Keys to all creative crafts: Rule #2

2. Awareness: Don’t grow pot in your basement.

Let’s say you’re growing pot in your basement (not that I’m endorsing this). If you stay down there you’re gonna get the same stuff every time. The pros are mixing pot with their friends and engineering their way right past ya. T-H-C-ya later duuuude. (Sorry, puns may be the lowest form of art. Bad puns, even lower)

Art made in a vacuum is most at home in a vacuum. I know because that’s where so many of my projects have grown and died. Unless you simply want to create for the sake of purging, you must learn from your heroes and be aware of your audience. (Austin Kleon has a great book on this. Thanks JJ and Tricia for telling me about it!)

When the company I was working for decided to start designing patio furniture, I had never paid attention to it before. I didn’t know what shapes and materials had worked their way into the fabric of my culture. I had never paid attention to the chairs that mothers had rocked their babies in, or the love seats teenagers had their first kisses on. Neither had I been watching what the most desirable people were putting on their patios. I might have still been working there if I had cared about that stuff. We need to observe, not only to find the gems of meaning, but also to know what color they are polishing them with.

After I got a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering it might have been foolish but I got another 3.5 year B.S. in Industrial Design when I could have gotten a 2 year masters degree. Anyway, I say this because I’ve seen enough to know that even in Engineering we must reach out of our heads so we can know our tools and find their limits. I designed a couple of potentially patentable patio umbrella mechanisms but we’ll never know if they could be patented because our factory didn’t have tools articulated enough, nor do there exist materials strong enough to make them.

You gotta look out of your head.

However, after you look at what everybody else likes and does, the keenest gage for what you can best give to the world is finding what YOU love. LOVE. And pursuing your unique version of it, in your specific style.

And also, don’t let what the other guys are doing limit you. I have never seen a flip book in a novel, but after I wrote my 200-page book I thought, “That’s a lot of pages. I can draw. I’ll give my novel a flipbook.” And when someone sees that flipbook, it’s usually when they decide to buy the book.

I like to watch movies, but since I am unhealthily obsessed with being productive, I’ll turn it into research. When I watch movies at home I open up my iPad and take notes on storytelling. (I broke my notes out for the first time in the theater last weekend because the movie “Whiplash” was so good. Sorry people behind me!). I wait until something is sparked inside of me and then I ask myself, why did I like that? Or what do I hope will happen, and why? And then I try to use that to inform my own work. We can do this with everything we observe. Do it with billboards, magazine articles, pieces of music, even people’s social interactions. Notice what you and other people love, observe what works and what doesn’t, figure out why, then take that knowledge home to help you master your craft.

Sneak peek at the other rules:
1.Value: Unbury gems and polish them
2.Awareness: Don’t grow pot in your basement
3.Audience: Don’t call your girlfriend fat
4.Pure Beauty: That bird’s got bugs
5.Genius: Feed your monster
6.Focal Point: Give them a paper weight
7.Patterns and Variations: If life is a series of roads, give me some windows to look in
8.Storytelling: Give all art the guts of a joke
9.Details: Dress your art to the T, even when it’s skateboarding clothes
10.Brand: The singer has to be as cool as the song
11.Bonus rule: There are too many rules to know, but try

Raw Spoon 2-22-15