Pursuing your unique creativity

Neil Gaiman addresses the Philadelphia University of the Arts graduating class of 2012:


The things I did because I was excited and wanted to see them exist in reality have never let me down and I have never regretted the time I have spent on any of them.

I hope you’ll make mistakes. If you make mistakes it means that you’re out there doing something. And the mistakes in themselves can be very useful.

Make good art. Do what only you can do best. Make good art. Make it on the bad days, make it on the good days, too.

Make your art. Do the stuff that only you can do.

It’s easy to get work. But people who KEEP work in a freelance world – and more and more it is freelance – it’s because their work is good and because they’re easy to get along with and because they deliver the work on time. And you don’t even need all three. Two out of three is fine. People will tolerate how unpleasant you are if your work is good and you deliver on time. People will forgive the lateness of the work if it’s good and they like you, and you don’t have to be as good as everyone else if you’re on time and it’s always a pleasure to hear from you.

This is really great. You should enjoy it.

So many good gems in there.

… with some good comments in there about changes underway in distribution channels.

Creating a culture of creativity

In a Fast Company article, the founder of KAYAK, Paul English talks about he created a culture of creativity in his company:

Creativity is a constant stream of new–new ideas, new solutions, new product, new processes. I love to surround myself with childlike creative people, leaving the brilliant doubters and naysayers to work for my competitors.

Everything we do encourages fast decision-making and risk-taking. We don’t do design by committee, and we disable large meetings here. We reward risk-taking and speed, even when it fails!

Don’t do indoctrination, where you pummel each employee to think like the Borg. … Encourage your employees to be individuals, and get them to try new things.

Watch the ex-Facebook entrepreneurs’ next moves

It’s going to be interesting watching the next moves of a batch of 20-somethings who have left Facebook, and are now onto other projects. They know what works, and have lots of cash, or soon will, so what next? The LA Times article about them has thought-provoking things to say:

Innovation, researchers have found, is an inherently social act, owing as much to these tightknit networks as the garage tinkering of individual entrepreneurs.

“The basic unit of innovation in Silicon Valley is the team,” Silicon Valley futurist Paul Saffo said. “Innovation is an irrational act, and the only way to get through that irrationality is to surround yourself with other people as crazy and obsessed with changing the world as you are.”

Like others in the Facebook network, D’Angelo and Cheever seem to read each other’s thoughts and finish each other’s sentences. The depth of these friendships is unusual even in Silicon Valley. These Facebook pals don’t just call on one another for money and advice, start companies together and sit on each other’s boards. They also hook up to celebrate life’s big moments.

I’m not crazy, really I’m not crazy

Well maybe a little.

Over the Easter weekend I finally had some time to read one of the books in the pile waiting to be read. On Saturday I started to read “Living with a Creative Mind“, by Jeff and Julie Crabtree, and couldn’t put it down until I had finished it. And then today (Monday) I skimmed through the highlights again (I used a serious amount of yellow fluoro pen marking key phrases or sections the first time through).

The book turned out to be exactly what I needed at this time, putting a lot I have been feeling and thinking about into perspective. It was encouraging to realize that my ideas and feelings are not bad, and that I had to somehow get those straightened out to match others’ expectations.

Jeff Crabtree has been someone I’ve watched with fascination and a big smile because I love the way that what he does and says is unexpected, and I’m sure his t-shirts have messed with the heads of more than one person in his lifetime. Jeff is a musician, and has been principal of an arts college. Jeff’s wife Julie is a psychologist, and has counselled people at the arts college. The book was borne out of the two of them learning about how Jeff ticked, and watching the similarities in experiences in students at the college.

“Living with a Creative Mind” looks at:

  • What is creativity, and the processes involved in creation
  • Typical behaviours and psychology of creatives
  • The nine dimensions of a creative mind: a revealing look at different aspects of how a creative person thinks
  • What are some of the things which inhibit creativity and get creatives off track
  • How to live with those elements to a creative person’s mind and emotions, how to build physical and emotional resilience
  • Living with a creative person
  • Leading creative people, including what are the best environments to encourage creativity

While the examples in the book apply primarily to musicians, actors or the performing arts, it applies equally to other people who create, writers, songwriters, programmers, artists, and so on.

Just one example of a new concept to me is the notion of “skinlessness”, whether creative people “feel their own pain more intensely and feel others’ pain as well. This is also based on the belief that creative people are not only better able to describe their own emotions, but the feel other’s emotions more intensely.” The book goes into this concept of being a “skin-covered antenna” in more detail, but is summarized quite well by this quote from Pearl Buck:

The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: A human creature born abnormally, inhumanely sensitive. To them… a touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and failure is death.
Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create — so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, their very breath is cut off…
They must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency they are not really alive unless they are creating.

I can’t do justice to summarizing what’s in the book: you really have to read it! Whether you are a creative person or you know someone who is, I highly recommend it.

Here’s where to find out more about the book:

I’ll certainly be telling everyone who will listen about the book.

It’s the creative heart that breathes life into technology

An article in the Guardian talks about the importance of creativity in technology:

Don’t misunderstand me; I love new technology and I’m fascinated by the way it continues to transform lumbering industry archetypes like music and publishing, but I think the creativity within and around the technology is often overlooked.

Can you imagine a tech company without a creative and artistic contribution? Myspace without music and pictures, Facebook without faces, Twitter without @kanyewest? Of course, without artists all of these sites would look a bit like MSDOS and Apple would have simply ceased to be.

There seems to be a lack of acknowledgement of the contribution of the arts to the economy in the UK, yet:

According to the Creative Industries Economic Estimates report 2010 produced by DCMS, the creative industries in all their splendour represented 5.14% of the UK’s employment total, 10.6% of exports and 2.89% of GVA (Gross Added Value, like GDP but leaner and meaner). According to Wikipedia, the manufacturing sector accounted for 8.2% of the workforce and 12% of the national output.