Nov 302012
 

Rejection slips, an occupational hazard for writers, are what you often get when you ask for permission.

It wasn’t too long ago that a creative person needed to beg or pay for a forum to do his work. He either needed to find a patron, impress a literary agent, please a record company executive, or buy his way into the system to get his work out.

The creator needed permission.

To put a book out, I once needed a literary agent. To get my articles out in public, I needed to fool some poor editor into thinking I could do the job. Rejection slips were just part of the process, and believe you me, I have a pretty fair collection of them going for myself.

That’s in the past, though. Thanks to the Internet, the whole idea of getting permission is no longer a real issue. That’s great news to the writer, the artist, the musician, the entrepreneur.

When I started writing professionally three decades ago, my big question was whether someone will let me work.

Unfortunately, the permission mindset is still around even though the reality isn’t there any more. It’s this need for permission that drives writers to work for peanuts or less, what drives musicians to play “for exposure,” what drives artists to starve in a garret somewhere.  It’s that perceived need for permission.

Now, instead of wondering if someone would let me work the question is this: Who’s going to stop me?

Admittedly, a form of permission is still important. I still need to get it to make a living at what I’m doing. Fortunately I have some clients that have given me this permission, by agreeing to pay me a certain amount to do some work for them. But the dynamics have changed considerably.

Ebooks leading the charge

There used to be a stigma attached to being a self-published author. Unless you impressed the right people, you had to go to one of those subsidy presses and pay for the work yourself. A great gulf existed between writers for the “royalty” press and the “vanity” press — though as my man Michael Hyatt puts it, it’s all vanity.

Now, that stigma is disappearing. Ebooks are ridiculously popular. Amazon is selling more electronic books than the dead-tree versions. And although a self-published ebook doesn’t look as polished as one that’s produced by a royalty publisher, even that distinction is slowly fading.

Say what you want about “50 Shades Of Grey,” and you’re probably right. It’s porn for Mom. But that’s not the point. It started life as an ebook and print-on-demand paperback. Within the year Vintage Books picked it up, and author E.L. James is now one of the more successful novelists around. Without permission — in fact, Vintage Books basically asked permission to produce her book.

John Locke is another novelist who didn’t waste time asking permission. His specialty is short detective novels for your Kindle, with readers paying as little as 99 cents to catch the latest adventures of his protagonist Donovan Creed. Locke has sold more than a million e-copies, and Simon and Schuster has since signed a print deal with him. Again, it was the big publishing house asking permission, not the writer.

Hey, I’m not talking about quality of the work here. We’ve got a bunch of crap available online, and it appears quite a bit of it sells. I could go off on a rant about how people don’t read anymore, how they’re afraid to go deep, but that’s not even the point. Just the presence of so much crap — and how crowded the Internet is these days — is a testament to how this power balance has shifted.

Cutting out the middle man

OK, so the old gatekeepers who used to give the permission are outmoded. But permission is still there, and that balance has also shifted. It’s the consumer, the reader, who gives the permission these days.

By you clicking on this website or subscribing, you’ve given me permission to “talk” to you. To me, that’s worth a lot and I thank you for it. By clicking on my ebook link, you’re giving me permission to separate you from a few of your dollars. That’s perfectly OK by me, too.

See, somewhere along the line you’ve decided what I have to say is worth your time and/or money, and we’ve come to an agreement there. You’ve decided whether I provide value by your permission. In doing so, we’ve cut out the middle man, the gatekeeper.

But I didn’t need permission from some gatekeeper to get my stuff online. It didn’t even take any real expenditure on my part. A writer could just as easily put his blog on wordpress.com or blogspot.com, borrowing the domain name and space. But for $20 a year I own my two domain names, ericpulsifer.com and creativeanddangerous.com.  Shoot, that’s about a nickel a day for both.

The cost of producing my ebook? That was free through Amazon, though I needed to come up with my own copy, my own cover art, and do my own formatting.

Gatekeeper? I don’t see any gatekeeper. Do you?

 

These days it’s nothing for a band to put together a Web site or even to post videos on YouTube. They’re out there, and all you need to do is find the material online, and you make the call whether to follow the artist.

Home-brew recording

I first got the idea of permission and gatekeepers some years ago, when I was playing a lot of music. Larry Broussard, a guitarist/singer from Atlanta recorded some tracks at a friend’s home studio, and wanted me to add some instrumental work. When I showed up at the studio, the sound engineer anesthetized his dog so he wouldn’t bark, hooked me up with a mic and headphones, opened the file to the song, and I laid down my track. A few minutes later I had the freshly-mixed track on CD, no waiting. The sound engineer used a Mac-based system with top-notch recording and mixing software, and I really can’t tell the difference between the final product and a recording done in the Capitol Building in L.A.

