When reading about artists and creativity, I find you often hear mention of famous writers hanging out together. J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, Truman Capote and Harper Lee, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Louisa May Alcott, just to name a few. In Hollywood, we hear about actors and directors who enjoy handing out with each other. Just look at the fun J.J. Abrams and Zack Snyder are having poking fun at each other while directing the new Star Wars and Superman/Batman films. If you follow Weird Al Yankovic on Twitter you will see pictures of him hanging out with Seth Green or Thomas Lennon. For a few years now I’ve listened to the Nerd Poker Podcast which features a bunch of comedians hanging out playing Dungeons & Dragons, something they had done for over a decade before starting the podcast. These are just a few examples, I’m sure a much longer list can be made.
So, why is it that famous creative types seem to gravitate to each other? Is it because they are part of the famous elite and only hang out with other famous people? While that could be the case in a few cases, I think it is more likely because creative people gravitate towards each other and they especially gravitate to other creative people they find inspiring. I certainly know that this is true with me.
When we were in the heyday of Dr. Floyd, it was creatively inspiring to hang out with the shows co-creator, Doug. A simple meal or hour spent playing Nintendo 64 or other some such hangout would undoubtedly inspire future episodes of the show or funny lines to throw in here and there. Currently hanging out with puppeteer and puppet builder Russ Walko will inspire funny ideas for projects. I also find that hanging out with Patrick Bristow, Chris Sheets, Alison Mork, Brian Clark, Vanessa Whitney, Kevin Bertnson or any of the other fantastically funny founding members of Improvitorium with inspire creativity and fun.
I think that, as an artist, it is important to create for yourself a nest of creatives you can hang out with and who will inspire your own creativity. Creative friends you can laugh with, bounce ideas off of and receive input from with no expectation of credit or ownership. Build this nest with care so that you have people you truly be your creative self with when you are with them. These are people who aren’t competing with you, they are people who are there to support you and you, in turn, support them.
And because of the marvelous age we live in, they don’t necessarily have to be people who live close to you. I have several people who I would consider are in my ‘creative nest’ that live on the East Coast and we use all the wonders of technology to keep in touch. Author Mur Lafferty lives in North Carolina and we communicate via text and Twitter often. Singer/Songwriter Carla Ulbrich lives in New Jersey and we often chat via email or text. Musician John B. DeHaas lives in Florida and we talk almost daily via the Voxer app. With technologies like these, not to mention Skype or Google Hangouts, it is quite possible to have a creative nest that spans the entire globe!
Be thankful for the support and inspiration your creative nest gives you. And if you don’t have one, begin building it today! It will only make you a better artist.
Do you have a creative nest? If so how long have you had one and how did it help you? Let me know in the comments below! Have a great week!
Back in the early weeks of this blog I wrote about going to see Joel Hodgson’s show Riffing Myself gave me a lot of ideas for posts in this blog. Looking back over my notes I found one more that I think deserves mention here.
Joel spoke on how one of the things that really captivated him growing up were the album covers of Roger Dean. Roger Dean is an artist who designed album covers for a lot of different bands when Joel was growing up, and still does to this day. He is probably most widely known for his ‘far out’ designs for the band Yes. He also came up with the, sort of interweaving, logo the band has used for decades. When Joel was younger, Roger Dean collected a lot of his designs in a book called Views and it became a big inspiration to him. He mentioned that not only were Dean’s designs in the book, there were also pictures of the design in process. Starting with rough pencil sketches to the finished project. Joel said this really clued him in to the idea that really great art isn’t just made instantly. There’s a lot of trial and error to getting something right.
Looking at Dean’s work gave him the idea of, “If it’s not perfect, it’s not done.” Dean would labor over something until it is exactly the way he wanted it and this process is all laid out in Views. Joel adopted that in his work in creating. He realized in order for something to be done, it had to be perfect.
I agree with this. I whole heartedly agree that is there is more work to be done on a creative project, it should get done. But there’s also a very dangerous side to this philosophy. It’s one we will delve into again in the coming weeks but, if you’re constantly striving for perfection, you’ll never release your art. You’ll get mired down in getting the current piece so perfect, you’ll never release it.
I don’t think what Joel is talking about when he says if it’s not perfect, it’s not done is that you constantly work on something until it can’t be perfected anymore. I believe he’s saying until your piece of art is the way YOU want it and YOU are happy with it, it isn’t done. Now, I don’t know Roger Dean personally but I think if you asked him, and he was like most artists, he would tell you that there are little pieces of the Yes logo that he wishes were different. And maybe he even changed those things in later revisions. But he worked on the design until he felt it was perfect to show the band and then release.
If you are working on a piece of art and there’s something bugging you about it, change it. You need to be happy with what you release. Don’t release art that doesn’t please you. But don’t spend the rest of your life chasing that perfection. There’s got to be a point when the project is done and you move on to the next one.
I’ve heard it said that writers write books for just one person. I think that can be applied to all fields of art, not just writing. A painter paints to impress one person. A dancer creates a dance to please one person. And I think that person, should be, you, THE ARTIST. If you aren’t happy with what you’re making, do not release it.
