Archives for posts with tag: creativity

The genesis of this entry was a simple question:

“Ten years from now, what will I most regret not having started today?”

In order to live well as an artist, the art itself is one part of a far larger context called “your life”.

What about the distorted positive-thinking mythology of the superhuman “genius” overcoming all odds?

That actually makes life harder. Instead of focusing on the positive (and ignoring the other half of reality), the whole picture will show you how to anticipate problems while reaching for success.

Here is an outline for a creative life that goes farther than starvation-wage “survival jobs” and the “work hard, work harder, become a genius, get lucky and strike it rich” idea that so rarely [if ever] works out in the real world.

A person with an entreprenuerial mindset is always looking for new opportunities.

At the core of this mindset is a practical consideration that’s so obvious, it’s hidden from view — much like the sky being so vast above us that we rarely think about it.

1. The 25% Rule

Never allow any one source to provide more than twenty-five percent (25%) of your income.

Immediately you see the mistake that the typical person makes. The typical worker has one client — called “the boss” — and is perpetually scrambling in fear of being fired by The Boss.

By contrast, the entrepreneur thinks about streams of revenue. It’s needlessly risky to allow any one client to control your ability to eat nutritious food and have a decent place to sleep. If you want to ensure that you can survive the next global “Great Recession” in good shape, make sure that you can lose at least two of your largest clients without causing any undue difficulty.

This means that you keep track of your cash flow — how much is coming in and how much flows out.

2. Live far, far below your means.

Who are you trying to impress?

Hopefully, the answer is “nobody. I live for my art.”
Right?

Well, if that’s not your answer, you may have considerations like young children or old parents or other dependents who need your financial help.

They all need to be factored into the basic amount required per month.

Remember above where the “25% Rule” was introduced? This is where it becomes real.

If you can’t live on fifty percent of your current income, you’re over-spending and under-saving.

Note that this is a ratio, not a law of nature. It’s a place to start from — find four sources of revenue, none of which is individually responsible for more than 25% of your income.

From there, you can find more sources. This means that if you have ten clients who bring in steady monthly revenue, you can afford to lose five clients.

This all depends on first knowing how much money you’ve decided that you “need” in order to finance your lifestyle. Look at the basic needs of life and work — not the “need” for a new phone every six months or the desire for fine dining and an evening at the theatre at least three times per week.

What are your bare essentials? This is what you need to know. Food, housing, transportation, utilities, materials, communications. Start from there. When your total income is at least double what you need to survive, you can weather a tough economic time as long as you save and stick to your financial plans.

3. Basic Financial Intelligence

You do know the difference between “gross” and “net”, right?

If not, you need to learn.

Financial intelligence is a survival skill. If you buy a car or mortgage without realizing that those are liabilities (not assets), you quite likely will regret it later. If you don’t know to never invest your retirement savings in the stock market unless you’re willing to lose the money, then you’ll likely die broke.

The world runs on money. I know, all us artists were fed a fine line of bologna as kids, and as adults. A consumerist society demands that we spend more and buy more, and think very little about anything else. You have to fight the urge to impress your friends and feel like a “winner” because you bought the new shiny toys that will become disposable trash in a few months or years.

Much of this knowledge is not taught in school. Find it and learn it.

4. Sources of Income: Skills, Products, Services

“How do I find _four_ sources of income?”, you ask. “It’s hard enough to find one job. Now I need four?!”

First, remember this shift in thinking: revenue streams, not “jobs”.

This is the M-word comes in: Marketing.

Very briefly, you can think of income revenue streams in terms of three categories.

Skills: do you have four skills that you can use to make at least twenty-five percent (25%) of your income? Are you a writer, musician, illustrator, and graphic designer? You can use each skill to generate revenue by creating products and services.

Products: you can create four products to sell. For example: this can mean different types of art, writing a self-published book about art, or using different media to reach different audiences (galleries, blogs, films, etc.).

Services: services here mean expertise that is intangible. Public speaking is a service. Monthly webinar classes are services. Mentoring is a service.

Figure out how you can help people do what they want to do, and you’ll be on track to creating valuable services.

There can be overlap between products and services as well, for example if you give a talk, record it and then sell that as part of a web series on art.

The key underpinning all of this is to do your homework first.

4. Do Your Homework: Research Your Market

Many artists start with a passion and go from there.

The hard truth is that some forms of art are rarely (if ever) profitable. Writing novels, illustrating comic books, and creating fine-art paintings will generally not provide a liveable income in the early years — if ever.

Don’t take anyone’s word for it. Do your own homework. Research your target market.

You may find that some of your work occupies a profitable niche. If you started out writing erotic short stories, you might find that romance novels are massively profitable compared to mainstream fiction. From there, you can research the structure of the romance novel and take a pseudonym for experimentation in that form.

Or you could find that you art is better pursued in the nights and evenings, at which point your life might need a bit of redesign from “starving artist” to “person with a second job that is an avocation and pays in life satisfaction rather than money — for now.”

Tip: Never think of your art as a “hobby”. Hobbyists end up saying things like “life got in the way” and de-prioritizing what they love to do. After survival, make art your top priority if you truly are passionate for it.

One day, if you work on your craft for at least two hours daily, you will find yourself near the top of your field. Why? Because most people are too disorganized to do _anything_ on a regular basis. This is why the average person needs a Boss to tell them what to do.

If you’ll have to spend at least nine hours of every day working for someone, you might as well work for yourself. Learn the skills and be willing to make mistakes. We’re all going to die, sooner than you might think. Life is too short to wait for retirement before pursuing your passions. Start now with a mindset of practical, flexible resilience, and you’ll never regret a single moment for the rest of your days.

Have you ever wondered why creative people always seem to come with the label “crazy” attached?
Isn’t it a little weird how “sanity” seems to entail the bland sameness of conformity to social norms?
Is it possible to for a human mind to be both creative _and_ sane, preferably at the same time?

We can deal with practical considerations first: how to do more creative work in less time.

According to Pareto’s Law or the “80/20” rule, most people obtain eighty percent of their results from twenty percent of their time and effort. I like this idea and have probably mentioned it before. Pareto’s Law (or “Pareto Principle”) describes the amount of “wasted” time that an artist spends daydreaming. Daydreams are the invisible generative work of sketching out new ideas.

That eighty percent also includes time misspent following ineffective advice.

If twenty percent of creativity is visible, how can the other eighty percent be used more effectively?

