11. Don't expect someone to save you from the big, bad world. Protectionism has never worked.  

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This is something I've been wanting to talk about for ages. Globalisation.

Okay, all of you are yawning now and it all seems a bit blah,blah, blah, yes?

But go over to somewhere like Etsy and on the forums there you'll find endless anger, confusion and accusations about competition. And underlying most of it is a fear of being undercut by foreigners. You know, those people who run sweatshops and produce crap.

The fact that Etsy has been all over the place about its Terms and Conditions - one day you have to be a "collective" (what IS a collective?) and the next no problem, you can have employees, dithery, dithery, do - has not helped. But the fundamental issue is much more basic and goes much deeper. People are just afraid, at heart, that they won't be able to compete. That the bag they make by hand on the domestic sewing machine they have set up in a back room in their own home will not be a match for the one coming from a factory in China or India. And you know what, they're often probably right. The Chinese one may well be sewn better, look more professional, use higher quality fabric, be more fashionable - and yes, be a whole lot cheaper.

So they demand that Etsy, for instance, protect them. That it throw out anyone who is not making "homemade". That anyone bigger should move on because they have outgrown the site. That any "resellers" should be hounded off and, if possible (er, how?) hit with huge fines. Okay, I agree that resellers - those who are trading mass-produced goods rather than making their own - are outside the current T&Cs of the site and should not be there. But the fear of anyone who is bigger than a single person? The pleas that it's impossible to compete with anyone who uses efficient production techniques to keep their costs down? The expectation that Etsy will somehow put up a protective barrier -and presumably keep the buyers inside it somehow. Where does all that come from? It's fear, and a desire to be protected.

Etsy has its own, fairly unique problems based on the whole confusion and lack of think-through of its claim to be "the place to buy and sell all things handmade". Doubtless now that the VCs have taken over (however nicely they put it), that will change in any case. But to broaden this, these attitudes shown on Etsy are just one manifestation of the deep desire that I think many of us have in the West to be protected from what's coming. We feel that if walls are put up - with us in a nice walled garden inside and all that nasty, unethical and unfamiliar competition kept outside in the barren wastes, then all will be well. So we desire walls - no, actually we demand them and we attack anyone who isn't keen on building and defending those walls. We seem really to believe that somehow we can keep back this tidal wave of change that's rushing towards us. And, because we're afraid, a lot of the fear comes out in the form of racism, resentment, unfair accusations and a self-righteous belief that, God damn it, we are entitled to use the developing world but to be saved from having it use us.

Well, this can't be done. Nor do I think it's ethical to ask for it.

Protectionism has never worked. If you want to see someone talk in very "big view" technology change and historical terms about the reason that globalisation is here to stay - and a good thing - then take a look at Carlota Perez's lecture to IBM (scroll about halfway down the page to the white area and "See video of lecture in IBM Leadership Forum, Rome 2006" ). Or there is a good PDF here if you'd rather read than watch.

Or if you want to read something smaller, less ambitious and maybe a bit more immediately practical for small studio businesses, then read my next post when I want to talk about why and how you can compete. Or at least not get knocked over by the wave. What's coming is change and we need to adapt. But handled well, it provides wonderful opportunities for an indie designer/maker - it's not a disaster to be feared.

9. Don't cling to your day job. Those shackles are holding you back, not keeping you safe.  

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Well. Alright. I suppose I have to admit here to being totally irresponsible because the usual, sound advice is always, DON'T give up your day job until you have everything in place. And that's right - you can do a lot of preparation and planning while still bringing in a regular salary - and then when you do make the leap into independence it will be easier. If you've planned well you'll also have a good amount of money in the bank to tide you over the first difficult months and you'll have cleared as much debt as you possible.

However... I just know so many people who put off that moment of going out on their own, taking the risk, pursuing the dream. And finally, they utter those fatal words, "You know, when I retire I think I will..." and you know they most likely won't. Because it will be too late.

Alex has a belief - blunt and maybe not all that ideologically sound - that there is such a thing as "too old and too late". And it creeps up on you.

When I was very into Transactional Analysis - I recommend it - I had to answer one of the classic TA questions, "What do you want to have written on your gravestone?" My answer was very obvious to me - "She was never boring." But I wonder if what I really meant to express was, "She rejected boredom."

