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!
Mistakes. As an artist, you constantly strive to make your art as perfect as can be. We want what we produce and release into the world to be free from any flaw or error. This is a very noble cause and one you should strive for. If you aren’t happy with something, do not release it just for the sake of releasing it. Keep working on it until you get it to where you are happy with it. NOTE: You may never be happy with it, but we’ll talk about that at another time.
Striving for perfection is a great goal but you have to understand that, if you are like me, a piece of art you put out will never be 100% perfect. Striving for perfection is fine but if you keep striving for it you may never release your art. Working on one piece of art for the rest of your life chasing a certain Ideal may be fine for some but not for me. Did you know that Michaelangelo’s statue of David isn’t perfect. A flaw in the marble prevented Him from sculpting one of the muscles in Davids back. Instead of spending years trying to find a way to work around the flaw or get a new piece of marble and start over, he finished it, put it out in the world and then got busy working on something else.
When I listen to early episodes of Dr. Floyd I cringe and wish I could go back in and edit out mistakes. Tighten up the dialogue and pacing. But, as IV said on here before, the goal was to just keep making more episodes and in the course of producing over 150 episodes I learned how to tighten up the dialogue and pacing. And that’s why the later shows are cleaner. I made mistakes early on, learned form them, and used them to make the stuff I was creating better.
Mistakes you make while creating are, more likely than not, be extremely frustrating. That’s fine. The key is to learn what to take away from making that mistake and how the lessons learned there can help you improve your art.
You should never be so obsessed with never making mistakes that you don’t allow yourself to make them. Why would you want to make mistakes? Because sometimes those mistakes can make you look at your art differently and lead you to creating something even better than what you had originally started out to create. Mistakes sometimes open doors that give you a new view of how to present something. Or a way to change something to make it even better than you thought of before. I cannot tell you how many times a fumble in dialogue while reading a line has lead to a new and even better line for the project. That’s not always the case but sometimes it is and if I was obsessed with getting every line down as exact as it is on the script I would never have stumbled upon something better.
The other note I want to make about mistakes is that you can’t be so afraid of making them that you don’t pursue the art that your heart is leading you towards. If you want to sculpt (or paint, or write, or…whatever) and you are afraid to get going because you’ll make mistakes, you’ll never begin. Learn now, mistakes are going to be made and you’re going to learn from them and become better because of them.
We are humans. We are going to make mistakes. That’s perfectly fine. Be open to them. See if there’s something you can learn from the mistake to improve the piece you are working on or the next piece. See if there’s something about the mistake that makes the current piece even better than it was before. See if the mistake leads you to something new that you didn’t even think of before.
Do you have an example of a mistake that blossomed into something better than what you had planned when you started out? If so, tell me about it in the comments below.
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!
“The right people will get this.”
This one one of my all time favorite quotes. It is a quote by Joel Hodgson, creator of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 and Cinematic Titanic. If you have followed my blog or Twitter feed or whatever, you have no doubt read it before. Joel was said it in response if someone asked him if he worried that some people may not get all the jokes on Mystery Science Theatre 3000. His response was, “We never ask, ‘Who’s gonna get this?’ We always say, ‘The right people will get this’.”
To me this statement boils down to not trying to create art for a specific audience. Create art that is wholly and truly for you and it will find an audience. This is what I’ve tried to do in the art I create.
When I came up with the idea of The Radio Adventures of Dr. Floyd based on characters that Doug and I had created, I never had an audience in mind outside of the idea pleased me. I don’t even think at the beginning Doug was all to sure why I wanted to create a silly little radio show based on these characters. But once we got going he got on board full force and the show soon became something that in it’s base elements, just made the two of us laugh. This is how we made the show and the show found an audience.
I will say that we did make a small change in how we wrote the show at the very beginning with the audince in mind. In the beginning we were fine with double entendre. In the Wright Brothers episode the joke was that the Wright Brothers wanted to invent the plane because they were secretly peanut farmers and if they invented the plane, they would required peanuts be served on every flight. One of the Brothers had the line, “Someday the world will know the wonders of our nuts.” (A tip of the hat to the line in the Ren & Stimpy Show’s Rubber Nipple Salesmen episode.) We found this funny, but once we began podcasting and we received emails from families saying how much their kids loved the show we thought twice about doing jokes like that. Other than that though, we did a show that made us laugh.
When ‘Hollywood’ stared calling us talking about the possibility of turning it into a TV show, one of the first questions we would be asked is, “What’s the demographic?” This was so hard to answer because we never, ever, thought about it. We would say it’s a kids’ show or a family show, but we’d never have a specific demographic in mind and that’s what Hollywood wants. A specific demographic. We would say, “Our demographic is everybody.” Because we’d get phone calls from people ages 3 to 80. But Hollywood wanted a specific age range. Did THe Muppet Show have a demographic when it was pitched? If so, I’d say that’s the demographic. Everybody.
With Dr. Floyd, the right people ‘got us.’ They got our sense of humor, our references, our jokes and for a little radio show that was recorded, mostly, in the living room of my tiny, one bedroom apartment, we did pretty good.
So create art that excites you and put it out there. The right audience will find you.