The Long Road Ahead

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.


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.


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


  1. Arshad Rehman 14 years ago

    I love how you talked about taking things simple because that is where our lives become complicated. We don’t have the ability to handle different goals if we have too many unclear steps. II also like the idea of not putting everything on one thing but more of diversifying your portfolio. Nice blog post! I just started mine up as a college student to success (typical story) but I decided to apply everyone’s suggestion and see if these theories play out right.

  2. Katz 14 years ago

    I’m getting a bit impatient with having to wait for your ultimate secret to success, David. You know that I will be destroyed by them if I don’t have it from you soon. Be aware of The Craft dear friend. Thank you.

  3. Brad Fitzpatrick 14 years ago

    Nice Dave. One thing I still find sneakily self-destructive is having too many non-related “great” ideas that could be lucrative. Seems like a new one pops up every day so it’s a constant battle to keep the idea beast at bay..

    To distill it down even more: Find something that works and repeat it over and over again until it’s exhausted. THEN (and only then) move on to your next great idea.

    Profound I know… but what’d you expect?? I draw pictures for a living.

  4. Dave Seah 14 years ago

    Arshad: It seems to be a common trap, once that I have had to fall into dozens of time before I noticed what was going on. Imagination that distracts from the Right Now, plus Awareness that does not extend past what’s right in front of us seem to be the two culprits. It seems oxymoronic, doesn’t it?

    Katz: I’m trying to get there as fast as possible, but thanks for reading! :-)

    Brad: That’s pretty profound, dude! A picture’s worth a thousand words, ya know…some of them are bound to be profound, given how much you draw :-)

  5. Jarrod 14 years ago

    These are great lessons that you’ve learned. I especially love the one that states having a systematic approach.

    I often find that I work better when there is a system in place. I love systems they help me keep track, and they create a great sense of organization.

    Love the other lessons too. Great post, keep up the great work!

  6. Arshad Rehman 14 years ago


    Sounds like a oxymoron indeed. Any new ventures you interested in these days?