The Inverse 80/20 Rule

Metacognition means “thinking about thinking”. Someone who designs a school curriculum is thinking _about_ the best way for students to think about a given subject, with the purpose of learning that subject. It may sound confusing because most people rarely question their own ways of doing things. Lack of metacognition may be the largest blind spot slowing your creative development and abilities. Most people blunder about taking advice from authority figures and popular icons rather than learning to evaluate the (possibly flawed) thinking that led to the advice.

Solution: spend eighty percent of your time on the metacognitive skill of learning how to reach better results in the other twenty percent of your time.

Example:
The average writer is often told that to be a better writer requires you to write a certain quota of words per day.

Using a metacognitive approach, you might ask, “instead of just writing more, how do I learn to write better stories?” The task would then be a deliberate, daily study and refinement of the question itself.

Further questions: Do I need to write better stories, or do I need to learn what stories are made of? Are there different types of stories? If so, which types to I want to learn to write? Are there any role models for me to learn from? How do they learn to write? How are those role models similar and different to me in my journey as a writer? How do the parts of their skillsets fit into my approach? If I alter my approach in one way, what effects will that have on my prior ways of doing things?

You will discover masters of the craft. You will find the first principles of your art, and every word you write will stand on that foundation. Look back in a few years and you may no longer recognize those old works as your own.

You may only spend twenty percent of your time writing. Instead of pouring the other eighty percent into the abyss of “consistent hard work”, you can rest assured that every finished piece will echo forward from the greatest sources that you have been able to find.

The real skill development is not the skill itself, but continual improvement of the learning process.

This is true in engineering as well as the arts, and especially in areas where there are no established best practices. Many artistic fields have no obvious blueprint for what’s “good” and how to create works of high quality. You will have to create and continually refine your own set of best practices, and hold yourself to them with each new effort.

Sanity for artists: what your therapist won’t tell you (and why artistry is not a direct route to psychotherapy at all)

In the world of psychotherapy, great emphasis is placed on psychological “abnormality”.

In the non-therapeutic world, the idea of “normal” is a social control tactic used to shame those who deviate from the majority’s consensus on how a “sane” person “should” (or really, _must_) act.

From the time of Sigmund Freud onward (actually, Aristotle), it has become fashionable to psychopathologize creativity as a form of madness. Hollywood further nurtures the “crazy artist” stereotype because it makes for a cheap dramatic thrill and easy comedic punchlines. This closely tracks the fallacy that successful artists and scientists are “geniuses”, and all geniuses are also crazy.

There is some truth to the idea — a disproportionate number of great artists have been manic-depressive (and perhaps some familial association with schizophrenia), for example.

The number of mentally ill artists is miniscule compared to those who simply love art and want to create it.

So how can you keep sane in a world where any hint of being “artsy” will prompt the manipulative idiots in your life to whisper, scream and howl about how “crazy” you must be?

Simple answer: realize that they are simply acting in a normal, socially manipulative way, and that’s how people are when there’s more than one human in a room.

Vital Contact

Artistry — and science, and engineering — often requires turning away from the world for extended periods of time. In order to acquire skill in a domain, this “introversion” must be enacted for hours every day, over a period of years. Some estimate that roughly a decade is required to rise from novice to attain practical mastery.

Psychojargon regards this intensive introversion as a “loss of vital contact will reality”. Expert armchair psychoanalysts (like your parents, perhaps) may mis-diagnose an artist’s mentality as a form of psychosis or dissociative disorder.

Many, perhaps most, creatively successful and prolific people have learned to turn inward. This is often due to some involuntary form of isolation from the outside world in their youth or young adulthood.

“Normal” people find other, more ordinary external stimuli: aimless socializing in desperate need of others’ love and approval; materialistic greed for status objects and money; and normal human obsession for sex and reproduction. Creative people somehow re-route that time and energy into artistic and/or scientific pursuits.

In other words, all successful artists, scientists and engineers are at heart, a bunch of hardcore geeks and nerds.

Social Butterflies and Inner Demons

Collaboration is often essential, yet a supremely well-socialized person will be inevitably be constrained by the collective opinions of those in his or her peer group. It’s harder to be creative when you’re balancing other people’s expectations against your own creative impulses. Creative isolation provides oxygen for the spark of an idea to ignite within a well-prepared mind.

The average person recoils at the prospect of being alone with their own thoughts, in no small part because their own minds are foreign resonance chambers of unfounded fears and imaginary enemies. A creative person, however, can choose not to be self-destructive — the abuse of drugs or other people, for example — in favor of accepting all of those “voices in my head” (although if the voices feel as though they are not yours, please seek professional help). Acceptance frees the mind from self-censorship and internal persecution regarding any strange or unexpected thought. This is a separate skillset that I may tell you more about later.

The Perfect Passion Project

The process of rising to a level of creativity where others care about your work may, paradoxically, require you to stop caring so much about what others think of your work.

Re-route the passion for approval, money and sex into the creation of a world that must first become more than real in your own mind.

A science fiction filmmaker doesn’t stare wishfully at the moon or sit on the couch getting high and drunk with friends while watching movies. The filmmaker spends years working on the skills (perhaps using the “Inverse 80/20 rule” above) to make real his or her own vision of Moon, Mars, Pluto and beyond.

A writer doesn’t fret about not having the “right” friends or sit on dating sites wishing for Prince or Princess Charming to magically appear. The writer learns to build fascinating character relationships and construct story worlds so compelling that the reader will never want to leave.

A visual artist or illustrator doesn’t fall into the typical consumer’s traps. Consumerist traps include trying to find mass-produced beauty in fashion magazines and engaging in the endless fool’s errand of shopping in boutique stores. The artist learns to take even simple objects and discover the perfection of what can be seen within them. This requires a re-wiring of the mind from demanding perfection outside, to creating perfection inside and learning to express it in visual form.

“Perfection” here can be the perfect tension of asymmetry or a marvel of the immaculately grotesque. The work itself does not attempt perfection. Perfectionism is perhaps the only truly debilitating illness to afflict creative people. Perfection here is the embodiment of the question: “how close is this work to the vision that compelled me to create it?” and that is the essence of a lifelong pursuit. Perfection is infinite, in that it always lies one step down the path; at the next step and then the next. This is a life in art. If that is madness, why would anyone settle for the consensual hallucination of creativity-deprived “sanity”?

Further Reading:

1. Bipolar Disorder and Creativity. Written by Neel Burton for Psychology Today.
2. Do Creativity And Schizophrenia Share A Small Genetic Link? Maybe. Written by Angus Chen for NPR.
3. Secrets of the Creative Brain. Written by Nancy C. Andreasen for The Atlantic.

