How Cartoons Can Jolt You Into Being Creative

Hugh McLeod is a cartoonist. But his drawings on the back of business cards are more than just doodles – they are miniature keys to personal creativity. His novel idea got noticed and before long, he put together a book entitled “Ignore Everybody” with his own view on how to keep creative in the modern world.

This book presents 40 of his own tips on creativity, accompanied by a business card illustration. A few of my favorites are below:

 Ignore everybody.

The more ori­gi­nal your idea is, the less good advice other peo­ple will be able to give you. When I first star­ted with the cartoon-on-back-of-bizcard for­mat, peo­ple thought I was nuts. Why wasn’t I trying to do something more easy for mar­kets to digest i.e. cutey-pie gree­ting cards or whatever?

The idea doesn’t have to be big. It just has to be yours.

The sove­reignty you have over your work will ins­pire far more peo­ple than the actual con­tent ever will.

Put the hours in.

Doing anything worthwhile takes fore­ver. 90% of what sepa­ra­tes suc­cess­ful peo­ple and fai­led peo­ple is time, effort, and stamina.

You are res­pon­si­ble for your own experience.

Nobody can tell you if what you’re doing is good, mea­ning­ful or worthwhile. The more com­pe­lling the path, the more lonely it is.

Keep your day job.

I’m not just saying that for the usual rea­son i.e. because I think your idea will fail. I’m saying it because to sud­denly quit one’s job in a big ol’ crea­tive drama-queen moment is always, always, always in direct con­flict with what I call “The Sex & Cash Theory”.*

*THE SEX & CASH THEORY: “The crea­tive per­son basi­cally has two kinds of jobs: One is the sexy, crea­tive kind. Second is the kind that pays the bills. Some­ti­mes the task in hand covers both bases, but not often. This tense dua­lity will always play cen­ter stage. It will never be trans­cen­ded.”

Every­body has their own pri­vate Mount Eve­rest they were put on this earth to climb.

You may never reach the sum­mit; for that you will be for­gi­ven. But if you don’t make at least one serious attempt to get above the snow-line, years later you will find your­self lying on your death­bed, and all you will feel is emptiness.

If you accept the pain, it can­not hurt you.

 The pain of making the neces­sary sac­ri­fi­ces always hurts more than you think it’s going to. I know. It sucks. That being said, doing something seriously crea­tive is one of the most ama­zing expe­rien­ces one can have, in this or any other life­time. If you can pull it off, it’s worth it. Even if you don’t end up pulling it off, you’ll learn many inc­re­di­ble, magi­cal, valua­ble things. It’s NOT doing it when you know you full well you HAD the oppor­tu­nity– that hurts FAR more than any failure.

How to Not Stop After One Good Idea

It’s easy to feel satisfied with yourself after a job well done. The project was a hit, your ego’s been lovingly stroked a bit, and you toasted champagne. But how do you deal with the daunting feeling that creeps in a few days after your joyous success? What’s next? 

How will you possibly recreate that sense of achievement again? It is tempting to use the routes that are tried and true. “It worked last time, it’ll work this time too” you try to convince yourself. But, in the back of your mind, a little voice will remind you that you will need to do something different this time around. How many movie sequels have you seen that were legitimately better than their forerunner? A handful, maybe? And those that were able to entertain you were ones that did something different. Starting again from scratch will be hard, yes. But you had a good idea once – don’t sell yourself short by thinking that you will only have one good idea in your entire lifetime.

Brainstorm. Write down everything no matter how crazy, trivial, stupid, or unimportant you may think it is.

You will want to censor yourself. Don’t.

Instead let every idea that comes to you have a space on the page. It is only by digging around and seeking out the new that we escape bad habits of the old.

Surround yourself with other creative people. Those that are thinking at a million-miles-a-minute will inspire you to do the same.

Hold yourself to impossibly high standards and the planning for your next big thing will be a breeze. Go easy on yourself and watch how the road in front of you quickly turns into an insurmountable impasse.

Allow failures to push you forward, not hold you back. Every failure is an opportunity to learn one new way not to do something.

Never stop at that first good idea.  You’ll thank yourself for it.

