When I first left a corporate job back in 2001 and began this site as a way to chronicle my journey of becoming an artist, what I initially didn’t realise what how terribly undefined ‘artist’ was and that ultimately I would end up not being one (which would turn out to be a blessing in disguise).
But in the beginning, I was so determined to be artistic in whatever capacity that meant. I tried to draw, to paint, to write, to design but the problem that I would come up against time and time again was – I am not artistic. At all. Despite initially selling a lot paintings, designing book covers, and writing for a lot of magazines and books, true artistic skill eluded me. I did – and do – not have the ability to really do those things well and make a real living from them.
I liken discovering the fact that I’m not artistic to those that go on televised talent shows thinking they can sing but it’s so obvious to someone else they can’t. At first, you’re cheering on the person that takes the stage only to start cringing when they begin to sing off tune. You wonder why they can’t hear how bad they sound. Is their belief and desire that strong? While you watch the train wreck you wish someone would tell them the truth and feel both relieved and bad when the judges reveal how horrible their performance really was. Then one of two things happen: the singer walks off with crushed dreams, thinking everything is over or they walk off in complete denial because they want their dream to be true and continue down a path of never being or feeling successful because they couldn’t change course to find a dream and talent that’s right for them.
For me, I think because I wanted to be artistic so bad and I didn’t want to go back to a ‘traditional’ work life (I thought it was either corporate or artistic, there was no in between), that it took me a long time to get the message that I being artistic would never be right for me; I’d never feel secure in it, I’d never be good at it, I’d never really be successful at it. My initial excitement gave way to frustration and the dream became more of a nightmare. Instead of giving up and going backwards, I stayed stuck in something that wasn’t working. Too stubborn and afraid to admit the truth: I just wasn’t artistic.
Around this time emails came in and the phone rang from friends and companies who needed an idea, an opinion, help connecting things together or putting a bigger picture together. All the travels, all the jobs, all the industries and people I’d worked with over the years had given me unique perspectives and experience that allowed me to connect ideas and people in ways others simply couldn’t. Initially I couldn’t see this because I was so focused on being an artist but when people and companies asked for my help to think new and different in areas from technology to design to finance to social media to creative, I said yes. I’ve been working with top companies and people ever since, building out incredible business, sites, brands, films, content, operations, service and creative ideas.
And guess what – I’ve been incredibly happy and successul. I found out what I’m good at – being creative, not artistic.
At first, I felt strange about this new role because being creative in this capacity almost felt too easy. I felt guilty in a sense that I wasn’t creating in the way I thought creating was meant to be done – like drawing, painting, writing. I wasn’t the production artist or the copywriter – I was the kick off, the idea starter – but I’d pass it over to someone to finish. I was the inspirer of ideas, the big picture thinker and, even though I’m a hands on person in a lot of things, there’s a lot of times I have to let go to let the artistic person take over.
It took me awhile to realise that being creative in the way that I am is a job, is a talent and is needed. I believe it’s my job to inspire more and especially inspire those who are artistic and can physically create that of which I can only think of.
Steve Jobs said it best about creativity:
“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.”
Now I work with amazing artists on a daily basis who are able to take my visions and ideas and make them real. The collaboration that I have with them is incredible and I feel really fortunate to work amongst talent like that. I confess to being at times very envious! But I realise I’m part of the puzzle that creates this amazing bigger picture that all works. And that feels really good.
Before I make it sound as if I’ve abandoned writing or art all together I’ll add that I haven’t. I still write lot both personally and professionally but the drawing? That I definitely leave to the professionals unless I can work one of my infamous stick drawings into the picture. I channel my artistic inclinations and desires into other ways that serve me without the pressure of judgement. For me, it’s a lot more satisfying.
I share this not to scare people away from being artistic or give up on a dream of making a living being an artist. I share it as a way to hopefully look at things in a new way if you’re feeling stressed, unsuccessful or unhappy as an artist that you keep trying to be because you want it so bad, but the talent is perhaps not there. I say from experience that don’t let that feel like failure but think instead, are you just creative? And if the answer is yes, well a whole new world of possibilities just opened up.