A question that has proved vexatious over the past few years: is it better to do as you please in life, or sacrifice yourself to help others?

Equally relevant is the side question, “does art really matter at all?”

Answers: The dichotomy in the first question — selfishness versus selflessness — is false, and art may be the only road to creating a scientifically-literate society.

There are more enough self-help gurus in the world today. Many ventures of dubious value tend to adopt the glossy show-business angle of selling a “new you”, from entreprenuerial religious figures to celebrities shilling for the pharmaceutical industry.

Everyone wants to change the world in some way, usually starting with you.

If there are so many “success” gurus and self-declared “experts” giving inspirational TED talks about your awesome brain, how is it possible that we’re not all gorgeous happy millionaires by now? Shouldn’t the privileged one-percent have edged at least somewhat closer to being the “self-made hundred percent”?

One answer is that the game is rigged to keep almost everyone at the bottom. This is obviously part of the problem.

The other part is that humans refuse to learn.

If you want to have an impact in the world, you have to effect change in the behavior of others. The fabeled “neuroplasticity” touted ad infinitum by the TED talkers is essentially fancy jargon for a very old and pragmatic word: that word is “learning”.

And learning, especially learning anything worthwhile, is hard.

It’s no surprise, then, that you can practically hear the doors of young minds closing somewhere in the early-to-middle teen years. Schools are partly to blame, as anyone who has been to school in the current system knows. The other problem is a social one, or perhaps more accurately, a psychosocial one.

Think back to when you were in your mid-teens. What was happening around that time? People around you were starting to have (lots of) sex, everyone seemed to be in a rush to create an identity and become part of some clique or other, and suddenly you realized that you were old enough to start making money. Money meant that you could get more of the things that led to sex with desirable partners. Money also could enable buying objects that could help you “fit in” better — clothes, a car, gadgets and pocket money for “cool” things like drugs and partying.

The new sexual compulsions and socially-facilitated greed eventually forms a belief system that congeals later into a nearly cultish consumerist mentality. Get rich, get laid, and get more-better-newer stuff than your peers: this is the new value system that replaces the curiosities and desires of an otherwise intelligent and inquisitive child.

By the time the average kid leaves high school, the pattern is set. Sex, greed, and the obsession for egotistical social dominance become reframed as “being a grown-up”. The rat race is mistaken for what it means to live a “normal” life.

I used to vacillate between the idea of becoming a scientist or engineer, versus an inclination toward artistic pursuits. Who made a stronger contribution to society: Einstein or Mozart? Amelia Earhart or Britney Spears (I mean, Christina Aguilera)? Alexander Graham Bell or Sidney Poitier and Jay-Z?

Again, the dichotomy is false, because the constraints arbitrarily focus on the wrong set of options.

The predominant myth of modern society is the “self-made” person. It’s a variant of the “rags to riches” story that leads poor people to dream about being filthy (as in, wealthy) in the most short-sighted and cutthroat ways. The only way to be “exceptional” is to be better than everyone else — or to steal their share in a zero-sum game. And there can only be a very small percentage gloating at the top of any given population.

Accordingly, we have fairly boilerplate mythologies spun around people like Einstein, Bill Gates, and Steve Jobs. The same is true for cultural icons like millionaire actors, platinum-selling rockstars and mixtape-famous rappers. Have you ever stopped and listened to the strangely similar plot points in the hagiographies of your favorite cultural superheroes? We’ve had the equivalent of Photoshopped photos long before software nipped, tucked, deleted, fuzzed and pushed pixels into pleasantly implausible shapes. The “genius” illusion is one that has inspired confused adoration and misplaced idealism (eventually giving way to cynical disillusionment) in young people for generations.

So you _still_ want to change the world…

If you want to change the world, you first have to accept the fact that you most likely will not change the world. Denial of reality leads to the distortion or willful ignorance of empirical facts. If you become some kind of persuasive zealot or denialist manic attempting to fulfill a titanic vision, the likely outcome is its opposite. Hubris leads to the de-valuing of others, which leads to ruthlessness and corruption. Even religions that emphasise pacifist ideals like “turn the other cheek” can be misused by their adherents to justify murder and genocide. The idea of a “superman” reliably creates secular religions that rationalize the displacement and destruction of anyone who is different or raises a voice of dissent.

I realize now that mobilization of a population is far more powerful and important than any individual.

Rather that one “genius” Einstein, imagine an entire society of people who are scientifically literate. Instead of one brilliant Bill Gates, imagine a culture that valued rationality and sought practical solutions for a better life both at home and abroad.

There could be thousands of young Einsteins and Gateses who never learn to care about science and technology until it’s too late — instead, they waste their professional lives building high-tech toys, privacy-destroying “social networks” and schemes to con people into clicking on ads.

To change the world, young children are really the only ones who can be trusted to learn anything at all. Adults are almost invariably trapped in the so-called “grown-up” world of sexual obsession (prudes and perverts alike), tribalistic religiosity (from organized religion to mass consumerism) and twisted irrational thinking (from lionizing corporate greed to normalizing the “fat acceptance” movement).

The only real hope may be to use art — music, films, novels, video games and other storytelling media — inviting and seducing the audience to seek a different path. Replace the dysfunctional melodrama of narcissistic self-indulgence with the lifelong beauty of seeking truth in the real Universe.

Forget the idolatry of Einstein and the pseudo-prophetic proclamations by clever self-promoters like Elon Musk. To massively change the world, society can shift in relatively small ways. Waiting for a benevolent billionaire to hand us our future is undoubtedly the worst of all possible capitalist worlds. Trying to re-make the world in our image is not only futile, it’s a power fantasy that leads to immorality and murder.

What’s most amazing is that nearly no one seems to have tried this truly revolutionary idea: use art as a means of seducing society to become more rationally-minded and scientifically inclined rather than less.

What if you wanted to become the best in the world?

0. Throw away the idea of “analysis paralysis” and face your fear of being wrong.

You’ve heard the expression before. Especially in the corporate world, many people who loathe unnecessary meetings and red-tape regulations will react to any sign of hesitation with well-practiced disdain. “What you’re doing smells like analysis paralysis. Do something! Move! Faster, faster!”

Many people confuse the concept of procrastination with the notion of “analysis paralysis”. If you’re using the idea of “weighing all the options” as an excuse to avoid taking action, the problem is not that you’re thinking too much.