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You may also enjoy:

10 Ways to Instantly Unleash Your Inner Awesome

1. Smile, sit up straight, look like you want to feel

2. Learn something new

3. Listen to others

4. Appreciate instead of criticize

5. Believe, even if faced with doubt

6. Tell someone how much they mean to you

7. Drink some water

8. Laugh

9. Don’t sweat the small stuff (worrying is like hoping for something you don’t want to happen…to happen)

10. Help somebody out

Not too hard, right?

You may also enjoy:

Seven Good Reasons to Stop Whatever You’re Doing and Go for It

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better. 

– Samuel Beckett

What is it that stops us from doing exactly what we want to in life? Most of it can be chalked up to some sort of fear – of failure, of reproach, of uncertainty. Here’s a quick list to help determine if that big risk of yours is worth trying.

1. You can’t stop thinking about it. The idea pervades your thoughts. You smile every time it crosses your mind. You’ve already worked out the best-possible scenario in your head, and you think you have the tools to make it work.

2. You’re unhappy with the status quo. Remember that little voice in your head? The one that reminds you when you’re feeling down and that now is the time to do something about it? Yeah, listen this time.

3. You’re willing to put in the work. No doubt what you’ve been dreaming about will require you to put in some effort. But that’s what has made it so elusive thus far right? It’s up to you to decide whether you want to live a life where you look back and say “I’m so glad I tried that” or one where you admit “I really wish I had done that.”

4. You’re clinging to an illusion of safety.  You’ve created a false cocoon of security in a world where no such thing actually exists. “But this way I don’t get hurt!” you convince yourself. Well, newsflash: you hurt yourself more by holding yourself  back than by mustering up the courage to change. Do what you actually want to do. Be who you actually want to be.

5. You want to. Passion is the number one ingredient in making a dream a reality. And ultimately the decision is yours, and yours alone. If you’re taking the leap solely for the reason that it will impress someone else, reevaluate.

6. You attempted to before but it didn’t work out. As a baby, did you give up on walking after the first few times resulted in a happy marriage of your forehead and the hardwood floor? Nope. You pushed yourself and tried again. Somewhere along the line, in our efforts to grow up and act like adults, we learn to stop “trying again”. We rid ourselves of the spirit that allows us to tackle anything in favor of one that promotes mental barriers and excuses. Chances are you learned something from that failed attempt. Time to put those lessons to good use.

7. It completely terrifies you. Good. You will grow 1 million times over if you look that fear in the face and mutter through gritted teeth: “bring it on.” Who knows, you may surprise yourself. And what beauty there is in such surprises.


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Some of the Best Reveal How They Find Creative Inspiration

On Creativity and Finding Inspiration:

(The following excerpts come from this article from The Guardian. I’ve chosen a few of my favorites below.)

Guy Garvey, musician

• Spending time in your own head is important. When I was a boy, I had to go to church every Sunday; the priest had an incomprehensible Irish accent, so I’d tune out for the whole hour, just spending time in my own thoughts. I still do that now; I’m often scribbling down fragments that later act like trigger-points for lyrics.

• Just start scribbling. The first draft is never your last draft. Nothing you write is by accident.

Polly Stenham, playwright

• Doodle. I’m very fidgety, and I seem to work best when my hands are occupied with something other than what I’m thinking about. During rehearsals, I find myself drawing little pictures or symbols that are somehow connected to the play. With Tusk Tusk, it was elephants, clowns and dresses on hangers. I’ll look back at my doodles later, and random snatches of dialogue will occur to me.

• Go for a walk. Every morning I go to Hampstead Heath, and I often also go for a wander in the middle of the day to think through a character or situation. I listen to music as I go. Again, it’s about occupying one part of your brain, so that the other part is clear to be creative.

Tamara Rojo, ballet dancer

An idea never comes to me suddenly; it sits inside me for a while, and then emerges. When I’m preparing for a particular character, I look for ideas about her wherever I can. When I first danced Giselle, I found Lars von Trier’s film Dancer in the Dark incredibly inspiring. It was so dark, and it felt just like a modern-day version of Giselle – the story of a young woman taken advantage of by others. It brought the part alive for me. Now when I talk to others who are playing Giselle, they sometimes say they’re worried that it feels like a parody, and not relevant to today. I tell them to watch that film and see how modern it can be.

