The great thing about being a cartoonist, is that you don’t have to do it full time in order to create a decent body of work.
In other words, you can have a day job as well. You can have a life.
I did this for years. I had a day job in advertising, but I’d do my wee doodles either early in the morning or after work, often sitting in a bar or a cafe.
The same can be said for writing books. “Catch-22”, one of the greater books of the last hundred years, was written in Joseph Heller’s spare time. The book’s massive sales allowed him to retire and start writing full time, but he never would write anything nearly as good as “Catch” ever again. Perhaps the day job did him good.
Other art forms are more demanding, say, oil painting or film making. They tend to be all-consuming, at least they mostly are if your stuff is any good.
I wouldn’t touch either with a barge pole, unless you literally *have no choice*. But that’s not my call.
[More thoughts on The Ignored Series.]
DON’T SPEND TOO MUCH TIME WORRYING ABOUT THE HIGHLIGHT REEL.
We like to think that it’s our life’s highlights (our “highlight reel”, as it were) that make us happy.
That time we walked the red carpet. That time we stood in front of the Grand Canyon and took a selfie. That time we had dinner with the famous person. That time we gave a big talk at SXSW.
But it turns out it’s the little stuff we do daily that actually makes us happy long term.
That first cup of coffee in the morning. That bagel every Saturday morning on Lexington Avenue and 41st. That last whisky before bedtime. That half hour of reading before lights out. Sunday dinner after church. Tennis with Marcio after work on Tuesdays. Hanging out at the comic book shop with Phil. Walking around downtown taking photographs.
The highlight reel is all about what motivates you extrinsically. And the little stuff is about what motivates you intrinsically.
And “intrinsic” is where actually happiness- the kind that lasts- is found. Sure, you can build the “extrinsic” stuff into the mix as you go along, but to sacrifice the former just to have a wee bit more of the latter is a fool’s errand.
INTRODUCTION: AN OPEN LETTER TO THE IGNORED
I call you that because you’re like me, you see.
Your movie will never be bought by Hollywood. Washington will never elect you to the Senate. The New York Times will never review your book. Columbia will never offer you a record deal. Google will never buy your startup. You will never be a guest on The Tonight Show. Your paintings will never hang in the MoMA.
Like me, you will be permanently ignored by the big fish. You will never be a “Name”. You will be one of those people that the “Names” are completely oblivious to.
But that’s OK. By being “Ignored”, that means nobody is watching you. That means you can do what you want, with the people you want, making a difference on your own terms. By being “Ignored”, you are forced to discover your own “intrinsic” meaning behind your work, because the “Names” and their “”extrinsic” acolytes aren’t there to help you.
And with the Internet, all that is easier than ever. Just start. Today. Find your tribe online and give them a reason to be excited. Make it matter. Make it count. Like Seth Godin says, don’t wait to be picked, pick yourself.
Just don’t waste a second ever again, waiting for the phone to ring. The phone isn’t going to ring. This is our fate. We are The Ignored. We’re going to change the world on our terms, not theirs.
And “The Book of The Ignored” will show you how, or at least, help you get there a little faster.
Let me know how you get on,
Lots of Love,
FURTHER READING FROM “THE BOOK OF THE IGNORED”:
- DON’T SPEND TOO MUCH TIME WORRYING ABOUT THE HIGHLIGHT REEL.
- NEVER PLAY DICE WITH THE UNIVERSE.
- HOW TO BE A SELL-OUT.
- DO IT WITH REVERENCE.
- SPEND MORE TIME WITH THE LORD
- FIND THAT MOMENT OF TRUTH
- NOBODY KEEPS THEIR SOULD FOR FREE.
- “THIS IS WHAT I DO”
- IT’S NOT HOW MUCH, BUT HOW OFTEN.
- TIME IS ALWAYS THE ENEMY
- FAME IS OVERRATED.
- THE DAY I REALIZED I WAS IN THE WRONG BUSINESS
- AND PREPARE FOR DEATH.
- ART IS CAPITAL, NOT INCOME
- PLUS CA CHANGE, PLUS C’EST LA MEME CHOSE
In 2004, I wrote a blog post about how artists and creative types should hang on to their day job:
The post was titled, “The Sex & Cash Theory”:
THE SEX & CASH THEORY: “The creative person basically has two kinds of jobs: One is the sexy, creative kind. Second is the kind that pays the bills. Sometimes the task in hand covers both bases, but not often. This tense duality will always play center stage. It will never be transcended.”
The blog post ended up being read by literally millions of people (six million, the last time anyone counted); it ended up being a chapter in my 2009 bestseller, “Ignore Everybody”.
Looking back, it’s probably the passage in the book that people mention the most, when they send me fan mail. I guess it really hit a nerve.
Here’s the rest of it it. It’s thankfully not very long:
A good example is Phil, a NY photographer friend of mine. He does really wild stuff for the indie magazines- it pays nothing, but it allows him to build his portfolio. Then he’ll go off and shoot some catalogues for a while. Nothing too exciting, but it pays the bills.
Another example is somebody like Martin Amis. He writes “serious” novels, but he has to supplement his income by writing the occasional newspaper article for the London papers (novel royalties are bloody pathetic- even bestsellers like Amis aren’t immune).
Or actors. One year John Travolta will be in an ultra-hip flick like Pulp Fiction (“Sex”), the next he’ll be in some dumb spy thriller (“Cash”).
Or painters. You spend one month painting blue pictures because that’s the color the celebrity collectors are buying this season (“Cash”), you spend the next month painting red pictures because secretly you despise the color blue and love the color red (“Sex”).
Or geeks. You spend your weekdays writing code for a faceless corporation (“Cash”), then you spend your evening and weekends writing anarchic, weird computer games to amuse your techie friends with (“Sex”).
It’s balancing the need to make a good living while still maintaining one’s creative sovereignty. My M.O. is my cartooning (“Sex”), coupled with my day job (“Cash”).
I’m thinking about the young writer who has to wait tables to pay the bills, in spite of her writing appearing in all the cool and hip magazines…. who dreams of one day of not having her life divided so harshly.
Well, over time the ‘harshly’ bit might go away, but not the ‘divided’.
“This tense duality will always play center stage. It will never be transcended.”
As soon as you accept this, I mean really accept this, for some reason your career starts moving ahead faster. I don’t know why this happens. It’s the people who refuse to cleave their lives this way- who just want to start Day One by quitting their current crappy day job and moving straight on over to best-selling author… Well, they never make it.
Anyway, it’s called “The Sex & Cash Theory”. Keep it under your pillow.
Considering it’s almost 15 years old, the post hasn’t dated too badly. Martin Amis and John Travolta may have greyed a little, but the points made are still perfectly valid. The “tense duality” between art and commerce still remains and, like I said, it will never be transcended.
Looking back on three decades in the Creative game (Cartooning, fine art, advertising, film, TV, book authoring, marketing, publishing, corporate consulting… you name it, I’ve done it), it seems to me that managing The Sex & Cash Theory is the hardest part of the game.
The external stuff- making the work, finding collaborators, raising the production funds, learning how to market oneself, finding customers, learning about running the business- that’s all pretty easy in comparison.
Embracing The Sex & Cash Theory, managing the “tense duality” is the real killer…