Thinking is never a bad thing.
Thinking about the wrong ideas can be a very bad thing.
Charging into a topic without thinking is almost equally as bad.

Don’t Wait, Don’t Rush

The real question is, “are you afraid of making mistakes or being wrong?”

If you’re afraid, then charging in won’t help because you’ll tend to use cynical “positive thinking” to ignore mistakes rather than learn from them. This will become a stumbling block, and then a fatal flaw on the path to learning. There are a million ways to make mistakes, and an infinity of excuses to hide behind.

Sitting on the fence and “analyzing” forever (i.e. procrastinating) is also not useful because it prevents the experiences and inevitable mistakes that will ultimately lead to skill.

In essence, this article is about learning to think better in order to do better. The first, critical point is to accept the fact that you’re going to make mistakes and dedicate yourself to improving one step at a time. Your goals will draw near with accelerating speed when you see mistakes as lessons to learn, not shameful evidence of inherent incompetence. To put it plainly, you’ll get better faster after you get over yourself. More about this farther down.

Onward.

1. Name your skill.

Pick an area and be specific. Do you want to be the best jazz musician, the best 3D graffiti artist, or the best maker of boutique designs for stylish artificial limbs?

Your area of expertise can be anything. Even better if you have some sense of aptitude, or general inclination in that area — and can find a niche that may not be the first one that comes to mind. Give yourself time to think, explore and try new options until you’re comfortable enough to know whether or not a particular field or domain is the right one for you.

2. Define A Worthwhile Goal.

Your chances of reaching a worthwhile goal are higher if you make the goal specific.

Do you really want to be the best in the world?

The less ego-driven you are, the better — “the best in the world” is both meaningless and empty.

– How would you know that you were “the best”? More likely, you’ll merely join a club of hypercompetitive narcissists who thrive on the idea of oneupmanship and short-sighted triumph over others.

– What if you became the best? You’d drop dead out of ecstasy at being a “Winner”, or realize that your goal was just egotistical obsession over other peoples’ opinions of your work?

The deepest values lead to the most meaningful goals.

Instead, define your goal in terms of your deepest values. Do you care about other people, or only yourself? One important aspect of real creativity is that creative work is inherently an act of communication. The more you can take the perspective of your audience and care about them in the ways that they care about themselves, the more likely you are to connect to their desires and values. You’ll be able to see the commonalities between what the audience wants, and what you already love to do.

By contrast, a selfish egotist is trapped gazing at his or her own reflection and can only haphazardly assume that the world will think that his or her work is “the best”. Bluster and bluffing can sometimes win in the short-term. Attuning your creative impulses to the desires of your audience will ensure that you never fall too far out of touch.

3. Reduce all distractions.

The impetus for this entry was the question, “how am I better than I was last year around this time?”

Actually, I ask myself this question all the time.

The answer is that I’ve done the reverse of the typical approach. Instead of trying to shoehorn more time into my life, I’ve reduced the amount of time wasted on non-useful activities. One obvious point that everyone strenuously overlooks: use television, movies and other passive media (including aimless web browsing) as treats to be enjoyed only on special occasions. They are mental junk food unless they directly contribute to your creative work; all forms of “junk” (physical, mental, emotional, financial and time-wise) are perfect opportunities to troubleshoot and “take out the trash”, as it were.

Instead of being a good consumerist herd animal and trying to “have it all”, be a smart creative person and learn to do more with less. Life is already too short; train yourself to always strive to do more in less time. Paradoxically, this is the opposite of “multitasking”. This means you may need to get better at doing nothing at all.

4. When you’re “doing nothing”, actually do nothing.

This operationalizes the previous point at its most extreme level.

The essence of distraction is an attempt to get away from something. You might have watched TV and movies to escape from yourself for a while. Drink and drugs often — but not always — have similar purposes, especially in a social context (alcohol is called a “social lubricant” for a reason; it distracts from social anxiety by dampening the stress response).

Creativity: escape or immersion?

Creativity is, in some ways, the perfect escape, in that you’re building a world that doesn’t exist in realty. Creativity is also the opposite of escape, in that you have to focus one-hundred percent of yourself and your energy in order to do your best work. This means that it’s all too easy to almost reach the zone of creativity — and get distracted because your mind wants to escape the necessary intensity of attentional absorption.

Question: How can you reach that intense “flow” state more often?
Answer: Allow yourself to be bored.

Trust that you’re never “doing nothing”. Your so-called “unconscious” mind is always working, even when you consciously draw a blank. While you sleep, you dream. And when you’re bored, your mind is wandering in ways that will lead to your next creative idea.

If you distract yourself with television, movies or other passive media (like most of social media), those quiet whispers of new thoughts are easily drowned out, much like junk food may give you the feeling of being full while leaving you malnourished.

Focus on your creative fascinations when your mind is ready to operate intensely, and be bored while waiting for the next idea.

4. Get better by operationalizing your goals.

This is the most important part of this set of principles.

Do you remember when you just started out? You probably defaulted to the old “I wanna be the best ever” idea.

Then you learned a little more and realized that being the best will take years. There are a lot of fanatically creative people (more likely: desperately insecure people) out there. Contrary to stereotypes, many artists and creatives are willing to work really, really hard, practically all the time.

That’s the ego trap at work.

How do you escape from becoming a slave to the things you love?

One way is to think more about how to get better.

If you want to draw or paint better, you could just draw and paint all the time. Immersion definitely has its value. Jump into the water if you want to learn how to swim.

Or you could ask, “if I wanted to paint on the level of Leonardo da Vinci, what are the most basic skills that I could use to reduce the mistakes I make with every new piece?” The human body, for example, isn’t just a thing of beauty. It’s an object of scientific study. Did you know that you can learn exactly where every bone, muscle, joint, wrinkle and shadow is supposed to be? This is a subject called anatomy. Without in-depth anatomical study, all you have is hours spent guessing. In a fraction of the time, anatomical knowledge can bring precision to every human figure that you draw or paint for the rest of your life.

If you want to learn a language, the same principles are at work. Do you want to learn slowly and painfully as you’re forced to do at school? Or do you want to become a fluent communicator with real people in that language, which involves a completely different combination of structure, rote learning and cultural immersion?

Think of other areas of life where these ideas might apply.

Recap

Remember that creativity is, at its core, about continually getting better at making things that communicate to other people in a valuable way.

Here’s a more concise version that also elaborates on the previous points. Quiz yourself by seeing if you detect the differences:

1. Start from your values.

Why do you want to make these things?
In what ways do your creative impulses communicate something valuable to others?