Have a look at that poem (below) again. If you keep clinging to your boring, deadening job as though you are clinging to some flotsam in a shipwreck, what's going to happen? You won't go down with the ship, but on the other hand, you won't actually do much except cling.

Anyway, there is my piece of advice number 9 and I'm aware that it's not sensible and that, if followed, disaster could strike.

But... at least you would have tried. And I just have a hunch that following the dream is actually easier than it seems and more likely to be successful - once you let go of that seeming security (and it's usually illusory nowadays in any case) and begin to strike out on your own.

Okay, on that note I am off to eat some of the chocolates we've been photographing. In a salaried job no-one would ever decide that I had to photograph a large number of high-end, gorgeous chocolates, would they? So risk can bring its unexpected rewards.

8. Think. Even a little bit, but regularly.  

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Now, this one seems very obvious. But it's hard.

I'm serious.

It's actually hard work - and hard to motivate yourself sometimes - to step back and really think about how things are going - and where and how you want them to go. It's easier to just continue with what you're used to, especially as that's what anyone who has worked in a large company has been trained to do - to carry on, to of course discuss "innovation and creativity" but at the same time to understand that you mustn't actually do it. The message from most large companies is that beyond everything, for ****'s sake (and for the sake of your promotion), don't rock the boat. And thinking tends to rock boats rather a lot.

I used to work in the biggest telco research lab in the UK (actually probably in Europe) and each day to get into the main lab block, we had to walk under a large sign that read, "Research is the doorway to tomorrow." But the reality was that mostly the attitude there was conservative beyond belief and it would have been truer (and better advice for getting on in the organisational structure) if it had read, "Whatever you do, don't think." It was the dullest, silliest place you can imagine - with huge amounts of money being poured in the dullest silliest "research" it was possible to dream up - very little of which ever lead anywhere. Those who did think got out - quick.

In fact, one of the most interesting people I knew there was - quietly and on the side - using the powerful mainframes we then had in order to run his own business distributing gay erotica around the world. Nice guy (I was actually at uni with him) - and it was erotica, not porn, as he had some ethics. For all I know he is still there and still sitting calmly in the basement of that awful lab block successfully running his own thing. He was certainly someone who could think creatively - and see the funny side as well as the opportunities.

So - even if you are in a situation or job that's labelled "research" or "creative" or "academic" - there is no automatic guarantee that you'll be encouraged to think. You need to make yourself take some time to just draw back and ask some questions about what you're doing - and imagine some possibilities.

Right now, these are the things I'm thinking about:

  • What happens if the world economy really does implode? Is anyone going to be buying decorative design? Assuming yes, then who and where is our market?

  • How do we need to change? How do we make the work continually better value for money? Or do we focus more on making genuinely enjoyable bits of escapism - is that what people need now, some escape, some laughs and some comfort?

  • Assuming that there isn't going to be a meltdown (and the fact is, that even when times are hard, people still do buy nice things) do we want to be more in "New Age" shops or in design shops? Which way feels best for us? We feel as though we are at a cross-roads and we need to think carefully and decide which way we want to go now.

  • With all this worrying about the economy and turnover and whatnot, are we in danger of forgetting that this is all about doing the work WE want/need to do? How do we make space for the less commercial things that develop our own ideas? As Alex says, how do we make sure we don't lose ourselves?

And many more thoughts follow on from these. The trick is not to try to tackle all this in one day - if I did that my brain would probably give up and tell me to go and eat sushi - but to put some time aside once or twice a week and just sit and think. It's vital (in both senses) to notice what's going on in the world, and also closer to home in your own field/market. Be honest with yourself about the realities, and think about how to respond. All sorts of things will become clearer, and you'll also feel more in control.

7. Let some things go - that might include your own sense of your own identity.  

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Whenever you make a significant step - or even a great big jump - towards what you want to do next, you have to leave something behind. There just isn't time and energy for it all. Sometimes it even involves moving away from the way you identify yourself - or the way others identify you.

