, , , ,

How is it done ?

Here are five fundamental rules for creativity. There are many more of course, but all five of these are absolute essentials for anyone who wants to work as a creative.


“ Genius is an infinite capacity for taking pains” Thomas Carlyle

When the Scottish philosopher made the comment above he was saying that great artists and thinkers will always go to an enormous amount of effort to make their work as good as it can be. He was suggesting that being a genius isn’t something you are born with… it is something you achieve by just putting the hours in. It would be a pleasure to have all the time in the world but the pressure of a deadline can be good too. Nevertheless… to produce good work you need two things: a) the craft – the skills and techniques built up over years of practise and b)the ability to put meaning into your work… the emotional skills so to speak. In order to do this effectively you should be prepared to play the long game… if you accept it will take time to achieve, then you can relax and enjoy a long and fruitful creative journey throughout your life.


The creation of a believable body of art (a film, book, album etc) involves an inverse pyramid of research, text and imagery. You always start off with far more information and imagery than you need. For example, there is far more research, notes and drawings left out of my books than actually end up in them. This is a natural process of refining and defining your ideas… you need to put a lot of material into your reservoir. So you must immerse yourself in the things you love – devote your time to the places, people, objects and ideas that you are attracted to… all these things serve to fill your reservoir and blend together within you to create a mixture of themes that becomes your own unique artistic identity. Dont ever flinch from feeding your mind and indulging your curiosity…


You can fall in love with a place. You can fall in love with every tiny detail of it. Every leaf, every flower, the scents the sights, the smells.  Let your heart lead you to the places that you love. Then, whenever you turn a page, you will find yourself returning to that place in your mind; you will remember the slant of sunlight on the grass, you will remember the shape of a flower or leaf. The love you have for a place or memory will inform your art  and you will return to that special place in your heart again and again throughout your artistic career. That special moment in your life will become one of your themes.

The same can be said for people; the ones you love will haunt your work forever and you will always be trying to capture their hair, their smile. They will mark you for life and you will return to them again and again. It doesn’t matter what happens in the real world – they will always re-appear in your work and their presence in your life will help define your look and style as an artist.

You can’t put something of yourself into every single drawing or story you create but its good to always try and put something emotional into your work. If your work has personal aspect  to it then it will have more depth and there will be a good chance that the emotional charge of the work will transfer to the viewer or reader. It is this emotional involvement that will give a work meaning and, hopefully, it will stand out from work that is sterile and soulless.


Don’t ever use other work within your chosen genre as a reference point – use it for inspiration but you have thousands of years of art and history to find details and ideas. Don’t get stuck on the latest Hollywood film or the latest musical style.

One of the hardest things with carrying out research is knowing where to begin, so you can start by writing a list of your own personal ‘lodestones’ – these are the things that you are passionate about… and it should be anything that evokes a strong feeling in you (anything from love, to anger, to curiosity). You can then use these keywords on the internet or at your local library to begin the endless journey of finding new ideas, imagery, music and amazing visual examples of everything you need to inspire you. By treating research as a journey (rather than a structured task) you will find yourself hitting strange places and learning things you may never have considered in reference to your work before – By remaining open minded you will discover a wealth of details that you could never get from looking at mainstream films, books, paintings, graphic novels or listening to music in your chosen genre –  and this will help you bring new ideas and skills into your work which will help you in your career as you build up your own reference library of influences.


One thought struck me hard during the production of my second book: You have to draw every day. Fact. (Obviously you need to replace the word ‘draw’ here if you are a musician, writer, actor etc)

I was producing artworks here and there in between other jobs… and they were ok… but the whole process wasn’t really clicking for me. Then I got a month of free space and worked on the book all day every day. But in the first ten days that I sat down to do this I produced a lot of bad work. There were a few good ones here and there but for ten long, lonely days I was just not in my rythym. Then, on the eleventh day I hit my stride, I was ‘in the zone’ so to speak and in one weekend I churned out 90 drawings, all of which were pretty good (well, I was satisfied with them anyway). The point here is that you have to be prepared to produce a few bad drawings every single day in order to be able to produce a good one every now and again. This thought should give you some comfort when you are, indeed, producing nothing but a load of rubbish. Don’t let those bad drawings and those bad ideas get you down. You have to churn out some dross to get to the good stuff.

 EXCERCISE: See above 🙂