2. Move beyond egotistical goals.

Instead of racing to be “the best” like a starving rat in pursuit of cheese, create goals that can continue to grow with your skills — always anchored by the intrinsic values that you discovered in step 1. Your skills and goals will self-sustain, getting better and better at an accelerating pace.

Learn to cultivate the “audience mind” without pandering to what’s hot right now or becoming trapped in pop-culture trends and soon-to-be discarded “cool” cliches.

3. Instead of chasing distractions, embrace boredom.

Boredom leads to frustration. Frustration leads to expression. Be ready for your best ideas to tumble out when you least expected them to arrive. Be prepared by keeping your mind open. Being bored will quickly become the most fascinating part of your day, when you realize how hard your mind is working all the time. Give yourself room to work inside the nascent imagined reality that your creativity will soon bring forth in full form for the world outside to enjoy.

4. Operationalze your goals.

Get better at getting better by always looking to learn more about “the skill of skill”. The more you refine your approach, the fewer mistakes you’ll repeat. As you deepen your comprehension and fluency in the fundamentals (which may in themselves be different from what you first assumed), the more possibilities you’ll open in the long term. Be meticulous in refining your grasp of the basics and be creative in giving yourself restrictions in order to force your mind into new ways of seeing, thinking and constructing the questions that you ask about your subject. The answers will soon begin to surprise you in delightfully unexpected ways — and may be your best hope for delighting your audience every time, whoever they may be.

The film Bounty Killer was gory, splattery, occasionally beautiful rubbish [intentionally, I think]. The brilliant part is how it managed to get made at all.

Excerpted from an article written by director Henry Saine:

My advice when things are going slow getting your script made: start drawing.

The artwork doesn’t have to be great, it doesn’t even have to be artwork, just collage photos together of your vision, whether it’s a big grand epic or an intimate story between two people. The best way for investors to understand your vision and your passion is to give them some graphic representation of your tone, your emotional core — your story.

You can shoot a short, but better yet, just make a trailer. A trailer can sell the whole movie, not just a scene. Its all artwork and it will get people to read your script.

People love artwork.

The article details how BK caromed from one step to the next:

– a drunken idea between two friends

“Its brilliant. It’ll be about Enron ending the world.”

– an utterly rejected script

“…we couldn’t get anybody to read it, much less back a movie with the wacky premise.”

– a cartoon pitch rejected by Samuel L. Jackson

Jason, Colin and I came up with a highly energized pitch that involved lots of concept art. For our little dog-and-pony show, we even donned yellow ties that our criminals wore in the cartoon. Our highlight was sitting across from Samuel Jackson who was looking to do more animation after “Afro Samurai.” His reaction: “So let me get this straight, I just go around killing white people?”

“Whatever you want to do, Mr. Jackson, we’re just surprised to be sitting here.”

He passed.

Everybody passed.

– a short film and trailer, funded by Wal-Mart

“Walmart was connected though their investors, and to sell the comic book on their shelves it needed to be clean. Walmart was, if I were to embellish, helping fund our project about the evils of giant corporations.”

– a feature-length film starring Eve — I mean, Gary Busey.

But things started moving faster, and before I knew it, I was on set wiping chocolate ice cream off Gary Busey`s suit for a movie based on a comic book I hadn’t finished yet.

They say directing a movie is like painting in a hurricane. True. And doing it in 18 days is like being strapped to a runaway train flying off the rails through that hurricane. You just hold on and try to throw paint on the canvas.

– …and finally, a comic book:

“Over four sleepless days… I drew, inked and lettered a 90-page graphic novel.”

Ultimately:

The comic book was done, and now the movie, already based off a comic book, was now based off a comic book — with pictures.

You can shoot a short, but better yet, just make a trailer. A trailer can sell the whole movie, not just a scene. Its all artwork and it will get people to read your script.

People love artwork.

And on that note, I’ve got quite a bit of drawing to do. Perhaps you do, too.

These seven guidelines just might help you (and me) from languishing at a “survival job”. Do whatever it takes to keep your dreams, inspiration and creative energy from fading with time and the ceaseless onslaught of the nine-to-five daily grind. Don’t make the mistake of conflating financial poverty and artistic integrity.

1. If you love what you do, get good enough at it to get paid for it.

I hear the same excuses over and over from mediocre “amateurs” and
dilettantes who call themselves “artists”:

I don’t want money.
I do this because I love it.
I do it for myself and no one else.

Don’t fall into the “amateur trap”. If you truly love what you do, other people will love it, too. Art is interpersonal communication. If no one cares about what you do, what you’re doing is little more than artistic masturbation.

Masturbation is fine — and the real thing is better. Likewise, if you haven’t captured a person’s complete attention, assume that they’re not really paying any attention at all. If you’re going to spend the rest of your life doing what you love, you might as well get good enough that other people will find real value in it, too.

In a capitalist society, the exchange of value between strangers is expressed through payment for a product or service. If you continually work on improving your skill, it’s practically inevitable that at some point, other people who want your work will notice you’ve created something that goes beyond a casual hobby.

If you’re just a weekend hobbyist, that’s fine. Are you a writer who endlessly complains about “writer’s block” and never actually writes anything? “The empty page terrifies me”, the poseur says (hint: an empty page should thrill you, because you can already see your work living there). That’s cool. Are you a painter who only does it in between the moments when life inevitably “gets in the way”? Okay, fine. Recognize that until you sacrifice the time and effort to continually improve, you’re a hobbyist, not an artist. The difference is a simple question of your methods, time, and effort.

All true artists are amateurs, in that all artists must love what they do. And if you truly love it, others will, too. When you find others who value your work, it’s only natural in our society that you can expect to be paid for your labor.

Anyone who says otherwise is probably justifying their desire to steal from you, guilt-free. Never open the door for those whom you know are thieves.

2. Don’t rely solely on live performance. Create a product that you can sell.

This one is more universal than you might think. A theatre actor performs live. So does a teacher, comedian or public speaker. So does anyone who offers an ephemeral, one-time experience that disappears after it’s done. Think of other professions and activities that fit this description.

Either you repeat your performance a thousand times for a thousand dollars, or you can create it once and sell the performance a thousand times.

This one has a deceptively hidden element that is it’s real importance. That element is time.

Money less important than time. You can never buy more time; you can always make more money. A thousand hours spent is a thousand hours you’ll never get back. Time is not money. Time is life.

Read the previous paragraph as many times as it takes to start valuing your time more than you value a quick-and-easy paycheck.