For many people, I suppose I am "that woman who does those tarot decks". But right now, we are thinking seriously about whether we will do any more decks, after the couple that are in the pipeline already. Oddly enough, we always intended, when we began, only to do ten in all, and somehow that still feels right.

You know, I actually want to do more of the Bohemian Cats work - but in a much weirder, wilder way. And that means really focusing on it for a while, finding where it needs to go next. I have a feeling that this means that in another few years I'll be, "that woman who used to do those tarot decks". In a way it makes me very sad. I love tarot, I enjoy all sorts of aspects of it, not least the people we've met through it.
But I want to get back to the Cats - and so does Alex.

6. Don't moan, don't blame  

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HAH! This is a hard one. I do moan, I do blame, it's true. I moan when I'm still at the computer at two in the morning because there's some snafu to sort out and it's not my fault - whine! I blame my insecurities and anxieties on being brought up in a household in which I was seen by my mother mainly as an intrusive expense. When I got pregnant while still in my teens I was kicked through the door (and off to a small, damp house with asbestos sheets lining one room, no heating and a hot water system driven by a coal fire which I had to get up and light each morning) with great glee and not even a moment's hesitation. It's hard not to look back and feel angry and full of accusations.

But - life isn't fair is it? As we all - yawn - know. Personally I've had lots of nasty, unfair things happen to me - and some very nice, generous and unexpected ones too. I've had some sheer luck - for instance I was for some years "adopted" effectively, by Jean Stockdale - an artist - when I was in my twenties. She was kind and cheerful, she'd also been through an early motherhood and had to struggle to even get to the point where she could find any time to paint. She showed me things. She encouraged me. I'm not sure if we were close exactly - but we were friends and she certainly put plasters on some of the more raw wounds I had emotionally at the time. She gave me a lasting love of Alice in Wonderland - the White Rabbit features in many of her paintings, always as a slightly fey young black man in a foppish cream suit. Which to her was the most obvious depiction. She also gave me hope.

Jean didn't actually become a full-time painter until she was forty-seven. Up to then she had done things like work on the assembly line at a button factory, in order to support her child. Having been a single mother in 1950s Southern England, she'd experienced being ostracised and ignored. But she just kept going - on and on and on in pursuit of that dream of being an artist. I have a painting of hers from one of her first exhibitions. It's painted on cheap hardboard, because that's all she could afford at the time. It's called "A Dream of the Fair".


She could be bitter on rare occasions, but mostly she wasn't. She got tremendous pleasure from things like just walking around the town in Kent where she lived, and a mischievous laugh from seeing the reaction of the neighbours to the huge hedges and sexually-explicit statues (made by Norman, the husband she eventually married) that made up the garden of her suburban bungalow. She wanted to be recognised as a serious artist - and in most ways, and God knows against all the odds - she managed it. One regret I do have is that I lost touch with her when I went to the good old Royal College of Art - of which I feel she didn't quite approve ("the establishment" and all that).

To really make something of your art - whether it's writing, design, painting, music, whatever (cooking? I forgot cooking) - you need to find some calm and optimism at the heart of things. I get terribly angry and resentful at times and it just tires me out. I get caught up in remembering the misery of my twenties, all my plans just taken away from me almost overnight. Feeling hurt and betrayed constantly - for reasons best not talked about here.

But then I remember that during that time one kind man met me in a bookshop and invited me to come to his lectures on fairytales - which I did - and eventually arranged for me to meet the admissions tutor at Kent University. I remember three years or so later another equally kind man - the careers advisor - sent me a beautiful postcard with an Erte illustration on it wishing me all luck with my post-grad application to the Royal College - an application that the day before I'd told him was useless and impossible - and which I also told him was the one thing I really wanted.

For all the blame, then, there seem to be things also to be thankful for. Sometimes even amazing things - events and people and opportunities that just appear at the right moment. I can't find an uncliched way of saying this. But I think that gratitude and pleasure and hope usually gets your art further than resentment and hurt.

I perhaps ought to insert the Obama video here again - but I have some shame.

Hints and Tips - oh look, they're back!
Don't get pulled down into thinking too much about all the reasons, and all the bad luck, maliciousness or sheer wrong decisions, that have stopped you getting where you want to be. Things aren't predictable, and maybe some of those things had to happen to get you, not where you want to be, but where you are now. Making strides forward and getting there, even if it's by a route that doesn't feel ideal.

