post that’s so long, but the now collated post is what’s been grabbing peoples’ attentions, and there’s a lot to read there, but I found it was worth it and then some, so much so that I feel like I’ve done some true research about creativity and life itself. Actually, I know it’s so.

Here’s the list MacLeod puts under the heading, ‘So you want to be more creative, in art, in business, whatever. Here are some tips that have worked for me over the years.’ I really think you should read the whole post, but I’ve quoted a few of my favorite lines (the ones that affected me the most), and stuck them in under their respective categories. (To be honest I’ve only quoted from the first ten, because if I quoted from all the powerful stuff, this post would be even longer!)

‘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.

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

(Here MacLeod is talking about his own experience with discovering the idea to draw pictures on the back of business cards: his trademark.)

‘It was so liberating to be doing something that didn’t have to impress anybody, for a change. It was so liberating to have something that belonged just to me and no one else, for a change. It was so liberating to feel complete sovereignty, for a change. To feel complete freedom, for a change. And of course, it was then, and only then, that the outside world started paying attention. Your idea doesn’t have to be big. It just has to be yours alone. The more the idea is yours alone, the more freedom you have to do something really amazing.’

3. Put the hours in.

‘I would do something far simpler: I would find that extra hour or two in the day that belongs to nobody else but me, and I would make it productive. Put the hours in, do it for long enough and magical, life-transforming things happen eventually. Sure, that means less time watching TV, internet surfing, going out or whatever.’

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.

‘If you try to make something just to fit your uninformed view of some hypothetical market, you will fail. If you make something special and powerful and honest and true, you will succeed.’

7. Keep your day job.

‘THE SEX & CASH THEORY: “The creative person basically has two kinds of jobs: One is the sexy, creative kind. Second is the kind that pays the bills. Sometimes the task in hand covers both bases, but not often. This tense duality will always play center stage. It will never be transcended.”

Or actors: One year Travolta will be in an ultra-hip flick like Pulp Fiction (“Sex”), the next he’ll be in some dumb spy thriller (“Cash”).

Or painters: You spend one month painting blue pictures because that’s the color the celebrity collectors are buying this season (“Cash”), you spend the next month painting red pictures because secretly you despise the color blue and love the color red (“Sex”).

Or geeks: You spend your weekdays writing code for a faceless corporation (“Cash”), then you spend your evening and weekends writing anarchic, weird computer games to amuse your techie friends with (“Sex”).

I’m thinking about the young writer who has to wait tables to pay the bills, in spite of her writing appearing in all the cool and hip magazines…. who dreams of one day of not having her life divided so harshly.’

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

‘Creating an economically viable entity where lack of original thought is handsomely rewarded creates a rich, fertile environment for parasites to breed. And that’s exactly what’s been happening. So now we have millions upon millions of human tapeworms thriving in the Western World, making love to their PowerPoint presentations, feasting on the creativity of others.

If you’re creative, if you can think independently, if you can articulate passion, if you can override the fear of being wrong, then your company needs you now more than it ever did. And now your company can no longer afford to pretend that isn’t the case.’

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.

Whatever. Let’s talk about you now. Your mountain. Your private Mount Everest. Yes, that one. Exactly.

Let’s say you never climb it. Do you have a problem with that? Can you just say to yourself, “Never mind, I never really wanted it anyway” and take up stamp collecting instead?

Well, you could try. But I wouldn’t believe you. I think it’s not OK for you never to try to climb it. And I think you agree with me. Otherwise you wouldn’t have read this far.

So it looks like you’re going to have to climb the frickin’ mountain. Deal with it.

My advice? You don’t need my advice. You really don’t. The biggest piece of advice I could give anyone would be this:

“Admit that your own private Mount Everest exists. That is half the battle.”

And you’ve already done that. You really have. Otherwise, again, you wouldn’t have read this far.

Rock on.’

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.’

Here’s the rest of the list:

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.

Jesse S. Somer isn’t going to say anymore (You’ve got enough blog to read already!) except that isn’t it incredible how we can now have epiphanies about so many things brought on by a growing community of individual people’s ideas simply read on the computer screen?