Posts Tagged ‘creativity’

‘Every artist is a Kickstarter’

February 21st, 2014 No comments

Some friends (Chris Callard and Catherine Grimaldi) recently launched a Kickstarter campaign for the children’s book they are publishing (trying to publish perhaps, Kickstarter being no kind of certainty). And whilst this is hardly unusual nowadays, I really liked what they wrote on their blog about the project, on their reasons for doing so.

They talk about how the despondency of finishing a book or whatever project that you have thought about, and slaved over for months, and then have the mountainous task of trying to find someone who might publish it…

So deciding to publish a book via Kickstarter is about seeing the project through yourself, until you have the finished artefact in your hand, rather than waiting for someone else, someone who has no real care for the work you’ve done, to make it for you.

… and that the best state for anyone who wants to live a creative life is, rather than craving success, one of ‘sustainable creativity’:

that so long as you have the time and money to continue doing the work you love to do, that’s about all that matters. You live cheaply so you fulfilled by the work you love

Kickstarter requires a certain amount of selling yourself – but this selling yourself can be in whatever form you decide. (This is what I’ve been trying to work out with what I’ve written about self-promotion.) It doesn’t have to be in the form of insidious marketing – for me, anytime you are telling people about something you are suggesting they might want to pay money for, you have to offer them something more as well, information, inspiration, value. The things which really need selling, the things which have huge marketing budgets, are those with less innate value – otherwise they wouldn’t need all that promotion.

Making stuff that you, and other people value – that’s all we need to do. Selling the stuff, at a low level of sustainable creativity, can come later.

(Read the whole post here<>.)

We learn best when we have a genuine need for the knowledge

July 12th, 2013 No comments

If I see someone doing something skilfully, and I ask ‘how did you learn to do that?’ my favourite answer is ‘Oh, I taught myself’.

Often the ‘Oh’ is said with an element of wonder, as though surprised that they ever acquired this skill. Because anyone who answers this way has learnt because they needed to. And self-teaching is the best kind of teaching.

If you have taught yourself how to make a short film, or design a poster, or play a ukelele, or organise a festival, then you started out with an idea for which you had a passion. And then just went ahead and taught yourself what you needed to know.

This is wholly different from being taught a skill for which you do not have a use, an idea for its use. Imagine a ten-year-old who owned a mobile phone but had no need for communication – to learn how it functions would be laborious and not easily remembered. But my ten-year-old daughter, over-excited at the prospect of owning a phone and desperate to text her friends, learns the functions in no time, because she has a real need for them.

This is the difficulty with formal education – we are often taught skills which we have no great desire to use, and so we learn them laboriously. Education should focus more on cultivating our desires than teaching us facts and figures – the opposite of what Michael Gove, the UK Minister for Education plans to do to education. The essence of teaching is to enthuse children (and adults) to the point that they continue the work in their own time, without need of encouragement or expectation of reward.

You may decide to take a course, to train for a particular skill some way into the process of your idea. But more important was that the idea came first, and you then worked out what skills you needed.

No one else is responsible for us not doing stuff

January 17th, 2013 No comments

When we find we’re not doing the work we really want to do, the creative work we say we really want to do, we make excuses. Or if we have not yet found what it is that will make our lives feel worthwhile, then we make excuses as to why we have given up the search.

We tell ourselves we don’t have the time or the money. Or we make life choices that, we tell ourselves, have cut off creative opportunities: we start a relationship, we have children, we take on a new job. And then we complain that these new responsibilities now prevent us from investigating our creative work, safe in the knowledge that the choice has been taken away from us.

But these are all excuses. I told myself that I no longer needed to write as much, when I had children, because I now had responsibilities. Somehow it was partly my children’s fault that I was using them as an excuse. I remember my mum telling me that she turned down a job in Switzerland in order to stay and marry my dad and have a family, and my mum was using her choice to have children as an excuse. But these were her, and my, choices and somewhere in our subconscious we were relieved that this closed off other more unknown, more scary choices.

