Keys to All Creative Crafts: Rule #3

3. Audience: Don’t call your girlfriend fat.

Among the biggest fumbles of my life was when I told a girlfriend that she looked fat. I know, horrible. I was young. But looking back, the reason I told her was because I felt insecure, scrawny, and scared and wanted to purge that feeling from myself and onto someone else.

Don’t do this with your art.

In other words don’t give the world something because you want to GIVE it; give them something because you would want to GET it. (Again, this is another Austin Kleon concept. Thank you, sir)

For the first draft of my fantasy novel series I included every clever thing I had thought of to build that world, including short stories I had written for other things. After I finished the fifth book in my series I went back and saw they were basically unreadable. I realized I was mostly trying to give people everything I had ever produced because I didn’t want any moment in my life to go to waste. My life.

Again, it was all about me.

I filed those novels away (it’s okay to make things for your own mental purging, but that’s not usually the form in which you want to give them to the world.) Maybe I’m going too far, but after I rewrote the first book in the series I told my novelist friend the new compact storyline and she said, “I think you could make that one book into three books!” I replied, “Oh, actually it’s only 168 pages with illustrations every few pages.” I’m cutting out any space fillers so ya’ll can love every moment and get on with your busy, and now enriched lives.

If you write a story and make the character’s crush named Melerictally just because that’s what you get when you put your three secret childhood crushes’ names, Melanie, Erica, and Natalia together, just beware that it may not be helping her chances among your audience. If you have inside secrets in your art, just remember your audience does not have those secrets and you may be hindering their reception of it. You can do it for you, but modify it if you’re giving it to them.

One time I tried to write a worship song and showed it to my brother (who’s a great song-writer) and he said, “Dude, you can’t use the word PROSTRATE in a song. It sounds too much like PROSTATE.” Yep, again, I wasn’t thinking enough about what my audience would be thinking, just looking for the most accurate way to express MYSELF.

But remember it’s not just about them, but about what you would want if you were them. And a great way to find that is to create things that you wish existed.

When I designed my blog I wanted a site that was calm and relaxing to go to. To go to. Not some blingy thing I’d be proud I made. And it was only after I built that blog that people started asking me if I could illustrate things for them. They saw what I made because I had wanted it, and they wanted it too.

A few years ago, I wanted light, mobile furniture that I could transform into anything I needed. So, I had these things built that I call Mocha Blocks. They are upholstered foam blocks that you can velcro together into different shapes. I have used them continuously for the past eight years for couches, chairs, tables, bed frames, beds, flip crash pads for youth group kids, padding in moving vans, and on Valentine’s day my date and I made a fort and read to each other in it. People usually love them and ask me, why haven’t you marketed these? I hope someday I will! I bet people would like these because I think they’re awesome! But the point is that this came not from what I wanted to GIVE the world, but what I wanted to GET from the world. I wanted modular furniture so I made some, and now other people want it too!

And just a bit of advice, if you didn’t gather from above, things go much better when you tell girls when they look pretty, and keep it to yourself when they don’t. But luckily I’ve grown up a lot and they all look more pretty to me. Now I can better appreciate the ample curves of a healthy feminine physique, because I’m realizing it’s a lot less about me and my scrawny little butt.

(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