Friday, October 2, 2009

Creative People Have Two Jobs

In a roundabout way, I learned of a new book on creativity: Ignore Everybody by Hugh MacLeod. Then I learned of some fascinating notes on the book at Derek Sivers's website.

Sivers is no slouch when it comes to creativity--he knows whereof he speaks, having created the awesome that helped so many independent musicians stay independent.

One of Ignore Everybody's main points is that most creative people have two jobs. Ouch, my friends say. Can't I make a living at what I love?

Well, yes, if you really really want to. That means (1) amazing luck, (2) incredible hard work, and (3) sometimes years of not earning enough to rent a teepee. I've watched so many writers quit their day jobs when The Book Idea comes along. I've watched them suffer with the pressure of trying to write to make that six figure advance, when they never wrote a word before. Better to take that pressure off your creativity, not flatiron your book into being. Books don't like that.

You may not like this post this week. You may be a worthy dreamer who hates your cubicle life and wants to break out into the wealthy world of published authors. Most of us aren't. We're midlist, which means our books sell OK but not enough to pay all the bills. The most I ever earned from royalties in a year was about $30,000. I loved my book which earned that, but it was written without the pressure to earn big bucks.

I was able to, because of my day job, stay creative. That's the point, isn't it? How to stay creative in a world that doesn't really like it.

That's why MacLeod's book is so timely.

This Week's Writing Exercise
This week's exercise is pretty simple. Read the book review for Ignore Everybody on Derek Siver's site then write your own list of what it takes for YOU to stay creative.

Is it about ignoring everybody?
Is it about paying attention to a few trusted people?
Is it about a room of your own, a la Virginia Woolf, or a kitchen table a la J.K. Rowling, or a great Internet cafe that keeps you bubbling with stolen dialogue lines?

Enjoy making your list. Let it simmer all week.


  1. What a great post, Mary! I love the ideas you present about balancing (even) our cubicle lives, that we sometime dislike, with our creative passions. I'm doing a little of that myself. Thanks for the creative inspiration, tempered with reality and resources. We gotta keep feeding our muse(s), yes?

  2. Thanks, Kimberly, good for you! And a big yes!!

  3. Thank you. I was passing by and this is just what I need for a creative jump-start.