If it isn’t perfect (meaning makes you happy), it’s not done.
Do you wait until you are happy with a piece of art before you release it? Or do you fall into the trap of always wanting to tweak it and never let it go? Let me know in the comments below. Have a great week!
Today I want to talk about a creative thought that hits close to home. Having too many projects going at once. This is something I have a particularly rough time with. I usually have way too many creative projects going at one. At any given time I have ideas for audio podcast scripts, video podcast scripts, Throwing Toasters songs, completely new show ideas I want to develop and more.
I got the book Jim Henson’s Doodle Dreams and was looking through it and came across this quote by Jim Henson:
“Try to keep enough balls in the air so that when some fall to the ground, you’ve got others up there.”
I immediately loved that quote because I felt it really capsulated my feelings about how I work on creative projects. I read that as:
Be working on a bunch of projects so that if some of them don’t work out, you’ll still have others to work on.
The inherent danger in this, though, is that you have so many creative projects you are working on that none of them get done. This is certainly something I run into, however I like to think I prioritize creative projects pretty well. I will focus on one particular project and work on that one for awhile, but in the meantime I’ll be making small amounts of progress on other ideas. I find that working on multiple projects also keeps me from suffering burnout working too much on one project. Moving from project to project keeps the creativity flowing in my mind. Of course any creative project that someone is paying me to create takes precedence over personal ones that do not pay because, you know, money.
When working on multiple projects, also be careful about ‘bleed through’ unless it is intended. Bleed through is when elements from one project creep into another. I find this is more of an issue for me when I’m writing. I’ll look back through the stuff I’ve written and see that I’ve used the same names or same strings of dialogue. This is fine if I was writing multiple stories involving the same characters but often I am not. Bleed through won’t kill a project, it’s just something to keep an eye out for. In my case, I don’t want people saying, “He’s just writing the same story over and over again.” (As a side note to this, I do often write the same of similar jokes across multiple projects if they fit. I figure if one property hasn’t ‘made it’ and there’s a really good joke in it, there’s no reason not to use to make another property even better. That’s not bleed through as I’m doing it on purpose.)
When working on my own creative projects I often wear many hats: writer, producer, performer, editor, publisher. I can do all those jobs and often do. Though I’m not a rabid fan of Seth McFarlane, I do admire his work etheric on Family Guy. He created the show, writes it, performed in it and more. Back when there was a possibility of a Dr. Floyd television show, I was eager to do all those things should the show go forward. In my own projects now, I’m excited to do all those things.
Sometimes, I find, we MUST be all those things in our own creative work. At least until we are as famous as Seth McFarlane and we can have other people cover some of other aspect.
Are you an artist handling multiple creative projects at once? If so, how do you keep them all straight and get them all done? Let us know in the comments below. Have a great week!
Here’s a cold, hard fact about creating: No one is going to care about your art project as much as you do. Let me add to that, no one is going to care about your project as much as you do unless you are paying them. When money is involved, you will find people who will help you out. Now this is a fact, yes, but it should never be a roadblock to your creative pursuits. It’s just going to make things a little bit harder to keep going.
No one is going to care as much as you do and that is fine. That’s the way it works. If you are creative and have creative friends, I’m sure you think their ideas are amazing, but they aren’t as important to you as your own ideas.
While Dr. Floyd was a creative idea that was created between two people, myself and Doug, in the end there was really only one of us who wanted it to keep going. The other person felt we had put several great years into the project but, besides coming close to a TV deal, it hadn’t really bore any prospect of becoming something that would make money and that created a bit of a rift between us and we went our separate ways. It just wasn’t as important to the other person.
For some creative artists (painters, writers, etc.), practicing their art is a solo activity, so not having other people around to lend a hand is fine. But for some other creators (podcast producers, filmmakers, etc.) you need other people around to help make your dream come to life. But even though the fact that no one else cares as much as you do exists, you can still make progress on your creative projects, even if you need friends to help you carry them out.
One way to get people to help you is to barter. You’ll help them create on their art and they will help you create yours.
I’ve found this the most effective way to get help on a project. I’ll offer to make a website for someone or help them film a video. In exchange, they’ll help me on my project. Just make sure that when you are helping with their project to put as much time and care into it as you’ll want them to put into yours. I find it’s always fun to help people make their creative ideas come true and, hopefully, people find it fun working on mine.
Warning though, some people are takers. That’s just the way it is. You’ll help them but you’ll get excuse after excuse when the time comes for them to help you. At least you’ll be comforted to know that you aren’t like them and you are willing to help out a friend. Sad, but that’s the way it is.
I don’t mean to make it sound all doom and gloom though. One very good way to get people to help you on your creative project is just to ask. A lot of times they’ll say yes. Or offer lunch. That’s a good one too. My office in Burbank is right across the street from a very popular cuban place called Porto’s. I’ve had many a recording session that either begins or ends over at Portos and I always attempt to pay, especially if they’ve just recorded some dialogue or done some puppets for me.
When you need help on a creative project, how do you go about getting it? Let me know in the comments below.