And lucky you, you’ll know how to connect an idea to something else and you’ll soon be on your way.
WHAT: Subversive Collaborators
The truly “kick-ass” people in our organizations, don’t wait for permission to lead, innovate, or strategize. They do what is right for the firm, regardless of status. They bring a combination of “curiosity and passion” which Thomas Friedman once said “are key components in a world where information is readily available to everyone and global markets reward those people.” There’s a different set of rules and assumptions by which we’ll thrive and succeed in this new, networked society, and it comes down to this: while you can be a rebel or a subversive without being a leader, you can rarely be an effective leader without also having a little bit of rebel in you.
I’m not one to repost but this one that I wrote in 2008 just seemed perfect for this New Year’s day when everyone is judging all that didn’t happen in 2010 and talking about what could happen in 2011.
So I offer this post again to all of us so that we can go from basking in new year’s glow of possibility to actually doing all that we can this year and beyond. I’m in if you are:
Please go out there and do. Live. Don’t be the same as yesterday. Don’t live vicariously online. Don’t use language that has no meaning or talk ideas you don’t really live. Don’t hide. Don’t copy others or live their ideas or life. Don’t fear doing your thing. Don’t fear doing. Instead of reading a decorating magazine, paint that room. Instead of thinking of baking, do up a cake. Run, walk, bike. Put that self help book down and pick up yourself.
Let go of the snark, your worries, your anger and fear and give into possibility, action, joy and life. Do. Do some more. Stop thinking about you. Stop blogging about just you and your kid and your pet. There’s a world out there to connect to, really connect to and email doesn’t count. Being of use is more important than being popular. Think about the lady down the street, the person at the drive through, the man fallen in the street, about politics, the environment, healthcare, another country and then do something about it. Never stop at thinking.
Dream big, work harder. Have lots of fun, lift a finger, do something for someone else. Cheer your friends on. Cheer yourself up. Celebrate as much as possible. Enjoy everything. Right now. It’s OK to want more and do more but be present with where you are or who you are with. Don’t rush the situation – even if it’s bad. Move on when you can. Don’t settle. Try everything you can and get over everything holding you back.
Go outside. Go outside yourself. Make a difference, make some change. Don’t complain about someone unless you’re talking to that someone. Don’t complain about a situation you’re not willing to make better. They don’t have it better and you don’t have it worse. Don’t make excuses. You’ll never see possibility if you do. And you’re smart and worth more than settling for a life of complaining and limitation.
Hope. Hope more. Give someone else hope. Get healthy and contribute to a healthy environment. Think about everything you do, you buy, you say. Only be lazy on Sunday and even then, be conscious. Rest is useful, giving up is not.
Live with a light heart. Play more. Remember what it’s like to be seven. Remember to listen to a seven year old because you just have more words and life experience, not necessarily more wisdom. Have more questions than answers and don’t put everything into words. Sometimes just feel things and be. Be quiet more often, listen harder, talk exactly as you mean to.
Strive for your best and not what you think someone elses’ best is. Follow through. Don’t let others’ down. Don’t let yourself down. You are better than your circumstances. Ask for what you’re worth. Make magic happen don’t wish for it. Don’t envy others’ lives, envy yours. Live it fully. Teach by example how to live well, how to be treated, how to be kind, how to be alive.
Do. I can’t stress that one enough. Take action on your life. Make the change. No more sulking, waiting, thinking, reading, talking about. It’s time. You’re ready.
“If we as designers can learn to fight the urge for quick answers and focus more on unique, lasting solutions that revolve around defining problems, there’s a chance to turn it all around. Finding new appreciation for both concept and execution (and their relationship to each other) will spark greater conversation within our communitity about how and why design is important in the first place.” from Consumption: How Inspiration Killed, Then Ate, Creativity.