There's a strength and energy that comes from letting go of a lot of the blame and anger.

5. Forget the “exit strategy”. If exiting is that important to you, maybe you shouldn’t have gone into it in the first place.  

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It's become conventional wisdom - hardly even questioned - to tell anyone starting a business of any size that one of the first things they need to think about is the "exit strategy". Some advisors say that this should be done when you do your initial business plan. You're supposed to decide if you plan to sell the business, give it to your children, IPO it or simply close it down. Then you're supposed to focus the business towards that eventual exit. Of course.

My reaction? How the **** should I know what my exit strategy is? Look, it takes five long hard (see post below) years on average to even get a business to the point where it makes a profit. Another five probably to establish it to the point where anyone would remotely want to buy it. Another five - at least - to get it (assuming it's big and ambitious, which most non-IT, non-financial services businesses are not) to gear it up for going public. I once had the reality of IPOing explained to me by a very likeable client - who did indeed sell and make a lot of money eventually, but who said that the years leading up to it were at times hellish in their sheer stress. Okay the truth is that I was very impressed and a little intimidated to find him on the front page of the Financial Times around the time we were having this conversation. I assumed that for him the years of hardship were worth it. And the exit must have been welcome. But then again, he was in one of those classical IT businesses that does this kind of thing.

The reality of the world right now is that things are changing - and changing faster, less predictably and in a more volatile way than ever before. In the six and a bit years I've been here, the Czech Crown has moved from being only 42 to the US dollar to being 15. That alone has shifted a lot of things hugely. Flats in the centre here have moved from being cheap to being - even in the trendier outskirts - at not that much under London prices of a couple of years ago. They now look like moving back to relatively cheap again. Streets that used to be quiet are now choked with traffic. Little local shops in the centre are vanishing and being replaced by chainstores. Marks and Spencer is everywhere and Starbucks (OMG) is moving in.

Those are only local changes. In the bigger, badder, wider world look what's happening. In 2000 did you read constantly in the media about Islamic fundamentalism? Did you imagine oil heading towards $200 a barrel? Did you expect to find out that we've killed off 25% of our world wildlife in a few short years?

I'm not trying to be doom-laden about this. In fact, on good days I feel perversely optimistic about the world. But I find the idea of planning what I'm going to do with the business when we want to get out of it (and as Alex is considerably younger than me this is indeed a long way off) just a waste of time and effort. Exit strategy? I am in this business because I love what we do and couldn't think of anything more fulfilling than doing studio work. Even if I wanted to think about exits, I'm in no position, until I learn to use my crystal ball a good deal more accurately, to imagine where an exit might be in years to come. Exit? I'll plan it only if and when I can see that the need for it is both imminent and clear.

4. Work hard. Then work harder.  

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"Now I think the other thing we need to recognize is Picasso's tremendous ambition. And it was coupled with what his biographer, John Richardson, calls 'a reasonably gifted person.' A person who had a phenomenally visual memory and could then ransack art history, drawing from all sources, especially Spanish sources, and turn that through hard, hard work into his own style."
http://picasso.thinkport.org/practiced.html

__________________________

I don't want to advise (even if I could) about how many hours a week you should work. Alex and I work around 70-80 hours a week, every week and would doubtless be diagnosed as workaholic by most. However, our work situation is unusual: we work mostly from home, so anytime we feel like stopping to watch the news, make some food, even have a bath or fifteen minutes on the treadmill (yes, we have one - I think it's probably an essential if you work at home) then we can do it. The flexibility and relaxation of the set-up stops it from being as stressful as those hours would otherwise be.

But what my point four is about isn't so much the hours you put in each week, as the persistence and stamina you show over time. Time matters. Some things just don't happen fast, or mature fast or come rapidly to fruition (fruition is a good metaphor here). I talked about beginning small and often not as good as you'd like - because that's just how it is when you start something new. And if you look at that small achievement and feel so disheartened that you stop there, then that's where things will end - more or less where they began.