3. Learn how to market your product. Study marketing until you can sell anything that you might want to create.

Self-explanatory. Marketing is probably the opposite of what you believe it is, mainly for two reasons: first, we’re immersed in marketing all the time, so we often don’t notice it. Second: we’re taught that anything we do notice as “marketing” is automatically evil.

This leads people to think that television (which is an advertising medium interspersed with programming to distract you) doesn’t influence you. Obviously it does, which is why large corporations advertise so heavily on TV — and pay a high premium for prime-time when most people are watching.

On the other hand, an artist on the Internet who tries to sell his or her work is considered a threat to the “freedom of Information” or some other nonsense.

Notice how this serves large corporations while screwing everyone else.

Your most important skill will never be your work, or how incredibly smart you are, or how you’ve become “so good that you’re impossible to ignore”.

– A mediocre product with outstanding marketing will still sell.
– A good product with average marketing will not sell much better.
– A great product with abysmal marketing will tend to sell poorly.
– A brilliant product with no marketing will never even be known.

Study marketing until you can sell your best work at the price that you want to be paid. Until you can command that price, keep learning more about marketing, and be prepared to make the necessary adjustments.

4. Don’t give valuable work away for free, unless you have a means of making back the value that you’re losing.

The Internet is a great place for artists to go to die (unless your name is Taylor Swift, apparently). If you’re not Ms. Swift, the point applies to you.

There is no such thing as “free”. Again, large corporations are making money from the Internet through advertising and by selling users’ personal information. As security expert Bruce Schneier succinctly summarized recently, “surviellance the business model of the Internet.”

If you’re not making a profit from spying on anyone (and hopefully you’re not), be careful about what you give away “for free”. Free is bleeding you in exchange for every Retweet, Like and Follow. If you’re spending hours of your life and receiving only empty Internet Fame in return, realize that your ego and narcissistic need for artistic validation is making someone else rich while you go broke.

For every item you give away, place a price tag on that item and find a way to make up the loss. Otherwise, you’d just as well take money out of your own pocket and flush it down the drain.

Don’t fall for the fallacy of free when your valuable work is at stake.

5. Don’t trust what people “would” buy from you. Only trust the number in your bank account after the sale has been made.

Humans are notoriously poor predictors of their own future actions, particularly when some form of sacrifice is involved. Don’t be glad-handed by friendly Internet advice-givers who tell you, “I would definitely buy that!”, or worse, “if you make it a little better or more ‘professional’, I’d be your first customer in a heartbeat!””

“I’d buy that, if…” is the same pleasant kind of lies that your friends tell you about your odd haircut, tight new jeans or fashion-fetish shoes. They say nice things because they like you, or they want to sound “positive”, or because words are free whereas opening your wallet is not.

Ignore praise if your goal is to be paid for your work. Listen to the opinions of people who are already paying you; everyone else’s opinion is just background chatter unless they are either a mentor or a competitor.

Payment comes before praise.

6. Make it a top priority to get the person’s contact information and obtain their permission to be notified for future updates/releases/news/etc.

Once a person buys from you, make sure to get their information so that you can send them more items that they’ll be interested in receiving from you. Better yet, your first payment option should be enrollment in a recurring subscription so that they don’t have to keep deciding to pay you. (Also offer a single-item payment option.)

And for people who whine about subscribing, realize that they would have been the kind of client that you probably would have had to fire, anyway. Always be willing to fire a client who’s a pain in the ass. They will do nothing but waste your time — time you could have spent doing more for your better clients and finding new ones who will stay with you over the long term.

Find more “yes’es” and ignore the “no’s”. “Maybe” means “no”. Never try to convince a “maybe”.

7. Don’t rely on word-of-mouth, “going viral”, your friends telling their friends, or the hope that your existing sales will continue that way for ever.

This the “if you build it, they will come” fantasy that dooms many creative people to a lifetime of confusion and unnecessary obscurity.

Always find new fans who can replace the old ones when they are inevitably distracted by the next new shiny moving object.

“If you build it, they will come” is a pervasive myth among non-entrepreneurs and people who know nothing about the harsh realities of getting and finding clients.

“I’ll just create this awesome product, find some fans, and then they’ll spread the word for me!”

If only real life were that easy.

Think of everything you sell as being part of pop culture: most people will eventually be lured away by the next pretty thing that captures a moment’s attention. Unless you’re selling something that literally means the difference between life and death, your client list will fluctuate by a natural law of continual attrition. Plan for this and make sure that you’re always finding new fans to replace the ones who will fall away. Be pleasantly surprised when they come back, rather than desperate to keep them hanging around. Your independence will free you to take new artistic directions without fear of displeasing people who liked your old work, and give you an air of ease that will paradoxically attract those who may not have stuck around if you were keen on keeping them from leaving.

Expect no more than fifteen percent of your business to come from unsolicited recommendations given by existing clients and fans. The other eighty-five percent is the result of your planning and continual discovery of new people who are willing to pay for your best work.

All artists are eternal amateurs. Love what you do, and make sure that every new work is your best one yet. As long as you relentlessly improve, one day your work will be worth more than anyone could possibly pay. In fact, from the first moment that you realize this, it already is true and always will be.

Now all you have to do is make sure that you get paid. That’s what this journal entry is for; re-read it and seek out the resources you need in order to make these seven steps into your reality. These are my notes to myself, by the way, gathered from three years of study. Hopefully you can gain (and profit) from them, too.

If you consider yourself an artist of some kind — writer, actor, director, illustrator, painter, musician, &etc. — there are two major roadblocks that you’ll have to overcome every day.

Those roadblocks are the “Manyana Contingency” and the “Army of Nope.” Both of these blocks are facilitated in sometimes-unexpected ways by the Internet, and if the Web is part of your daily life, you’ll have to combat these issues every single day. The first step is to learn to recognize them.

– Read more about The Manyana Contingency (click here)

– Read more about The Army of Nope (click here)

Why not let everyone lie to themselves about why they never actually do anything creative? No harm in a little self-deception, right? Let the sheep be sheep!

Well, here’s the problem: many non-creative people are crabs in sheeps’ clothing; if they’re not haters or trolls, they’re well-meaning “worker bee” types who give deadly bad advice. Our own minds can pull us back down “into the crabs’ barrel” unless we remind ourselves to stay aware and renew our focus every single day.

