The Long Road Ahead

SUMMARY: I find that the common-sense rules for success are worth following after all, now that I’ve talked to enough about the nuts and bolts of creative people and their businesses to understand just how the rules actually work together.I just got back from a weekend trip to Maine, where I was visiting illustrator and good friend Brad Fitzpatrick. I’ll get into the trip itself later this week, but right now I’m struck by how much my perspective has changed over the past three months.

before

For many years, I was constantly troubled by just how much work there was to be done for me to get anywhere; the long road looked impossibly and bleakly long. However, three months ago I started outlining the shape of the challenge on my private Google Wave with Colleen™. After 9 weeks of this, I noticed that a profound calm had started to settle over me. My theory-of-the-moment is that over the course of Waving, I’ve actually have dumped what I have in my head in a form where my fellow Waver confirmed that it wasn’t just me imagining things. That is very reassuring. I’ve been talking to lots of people about the nuts and bolts of pursuing art, craft, and survival as a creative person, and I’m seeing the patterns repeat. There are several lessons I’ve seen affirmed over and over again:

  • Make useful things that people already want to buy
  • Own the means of production and distribution as much as possible
  • Be systematic about your approach
  • Have good reporting, the more automated the better
  • Do it over and over again, making or learning something new with every pass
  • Expect resistance from inside and out, and push through it. It’s more likely to be hard than easy.
  • Keep thing simple at first. Blaze the trail before paving it.
  • Improve and refine through many iterations
  • Keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities to resell or adapt what you’ve got for other markets
  • Don’t put all your eggs in one basket

These are tips I’ve heard over and over again, but hearing them was not enough. I’ve talked to at least three or four people now, over the past few weeks, who have followed the above principles and have created something from nothing. This is immensely reassuring and it has me raring to get my hands dirty.

after

The long road, while still long, now looks like an infinite amount of space to play in, and that is a paradigm-shifting realization.