W.B. Yeats (who produced some of his best work towards the end of his long life - his command over what he did and his willingness to take risks grew over years) wrote:
Poet and sculptor, do the work

Your work is nothing if it stays in your head or remains only part of your plans or hopes. You have to DO it, get it out there, accept its limitations and then develop it further. Keep going because steadily (well, fairly steadily, there will be ups and downs) it will get better - and more true to you. Put in the time and effort and keep going even at the times when you don't really want to. Making a living from your creativity demands a hard, determined attitude - be hard, work hard.



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See your work as a work-in-progress. Don't look at each individual piece so much as the progression and the sum total. Let each new project build on the one before and feel good about even small improvements. At least once every three or four years stop and look at what you were doing at the beginning of that time period and compare it with what you're doing now. You'll be surprised.




3. Accept you’ll be laughed at. Welcome it as a good sign.  

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The post below on embarrassment mostly covered this one. Except it gets more so when your first one is in something esoteric, decorative, fantastical and/or "not cool" (I'll be saying more about coolness).

It would have been so much easier if I'd come here to Prague and said I was starting another corporate consultancy. I could have said that we were specialising in emerging markets and change management. No-one would have batted an eyelid. But instead... "Tarot?" Even someone I like back in the UK couldn't say it without a small snigger.

But then he didn't know - because I'd never found it relevant to tell him - that I spent about a year obsessed with ouija boards as a small girl. "Don't break the glass, will you dear," was my mother's remark on this constant need to commune with the spirits via an upturned tumbler and an alphabet written on small scraps of paper. (It seems that you'll inadvertently find out quite a lot about my bizarre upbringing by the time we get through all these points.) Or that I then went on to study traditional yoga in an ashram in Belfast between the ages of thirteen and fifteen - ? - Yes, really, there was such a thing, started by an idealistic Austrian man who was my first yoga teacher. While others at school were working on Latin, Geography, Maths and the usual stuff, I was also taking classes - once they decided I was serious and needed some real training - in levitation and traditional Hindu spell-casting. Of which more sometime. So all in all I took to tarot, all those years later, a bit like a duck to water. Actually more like a duck that had spent years in dry dock that suddenly saw the opportunity of paddling in a lake again.

But my old friends and colleagues in the UK - such as are left - mostly find it laughable. While I suppose deep down I find the idea of them still giving earnest advice on "brand differentiation" or "leveraging your brand assets" pretty hysterical too. Let's just say we agree to differ about what's humorous.

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Do what you've always been interested in. Because only a genuine passion will sustain you during those 80-hour weeks that are going to be necessary when you start a business. Follow your true long-term interests however odd or absurd they may seem to anyone else.

2. Don’t worry about starting in a small, modest and slightly embarrassing way.  

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"They think you're mad," a friend of mine said when I left London to come here to do... something. I laughed. There was a pause. "No really, they're not saying it in front of you but some of them do think you are mad." I realised he meant mad as in insane. I poured some more wine and took a stiff slug of it.

I used to do consultancy. My clients included Reuters (never ask me about Reuters) the BBC, Diageo, J&B Whiskey (ask me about them any time - lovely clients), BT, British Airways and many more. Now I run a tiny company in a backstreet in Prague and we, as my mother said vaguely recently, "Make handbags or something?" Which of these has proved more exciting, worthwhile and given me a higher sense of esteem and achievement? No contest.

When you leave something "proper" to do something far less proper - and let's face it, most creative endeavours are seen as pretty improper unless you're very established and have a bodyguard and an expensive outfit to prove it - people will be taken aback. Unable to understand it, and perhaps feeling even that it's a bit of a comment on their own very different choices, they will tend to make fun, sneer, and even tell you you're mad. Though with any luck not to your face. If you let this shake or upset you, or to dent your confidence, you'll never get past that first step. You'll quickly be scurrying back saying, as someone else in my family is apt to say whenever she even thinks momentarily about anything vaguely adventurous, "I must have been having a little nervous breakdown."

You're not mad, you're not having a breakdown. You're awake, aware and you just saw a break in the wall and beyond it a beautiful garden with flowers and bees and hedgehogs and ickle fairies and... okay, so you just maybe saw a glimpse of a life in which you didn't have to dread going into work. That's not madness, that's hope - and optimism.