I’d since done other recordings where I threw together the sound mix, using free software like Audacity and Ardour2. But you get the point. New technology has replaced permission.

Although I’ll rant about the quality of stuff out there, you’re not going to hear me complaining about the new world of publishing. There’s no way. I can get my work published any time you want. You can get your artwork in front of the eyes of millions any time you want. The musician can get his songs out there any time he wants.

All of this is a long way of saying that one of the greatest excuses for not creating doesn’t make any sense any more. The rules of permission have changed considerably, and it’s good news for anyone with an idea. It’s more than good news; it’s great. It’s groundbreaking.

The gatekeepers used to stop us creative types. I don’t miss them at all.

The only one who can stop me now … is me.

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Nov 292012
 

While I’ve touched on things that can get in the way of creativity — an exhausting day job, outside influences, and self-sabotage, another enemy of creativity is losing your stuff.

There are several necessary ingredients for the creative mind: A childlike curiosity, access to dreams, fearlessness, unconventionality, a sense of hunger, and motivation that only comes when you surround yourself with other creatives.

Public education tries its best to breed (and maybe medicate) some of these traits out of a person. You lose touch with others as you grow up and spend your eight hours in a cubicle. The whole idea is to hang onto these traits; few do. It’s a jungle out there.

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Nov 282012
 

On Quora I suggested the biggest enemy to creativity is the creator himself. We all have ways of screwing ourselves up way more effectively than anyone else can even dream.

Between fear, procrastination (often fear-driven), distractions, perfectionism, narcissism and hubris, these are enough to knock the creator right off course.

While these things are real — especially fear and its kin — and it’s worth it for me to know these are present, the main job is for me to get in there and do my work.

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Nov 282012
 

A freebie tomorrow; grab it while it’s … hot?

I absolutely, positively had to do this.

My new ebook, “Finding your passion: Where creativity meets danger,” can be downloaded free Nov. 30, 2012 through Amazon.

OK, so why am I doing this?

Because I can.

Also because I could use a few reviews. Seriously.

So here’s the deal:

Go to Amazon to download the book. Free. All day Friday.

Read it. It’s not a long book; probably about 4,000 words.

Go to the Amazon page again, scroll down to the review section, and drop in your two cents’ worth (allowing for inflation, of course).

Can I hold you to the reviews? Of course not. And even if I could, I won’t.

Grab. Read. Enjoy. Apply. Create. Review. See how easy that is?

###

 

Nov 272012
 

While most of the roadblocks to creativity really come from within, the outside world has enough obstacles and temptations to knock you off track. Sometimes this reads like a grocery list:

Lack of time. Shortage of money. Naysayers. Criticism. Too many rules. Gatekeepers. Standardization. The devil made me do it. Dogma. Focus groups. Conspiracies of the day. Corporate culture. Fluorescent lights. Lack of recognition. The opposite sex. Demanding family members and friends. That enough for you?

The question remains, though. How many of these are honest-to-goodness obstacles, and how many are merely convenient excuses?

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Nov 262012
 

I get it. Being creative may have little to do with making a living. Only a select few have a day job that’s right in their wheelhouse; the rest of us make time when we can to create.

But the catch is, that day job isn’t the be-all end-all. It’s too easy to get satisfied with an ill-fitting day job, especially when the money and benefits are good. As I discovered, it’s so easy to put my passion on hold while chasing the short-term goal.

But no employer has any right or claim on my off hours. I need to be really strict about those boundaries. And if I come home from a day job too exhausted to do anything constructive with my off time, that company has violated my boundaries.

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Nov 252012
 

I really like Quora. Of all the social media sites around, that’s the one where I spend most of my time. On Quora you ask questions and give answers, and there’s some brainy stuff going on there as well as the usual social-media Pablum.

I’m following a question someone asked recently, “What is the greatest enemy of creativity?” I’ve entered my own answer (the creator himself, through self-sabotage), but there are some other excellent answers.

This week, we’ll dip into the Quora pool for some of these answers, and we’ll dissect a few — all in 3 graffs. Shoot, there’s probably enough material there to keep me busy for a few weeks, but let’s just think about this week.

Again, I welcome comments, but until the system is fixed we might have to do that via email, eric@creativeanddangerous.com.

Join me.

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Nov 232012
 

Emotional weather report: Storm clouds piling up in the northwest corner of my apartment (thank you Tom Waits).