To be truly inspired, you must learn to trust your instinct, and your creative empathy. Don’t over-rehearse a part, or you’ll find you get bored with it. Hard work is important, but that comes before inspiration: in your years of training, in your ballet class, in the Pilates classes. That work is there just to support your instinct and your ability to empathise. Without those, you can still give a good, technically correct performance – but it will never be magical.

Mark-Anthony Turnage, composer

• If you write something in the evening or at night, look back over it the next morning. I tend to be less self-critical at night; sometimes, I’ve looked back at things I wrote the night before, and realised they were no good at all.

• If you get overexcited by an idea, take a break and come back to it later. It is all about developing a cold eye with which to look over your own work.

Fyfe Dangerfield, musician

I used to think that being inspired was about sitting around waiting for ideas to come to you. That can happen occasionally: sometimes, I’m walking down the street and suddenly hear a fragment of music that I can later work into a song. But generally, it’s not like that at all. I liken the process to seeing ghosts: the ideas are always there, half-formed. It’s about being in the right state of mind to take them and turn them into something that works.

Anthony Neilson, playwright and director

• Don’t forget to have a life. It’s important to look outside the business. There are so many great stories out there that have nothing to do with the theatre, or with other writers.

•Be as collaborative as possible. I do a lot of my thinking once I’m in the rehearsal room – I’m inspired by the actors or designers I’m working with. Other creative people are a resource that needs to be exploited.

• Try to ignore the noise around you: the chatter, the parties, the reviews, the envy, the shame.

Rupert Goold, director

• Once you have an idea, scrutinise the precedent. If no one has explored it before in any form then you’re 99% likely to be making a mistake. But that 1% risk is why we do it.

• Make sure you are asking a question that is addressed both to the world around you and the world within you. It’s the only way to keep going when the doubt sets in.

• Love the effect over its cause.

Lucy Prebble, playwright

• If ever a character asks another character, “What do you mean?”, the scene needs a rewrite.

• Feeling intimidated is a good sign. Writing from a place of safety produces stuff that is at best dull and at worst dishonest.

• Write backwards. Start from the feeling you want the audience to have at the end and then ask “How might that happen?” continually, until you have a beginning.

Ian Rickson, director

• Trust the ingenuity and instinctiveness of actors. Surround them with the right conditions and they’ll teach you so much.

• Embrace new challenges. When we’re reaching for things, we tend to be more creative.

• Try to remove your own ego from the equation. It can get in the way.

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Your Art as a Child

Acknowledge that spark of an idea, the twinkle of  creation.

Endure the birth pangs, the painful fear that what you have envisioned may not live up to all that you hope. Be gentle with yourself. Push through and let that product of conception breach the light.

Do not ignore the cries, the whimpers when your fledgling calls for your help.

It cannot stand on its own yet. Take its hand when it falls. Right it and help it rise again.

Stand by its side and champion the small successes. Guide  it back to a proper path when it strays.

Do not coddle your young one. Do not pride yourself when it is not fully-formed.

Continue to put in the work, day after day. Know that anything worth doing requires patience and persistence. Not every day will be easy.

It will be grown before you know it. When it looks back for your approval, nod and let it continue to thrive on its own.

Sleep peacefully. You have made something. And in doing so, made the world a little better.

Rinse and repeat. There can never be a shortage of beautiful things in this life.

Why not be part of it?

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25 Ways to Be Unsuccessful Creatively (and in life)

“Many of life’s failures are men who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

-Thomas Edison

1. Compare your work to others’ constantly.

2. Give up when presented with an obstacle.

3. Never ask for help. Be an “island” out on your own.

4. Be afraid of change.

5. Never plan.

6. Think that you can’t do it.

7. Blame someone else for your failings.

8. Never work on yourself or try to improve.

9. Let past failings hold you back from future successes.

10. When something isn’t working, ignore it. Don’t bother trying to fix it.

11. Convince yourself that your dreams are too big.

12. Expect someone else to come in, work their magic and save the day.

13. Never express gratitude for what you have.

14. Treat others as if they mean nothing to you.

15. Do lazy work.

16. Never forgive yourself or others for mistakes.

17. Choose friends who belittle your dreams.

18. Stop Learning. You’re probably smart enough.

19. Be afraid of what others will think of you.

20. Make excuses.

21. Lack persistence.

22. Self-sabotage.

23. Don’t trust your instincts.

24. Let perfectionism get in the way of progress.

25. Stop creating.

Hope these handy tips help!

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