Not very long ago, Neil Gaiman gave a beautiful speech which boiled down to one thing: Make Good Art.
Well, Adam Savage just gave another wonderful, and really short speech at Maker Fair on the ten commandments of making, and they are great commandments. Not only for making physical items, as they do a Maker Fair, but for making anything that takes imagination and creativity. Art, books, paintings, music… anything.
I’ll give you the list, along with my thoughts on each, but you should also go listen to his speech and what he has to say.
Here is the short version of the commandments according to Adam, with my commentary.
1. Make something
Anything. But I will add something to what Adam said, and that is ‘don’t stick to one kind of making.’ If you’re a writer then dabble in photography. If you are a painter try your hand at sculpting. Mix it up, learn something new, because when you go back to your usual making then you will have a fresh perspective to work with.
2. Make something useful
I love his description of making a pull knob and using it every day, watching the patina and wear from your own hands making it something more. He’s right. Making something you can use will encourage you to make more.
But what do you make when you’re a writer, or a painter that you can use all the time? This goes back to the first point and dabbling in new things. Print your poem and add it to a frame, decorate and put it on the wall. Or get a short story illustrated and hand it out. Or take your book covers and make them into posters that you see all the time. I love seeing, and touching and giving away my paperbacks. It’s wonderful.
3. Start right now
Get out your pen, and paper, and start NOW! Make a plan of attack. This is so important. So many people get bogged down in learning how to do the thing, and never get to doing the thing. Most people learn much more from DOING then they do from reading about or being told. Go. Do it!
4. Find a project
Ever notice that when you’re completing one project you often get ideas for another? While writing “Mermaid’s Curse” I came up with six or seven new ideas. Some were good, some not as good, but they all went into my story file for later.
My first novel was bad. It was so bad I am now glad it died in a computer crash. But while writing it I got a lot of new ideas. Some of which I’ve since published.
Finding that first project, even if it’s a TERRIBLE project, is important, because it will lead you to other projects.
5. Ask for help, advice, and feedback
No man is an island. We were all novices at one point or another. And looking up tutorials online only goes so far. Don’t be afraid to ask for some help. Someone might say no, but someone else is going to say yes.
Join a writers group, get beta readers, or find a critique group. Give things away, and make efforts to just share.
But also share what you know. Share you’re expertise. Help someone get that cover right. Offer your opinion (when they want it.) Share yourself, as well as your projects.
7.Recognize that discouragement and failure is part of the project
This May I had one book sale. My computer broke for a month, and now the mother board blew out. I’ve had so much discouragement, and had every excuse to just not write for a while. But I’m writing anyway, because failure is an option. Writing sucky things, or awful dialog is absolutely allowed. That’s what editing is for. But keep moving forward regardless.
8. Measure carefully
For writing there isn’t a lot of measuring. There is a word count, and keeping track of my word count has encouraged me to keep writing. And the word count also makes the difference between short story, novella, and novel.
But there is another way of looking at this “rule”. Measuring is about having the right fit. Does your work fit? Do you have the right tools? Do you have the right genre and feeling? Does it work?
This is all about the details, and making sure your details are all in the right order so that when you are done everything works out.
9. Make things for other people
If the only audience you have for your book or photo, or drawing is you, then does it matter? Well, yes, to you. But when you start putting your work out there, either by publishing or giving it away, and you start seeing what people really think of your work (good or bad) that gives you more opportunity for growth.
So now, go make something!
10. Use more cooling fluid
Cooling fluid doesn’t have to literally be cooling fluid. It can be a drink, or a walk through a park, or a nice long shower. Cooling fluid, in this case, is time to relax and sit back. Time to just have fun and enjoy life. Yes, enjoy making and creating, but take a moment to smell the roses too. Some time to live. And then use that cooling off period as more inspiration to write/paint/draw/and make.