Rather than make this journal entry longer with examples, I’ll leave it to you to think about who the crabs are in your life. Recognize that if you want to become successful as a creative person (or anywhere else in life, really), you’ll have to elude the crabs at every turn — even your Inner Crab who will make excuses like, “my favorite artists were just gifted geniuses. I could never do that.” That’s a lie, plain and simple.

If you have the basic aptitude to do something well, then do it. Even a tone-deaf person can learn to sing; people with thick fingers can learn the piano. You may have to create your own way of doing it, but that’s precisely what the world needs. This isn’t “positive thinking” nonsense, either — problem-solving is half of the creative puzzle. If you overcome hurdles at the start, you’ll have an edge over those who didn’t have those hurdles, because you started out doing things differently. And being different is what makes creativity matter. That difference is the only thing that distinguishes between a worker bee and a Queen (ugh, did I just write that?). Remove the egotism from the “Queen” idea and you’ll see what I mean.

It will be crucial to learn to spot the Manyana Contingency and elude the Army of Nope if you want to succeed as a creative person. Once you know how to see those creativity-killers — the excuse-makers, bad advice-givers, haters and trolls — you can design strategies to effectively deal with them. This will help prevent them from stealing time away from the things that you love to do.

Time is life and focus is key. Hopefully I’ll be able to make time to write down a few of my own strategies soon. Until then, spend a few minutes every day to create and refine your own “Creativity Defense System”. Second only to honing and demonstrating your artistic craft, the skill of defending yourself against distraction (sometimes by embracing and redirecting it rather than fighting head-on) may be the most important ability that you’ll ever learn. Get that right, and the rest will be as easy as finding four-leafed clovers in a field on a sunny summer day. Actually, it won’t. Art is hard work. And isn’t it better to love what you do?

There’s a great video online of a bearded dragon marauding a field full of innocent crickets. The video has subtitles that give voice to the thoughts of both the dragon and the crickets. The dragon is thinking, “Food!”, while the crickets are thinking, “Ruun! Run for your lives!”

At one point, the bearded dragon ignores a cricket, who runs away. The cricket appears to escape by running under the dragon’s tail in a daring maneuver in which it “bypasses doom”. As the dragon turns around and sees the cricket, the text onscreen shows “NOPE” as the cricket is speedily devoured.

That reminds me of the way that creative people are treated in the larger world of passive observers.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that only “The Man” — meaning the stereotypical powers of oppression like the government, your teachers or your boss — will try to keep you down. The fact is that society itself is defined by, and operates fundamentally by, keeping people in particular places. If you’re not born in a privileged environment full of useful influences and mentors, society will put you in the “worker bee” slot and tell you the standard mantra of “work hard, get ahead, live happily ever after.”

We all know that mantra is a lie.

Most people work hard for every dollar. This means that for every dollar, they sacrifice their time. Dollars are literally expendable; you can never make more time. So exchanging dollars for time will always leave you behind unless you’re doing what you love.

Capitalism is designed around paying as little as possible while getting as much as you can (i.e. everybody wants the best possible deal). People consistently fall for the idea of “free” (although nothing in life is free) so they put up with advertising online that steals their privacy and profits from selling their identities. And unless you work for yourself, your boss is almost certainly underpaying you. It’s just how capitalism is designed. Other socioeconomic systems are usually even worse because they ignore this fact, and so greed rears its head anyway under the name “corruption” or “graft”.

This is the life of the worker bee. I’ve also written more about this elsewhere, so we can leave it at that for now.

Is your boss oppressing you? Maybe. Think, though, about what you can see online every day. The presence of “haters” and “trolls” has come to define the Web, largely by exploiting the ideals of privacy (i.e. anonymity) and effortless communication (i.e. places like 4Chan and Reddit). You see haters constantly antagonizing celebrities for no real reason (see: Zelda Williams being driven off Twitter after her famous father committed suicide).

Think also about offline forms of trolling, like hecklers at a stand-up comedian’s show, or those who try to distract actors and musicians who are performing onstage.

These are all signs that point to one fact: people at the bottom are just likely to oppress creativity as those at the top. An old metaphor for this is the “crabs in a barrel” idea where crabs at the bottom will grab and pull down any individual crab who tries to claw out of the container, rather than help each other reach the top.

Why do people do this? One reason is related to the narcissism that propels social networking. Everyone wants to be (and is told that they are) “special”. We love the idea; it’s why we worship anyone who is successful — as long as that person “humanizes” him- or herself by pretending that “it all just happened” rather than being a combination of hard work and luck. If it “just happened”, it could happen to you, too.

Obviously that’s not how the real world works, and we’re constantly reminded of it. If you have ever studied any creative domain (take the cello or violin as an example), you know that it takes years to start to get good. Most people, though, desperately want it to be as easy as a video game where you can learn and be a virtuoso in a matter of hours.

When the non-creative person realizes that “hey, this ‘art’ stuff is hard!”, they fall into another trap: they elevate artists to the level of “the gifted ones” who have some innate “talent” that is inborn and therefore unlearnable. Notice the terminology: An actor, writer or musician isn’t considered to be “skilled”, he or she is “talented”. It’s really just an easy way for most people to rationalize their lack of desire to put in the time and effort required to learn; even a genius has to put in years of study before being able to operate at an elite level. The rest of us can’t rely on prodigious raw ability, so we have to find a different way. Whining about how everyone else is “gifted” is a sure sign of someone who isn’t doing their part. And that’s fine — just be sure that person isn’t you.

This one is simple. The clinical name is “procrastination”. We all know it. Calling it the “Manyana Contingency” is catchy because the word “Manyana” means “tomorrow” in Spanish (and is actually spelled “MaƱana” with the little squiggle — called a ’tilde’ — above the first ‘n’).

On the Internet, there are literally millions of distractions that can enrapture us 24/7/365. Social networking and porn are probably the two most primally attractive to the average person. Why? Because social networking is essentially narcissism (“here’s a status post about me and my awesome/boring life!”) with a justifiable techy twist (“these sites help me keep in touch with my friends and loved ones who I’d lose touch with otherwise”).

Consider losing touch with some people whom you couldn’t be bothered to call, email or actually see in real life. The farther you are from physically touching someone, the farther you probably are from being important to them in the real world. There are exceptions, but think about your endless list of “friends” who “like” you online and are constantly pinging you to chat or sending links to cutesy, distracting, time-wasting websites. You can always get new Internet friends [or distant real-life acquaintances on your favorite social network], but time never comes back once it’s gone.