We must all make life decisions at various times. But they are our decisions alone, and whoever makes demands on our lives after such a decision, they are not responsible for our lack of creative work. Excuses are just excuses. Just get on with it. Just make stuff.

Finding Other Semi-retirees Will Lessen the Chance of You Giving Up Your Creative Work

August 14th, 2012 No comments

Part of what holds us back from pursuing our creative work is the idea that we are not going to be good enough at it. When you try your hand at writing, or photography, or whatever your interest is, a recurring feeling is ‘why the hell am I doing this?’ If you never move beyond this thought, and never arrive at the point where you take creative pleasure from your work, you tell yourself that there are better ways to spend your life. And you give up.

You need support for your creative work, someone to encourage you in what you are doing. But the kind of support you need when you start out is not someone who will critique what you are doing, who will tell you what is good and bad about it. This is useful later, when you have gained confidence. But not at the beginning, because your initial work will be bad. You will not create great work right from the beginning.

The best kind of support is to surround yourself with other semi-retirees: other people who spend as little time as possible on their paid subsistence work so they can concentrate on creative work. They will encourage you, even if they are not doing the same kind of work. It does not matter in the least that they are not doing the same kind of work – it is the fact that they are willing to spend their spare time on work that no one but themselves has asked them to do is the inspiration you need to carry on. In the words of Hugh MacLeod, ‘The sovereignty you have over your work will inspire far more people than the actual work.’

Rent a space in an artists’ studios. (I rent a space for writing and I’m surrounded by other semi-retirees with many different creative pursuits.) Renting costs money, but bear in mind that your social life will become cheaper because your new semi-retiree friends will want to live cheaply as well. Volunteer to work with someone doing your kind of creative work. Aim to hang out more with friends, and friends of friends who have a creative side to their life. However you do it, if you associate more with creative people, and avoid people who have or want a high-flying, well-paid career, you will feel more encouraged to continue, even when you think you have no idea what you are doing. Talk to them about your fears and insecurities. If they are serious about their creative work they will know what you are talking about.

Semi-retiree friends are one of the most important factors in discovering the pleasure from creative work. Talent, whatever that may be, is merely secondary.

The Purpose of Your Creativity is Not Making Money for Your Employer

July 10th, 2012 No comments

I love Ken Robinson. His TED talk and RSA animated talk were a big influence on many of the posts on this blog. He constantly reiterates how society does not value creativity enough, and it’s great that someone in such a prominent position says these things.

But I disagree with the reasons he gives for why creativity is important. He suggests it is important because creativity is what is needed in the modern workplace. His argument is that labour used to be part of a mechanised process, which needed workers to be specialised and controlled by bosses from above, but the modern workplace requires individuals who can think for themselves, who can work autonomously, and so creativity is needed to dream up new ideas for the companies for whom they work.

To dream up new products and services for your employer is not the reason to value creativity. It is certainly a better way to earn money than to have your every move dictated by a boss in a Victorian factory. But this is still using your creative ideas to sell mobile phones, or create websites to sell insurance, or design animated characters to entice children to spend money on your employer’s website. Are ends such as these really how you want to use your creativity?

The number of jobs where you are fulfilling goals about which you are personally enthusiastic is tiny. And if creative work does not originate from yourself, from your personal interests and passions, then a large part of the pleasure of fulfilling them is taken away. You do not end up with a finished piece of writing or artwork or other piece of work that started as your fleeting idea jotted in a notebook. It is not something in which you can feel truly proud, even though your company will try to make you feel artificially proud, so that you will do it again. And even if you have a job say, designing the covers of books, a job many people would love to do, the pleasure of creation is greatly diminished by the stress of deadlines, the criticism of editors and authors, the constant interruption of meetings and emails. It is very far from the pleasure of creating something of your own.

To be fair to Ken Robinson, I’m sure his idea of using creativity in the tiny minority of jobs where you have great freedom to follow your passion: scientific research, for example. But very few people get to do this, and we should not delude young people with the idea that it is likely to happen to them in their paid work. Having a creative part of your life is too important to be left to chance in a career. Find subsistence work that allows you time for your important creative work – your lifelong work in a craft that truly interests you.