Here's the last mysterious Potential pic for awhile. SAVOR IT.
So 2011 was a big year, and I learned a lot. Or at least I identified a bunch of things I think are wise and I am trying to remember to remind myself of them as I go into the future. As a public service, I provide a few of them to you here.
1. There seems to be some sort of law of inverse proportionality between talking about being creative and doing actual creative work. For every really good artist there are 12 people ready to charge you for the secrets of being a good artist. Always pick the free advice over the paywalled advice.
2. A lot of people write me asking for career path advice. I think this would happen a lot less if people saw my bank account and my health plan (sleep, fluids, liquid skin, NyQuil). My areas of interest are in the philosophical and ethical issues of being a thoughtful, creative person and the process of making thoughtful, creative work. I'm definitely not a career counselor and in fact there are times when I could probably use one myself. I DO really enjoy answering these questions, though I may have to put up an FAQ to handle some of the repeated ones. That said, I feel like I should mention that there is no such thing as a sure-fire career path in animation/illustration/artsy stuff. Everyone's career is different and there is no such thing as a guaranteed formula for success.
3. Actually, that's a lie. Here is the formula for any and all success I've had:
Try to do really good work. Show it to people. Be a nice guy. Get involved in the community of artists. Make your really good work readily available to people who might pay you to do what you do. Hit deadlines and be friendly and open with your clients. Do more really good work. Repeat until you are able to pay rent and buy groceries regularly. BOOM! YOU'RE A PROFESSIONAL CREATIVE PERSON!
4. There is another part of this whole business that people rarely talk about: you have to be lucky sometimes. There isn't anyone still working that doesn't have a story about being in the right place at the right time. We don't earn everything. A lot is given to us and a lot just falls in our lap because we happened to be the closest dancing partner when the music started. That said, doing really good work and being really nice will manufacture plenty of luck on its own.
5. Aesthetics are not really important. With apologies to some wonderful people, I have met hundreds of folks who go out of their way to hit the current cultural norm of a "creative person". They buy only Apple products. They will only take notes in a Moleskine. They spend a lot of time and money hanging out at coffee shops. For some reason they all started wearing glasses over the past few years, to the horror of those of us who have actual visual impairments. There isn't anything wrong with any of these things (except the fake glasses part. Stop it. Some of use earned our glasses through years of near-sightedness, double-vision and headaches. We were picked on in school! You spit on our hardships!). What was I saying? Oh yes. There's nothing wrong with any of these things. Apple seems to make some products that a lot of people really like. Moleskine makes a fine notepad. Caffeine is the lifeblood of the modern creative and coffee is a great way to get it into you. But none of these things will make you a creative person. I read a great article last year that I can't find now that talked about this, so forgive some paraphrasing. People read that this or that artist wrote early in the morning, before the day began. So they do that, hoping that they will be as brilliant as that artist. Or they read that some artist did a lot of drugs, drank a lot and was a total dick to everyone around him. You know what I'm talking about. You've either done this or have know someone who has. The article had this great turn of phrase, something like "This isn't creativity, this is merely rearranging the aesthetics of creativity". So true. A creative earns that name by creating, by producing. Not by consuming a lifestyle and talking about being creative. I'm going to say it again: Creatives make things. Full stop. Creatives ADD things to the world.
6. Aesthetics are really important. So once you're actually making things and all that, you should probably take the time to organize your workspace, figure out your optimum schedule and best practices, secure a steady supply of caffeine, invest in some good and reliable materials, take a shower, comb your hair and put on real pants. Maybe wear a buttoned-down shirt and sweater when you work at home. Shine your shoes. This helps you to feel less like an unemployed person and more like a freelance artist who is totally getting shit done. Look at your organized desk! You're not just someone who makes things - you're someone who makes things at an organized desk! You're someone who wears pants and smells nice! You keep a regular schedule! Is that some coffee? Go ahead - you're a real-life artist! Drink that mess down and get back to your job, which is being fucking fantastic at making fucking fantastic shit. Can you believe that it's actually your job to do this? I can. Because you look and feel like someone who's thriving. And there will be times when you need that to keep you going. Is there any group of people more insecure than freelance creatives? Don't do that insecurity any favors. Stay on top of things, find what works for you and take care of yourself.
That last one is the one I really have to work on. I've talked about my struggles with depression on this blog many times, and it's still something that dogs my entire life and sometimes wreaks havoc with my creative output. It also makes me not want to organize my desk or comb my hair or wear proper pants. My desk is a shattered hellscape affront to heaven itself right now. Staying on top of things is simultaneously one of the hardest things in my life and one one of the things that makes me feel better the most.
So here we are, at the start of another trip around the sun together. I'm thankful to be where I am in my life right now. There is some hard work ahead this year and some changes that need to happen, but I think we can get through it together. I definitely need to say thanks to all of you who follow my work, write me, follow me on Twitter or Facebook, Like my stuff and leave comments on Vimeo, blog/tweet/tell your friends about my stuff, etc. It means a lot to me and I honestly couldn't do what I do without you guys. So thanks! I can promise some big things this year. Let's make a deal - if you keep showing up, I'll keep making stuff and writing. Does that work? I hope so. Let's do this.