Consider spending more time with those who matter and no time at all with those who don’t. It’s less deceptive than “keeping up appearances” with a huge social network, and it can feel better to know that the people around you actually do care about your well-being rather than merely using you for “likes” the same way that you’re using them. There is strength in weak ties; carefully consider how those weak ties may be silently binding you and choose them wisely.

And porn is porn. Sex is on all of our minds all the time because if it wasn’t, we’d forget or get distracted [probably distracted by the drive to socialize] and then our species would end because there would be no more babies. There’s a lot more to say on how chasing your favorite gender (online or offline) can derail your creativity, but suffice to say here that if it’s a decision between picking up your instrument (whether it’s a pen, a cello or a paintbrush) and picking up sexy boys and girls whom you fancy, always choose the instrument first. Once you get good at what you do, sexy people will find you. Until then, chasing tail is mostly a (pleasant) waste of time, also for various reasons that I expand on elsewhere.

The Internet was designed as a robust communication network — not as a commercial medium. “Data” can be anything passed between two computers. It just so happens that music, books and movies can be digitally encoded as “data”.

Since the Internet is merely a network (not a market), and can transport any data via its networking protocols, is the Internet also cannibalizing all forms of data, including music, books and movies?

All future generations will potentially be able to download any accessible data for the price of an Internet connection.

Life is short. The creation of anything valuable requires time-intensive work. This effectively shortens your lifespan by the number of hours it takes to finish a project.

Many children now learn to use file-sharing apps and networks before they learn the scarcity and value of time. Time, energy and effort are never free, but many people who are not “creative” seem not to recognize the potential value of time unless it has an hourly wage attached. If they did recognize time’s value, how would anyone seriously claim that someone else’s creative work could be free?

Given the scarcity and value of time, the mantra that “information is free” is immediately shown as false. Massive corporations can afford to use major marketing and PR to their advantage; hence, they will survive and get bigger. Individuals and independent artists/scientists who are working after-hours from their garage simply cannot compete with companies that can pay to have their upcoming products spammed across millions of screens, billboards, radio channels, and Internet advertising platforms (including paid ads on social networks).

More importantly, the farther a company’s reach, in terms of marketing, the smaller percentage they have to earn in order to turn a profit.

Imagine that you can realistically hope for 5% of people to buy your work after they hear about it.

At $7 per copy, an indie film made for $100,000 would need 14,285 viewers to recoup their budget. You would have to reach approximately 285,700 people in order to break even if 5% of them paid for your film. To make a $100,000 profit would require over half a million people to know about your film. And that’s only if you could reliably identify a target group of people who might plausibly be interested in your particular work; otherwise, you might not even get 5% to care.

Even in the age of the Internet, a half-million is a lot of people. And the $100,000 covers only the production costs — not the years spent crafting the concept, bringing together a group of skilled people, and then managing the project.

Enter the Internet. You’ve sunk years of effort and $100,000 of funds into the film. Within days, someone buys your film, rips it, and posts it online. People who would otherwise have paid for it can now download for free because they’ve convinced themselves that accessibility is equal to morality. People who wouldn’t have needed a “moral” stance before doing the right thing (i.e. paying for a creative work) can now say that “information wants to be free” and thereby ignore the human cost entirely.

This is like a clerk leaving a jewelry store unattended, and as people crowd in to clean off the shelves, they get caught — then complain that “diamonds want to be free” or “I own the diamonds because this ring weighs practically nothing” or “this diamond ring sucks. I wouldn’t have bought it anyway, so now that I have it, I should be allowed to keep it”, or “it’s not fair. The jeweler didn’t make all these diamonds. He didn’t dig them from the Earth or cut and polish them. He’s trying to make a profit by selling them for more than he bought them. Diamonds want to be free. So beyond an arbitrary amount, he shouldn’t be able to make any more money from them. He should give them away for free to anyone who wants them.”

Making copies of data is “free”. Creating information — the meaningful shape of data that gives you science, films, music and songs — is never free.

A major studio can afford to buy exposure to millions of people and absorb massive losses in revenue in order to get five (or six, or ten) percent of potential customers to buy. So even in the Internet era, big players can make a tidy profit on blockbusters and superstars. And then the big players aim for the lowest common denominator in creating mediocre “safe bets” like yet another Transformers movie or another string of comic-book franchises rather than anything more risky or artistically viable than “Guardians of the Galaxy”.

Meanwhile, indie artists and scientists don’t have the luxury of such a wide loss-margin. The trick is in the percentages: five percent of everyone who looks at a screen that you can reach — that’s a far bigger pie if you can reach most of the screens. It’s practically nothing if all you’ve got is e-begging on Kickstarter and panhandling for “Likes” on Facebook.

Not every work is amenable to the “value add” that many are desperately trying to use to entice people to buy. “Buy my new album and you’ll also get to have a drink with me, only if you pledge [x] amount” is a ludicrous way to try to substitute for lost revenues over the span of a career. These are all strange ways to compensating for the fact that your fans are simply stealing from you, and refuse to even acknowledge it unless you sell them an “experience” that’s not so easy to download.

And that’s why I don’t get the idea that the Internet “should” make everything free, as if this were some kind of “natural” evolution. There’s nothing “natural” about telling people that** they shouldn’t be able to earn a living because their work can be made into a stream of data, and data “wants to be free”.

** …unless they work for a massive corporation that can carpet-bomb the planet with a marketing blitz, that is…

Life is short and nothing is free, unless you steal it. The definition of stealing is that someone suffers while another person gains from that person’s misfortune. The World Wide Web is over fifteen years old now. The lack of alternatives means that access to art and science is now, more than ever, the exclusive domain of large corporations that can thereby exert even more control over what is and isn’t produced, promoted and sold.

This is the larger issue that very few people seem to even see, much less care about.

It’s also hardly the outcome that anyone could tout as a benefit from stealing someone else’s work under the banner of “freedom”, but that’s exactly what’s happening. The problem isn’t only that information is “free” — the problem is that it still isn’t free (and never was, and never will be). Artists lose a livelihood, scientists lose funding, and corporations make a killing based on the greed of the average person’s desire to get something for nothing, while being conned into using fake moral arguments that also make them accomplices in the crime.

Sounds like business as usual? It may be. Only now thievery is instant, worldwide, and even has a convenient pseudo-moral ideology to rationalize it away, rather than inspire people to work toward a better approach that would give artists and scientists a way to make a living. You may say “screw the corporations” or not, but at the very least, don’t screw the little guy. Or maybe at the very, very least, don’t give him the short end while pretending to do the world a favor.