This is not a good time of year for me.

Even in the semitropical Lowcountry, it gets cold out there right now. It rains a lot. The sun shows up whenever it pleases, and half the time it just decides to lay out instead. There’s usually a cloud cover over my psyche.

Forget about this getting-stuff-done thing.

With winter less than a month away and a bunch of holidays going on, it’s difficult to get my head in my work. As the mornings get colder I don’t bounce out of the rack ready to face the day. I’d rather mummify myself in the extra blankets I dug out of the closet.

It’s that funk time again.

Everybody goes through this stuff, but it’s worse if you have a chemical imbalance as I do. Those funks get deeper, just like those energy-charged days of spring and summer make me an unstoppable force. I’m particularly susceptible to these changes.

It’s time to break that funk up a bit (and remember, telling myself to just snap out of it does not work when the body chemistry is screwed up. Ain’t gonna work.)

But I can monitor myself, and I can change my environment some.

I read a piece in The Creativity Post that suggests ways of breaking that funk. Now, again understand that’s more directed toward those who don’t have the aforementioned physiological issues. But I can steal some ideas from the article. I can’t fix the body chemistry, but I can at least watch for those triggers.

Breaking up the clouds

It’s recommended I connect with people when the funk’s on. Absolutely. When I’m feeling bad my first reaction is to go hide. Don’t want anybody to see me like this. Isolation looks like a cure, but it’s really a curse.

Fortunately, I have friends who will call me or text me when they haven’t seen me for a few days. They’ll drag me out of the house if necessary.

Not having an Internet signal at home helps a lot. To upload my work I have to leave the house and — yes, risk being seen.

Understand, I’m talking about real people. Social media doesn’t count.

Another suggestion is to read an engrossing book or watch a really good movie. But that becomes a reason to isolate, so I’ve scratched that one off my list.

Also mentioned is to commit to a new goal, but that’s not so good if you tend toward the manic. So let’s change that around a bit. Instead, I revisit the goals I have already set. How’m I doing on those? Do I need to reboot some goal, or figure out why I set it in the first place?

If I can fall in love with that goal again, that often gets me going.

Get out more: Absolutely. Not only does this break the cycle of isolation, it also gets my blood pumping. A good long hike, a fast bike ride, things like that. A nice endorphin rush is a whole lot better than Prozac any day, and it doesn’t take away that edge I find so important to do great work. It’s even better when I do this with a friend.

Not only are my whiteboards functional, but they sure do brighten up the joint. Especially when I’m using all the colors.

Changing up my environment always helps. I make sure my work area is well lit (I use those light bulbs that mimic sunlight) and I must have my window shades open. Working standing up helps a lot, too. I feel like I’m doing something, going somewhere as I write.

This environmental adjustments go into my decorating. My office wall hangings consist of two 4×4 whiteboards nailed up near my desk, with outlines and mind maps done up in really bright colors. Not only is this functional, but it does brighten up my work area.

I try to stay aware of my moods, particularly at times like this. I write in my journal at least once a day, sometimes twice, and I make note of the funk status. But I don’t spend more than a few minutes doing this. Too much self-analysis breeds self-absorption, which feeds that nasty spiral. But I try to have my nice healthy brain dump at least once a day.

But while I’m subject to these peaks and valleys, I might as well make use of both ends of the spectrum. The melancholy times are good for thinking (and doodling on the whiteboards) while the more manic periods are great for pull-out-the-stops Katy-bar-the-door production. Got to have both; all production with no rumination is every bit as worthless as all noodling and no doing.

Even without imbalances, the blues hit hard

OK, I’ll admit I’m an extreme case. I need to take extra precautions that many productive and creative people don’t. But all of us have those periods where the ideas turn into sludge. All of us get those funks.

How about you? How do you jump-start the process when in a funk? Use the comments section below, or email your thoughts to me at eric@creativeanddangerous.com if the comments system is still busted.

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Nov 212012
 

While I’m moving everything to creativeanddangerous.com and updating the blog, there is at least one glitch that I know about.

My comment system is fouled up. Like, this site appears to be taking no comments at all.

My first clue? I don’t know … maybe it’s that “comments closed” I’m seeing at the bottom of new posts.

Ignore that. I am accepting comments. Really. But we’re going to backdoor them in.

If you have comments, please email them to eric@creativeanddangerous.com and let me know what post you are commenting on.

As soon as I get everything fixed, I’ll move the comments to the proper blog posts, then we can continue as if nothing happened.

If any other bugs come about, I’ll squash them as soon as I can.

Thanks for bearing with me during this transition.

— Eric