So ignore the laughter - it comes from misunderstanding and maybe a little bit of fear. You may well have to begin with something very modest and it won't look impressive and no, you probably won't be attracting VC funding in your first year (and thank your guardian angel for that). You will most likely have to be content with small achievements to begin with and they may look like next to nothing to outside observers. We hardly even talk about our first project together here (Tarot of Prague was the second one). But building anything involves taking steps. The first ones are tiny, but later they get bigger.

And you know what? If you're at the very beginning and almost embarrassed to show people what you've done so far, enjoy it. I've built businesses twice now (kind of three times) and it's that first crazy, dreamy, "here we go" period at the very beginning that's one of the very most enjoyable. (Almost) anything's possible.

Hints and Tips
Do NOT borrow or in any other way raise money merely in order to make what you're doing look more convincing and of higher status to other people. If you're embarrassed by starting off in your own flat or in a teeny back room somewhere just get over it. Money thrown at glitzy premises that you don't need, or at equipment that won't get used is just money thrown away. The worst of all is money thrown at employees that you won't really be fully employing (employees are, as my accountant once explained to me, THE most serious and scary expense on a company's books - I mean, you can't resell them can you?) If you really can't stop yourself from doing this because your own ego screams for it - get yourself an Alex. One of the first things Alex did when we began working together was ask endlessly, "Do we really need this?" If you don't have a real person asking that then invent an imaginary friend.

Basically, if you don't need it, don't get it. Because every bit of money saved will buy you time - and what a new creative business needs above all else is time.

1. Take risks, even big ones  

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If you're anything like me, you'll have been brought up with a strange mixture of messages about risk. Sometimes parents behave as if they want to protect you, other times they can seem unbelievably lax. Mine constantly used to tell me that I should not take drugs, yet they let me stay out until 4.am when I was fourteen years old. Off I went to pick up boys at the local amusement arcade in a dodgy seaside town armed only with the interesting advice, from my father, that there was no such thing as rape, and all women had to do was keep their legs together.

This sort of contradiction made me extremely cautious and cowardly - by sixteen I really had seen a lot - including, by the way, the aftermath of an attempted rape on a friend - and scared myself quite a bit. At the same time it made me inclined occasionally to take quite large and impulsive risks. The biggest one being, I suppose, to pack up my entire life and work (and identity - more of that later) in London and head to Prague in 2001, where an odd experience had lead me to believe that if I hung around a certain street long enough, I would meet a man with whom I would find the perfect working and living partnership. This crazed conviction turned out to be true. And we now live on that exact street. Sometimes visionary moments are not merely illusions it seems.

The moment when you step away from what feels safe and step towards what feels exciting and fulfilling is going to feel impossibly risky. It's that "Fool" moment in tarot when you step blithely off the roof and your guardian angel has a good laugh. Unfortunately, there's no other way. If you want this, you'll have to step out into thin air in the belief that you won't plummet to earth.


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Something to do if you feel inclined.

Write down something - that would affect your work, not just a personal thing - that you really, really want to do but haven't so far. It might be left to one side because it seems silly, expensive, awkward to organise, pointless, self-indulgent, too ambitious or just plain weird. But write it down and stick it on a post-it on your computer monitor for a day or two. Or hide it in a drawer where only you can see it. Or just stick it firmly in your brain. Think for a while about the risks involved in making this happen.

Mine reads "Go to Grasse and do a perfume course" - because at some stage I very much want to add perfumes to the mix of things we do. I know it's a long way off in the future but maybe I can get there. The risk? On the surface, just time and money. Deep down though, I am slightly afraid that I wouldn't be any good at this. For me, I hang back from risking that disappointment. Only one way to find out though.

How to be Creative - and survive  

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This is how this blog started - with a post in my LiveJournal Blog . As I began to expand these points I realised that they might be better in a more focused context - the LJ blog is generally quite visual and chatty and disorganised. So - here is my current list. The expansion of each point will follow. For those who got up to point 10 on Livejournal - there are a few changes. Change is good. Mostly.

_____________

How to be Creative (with a big C) and Survive and be Successful

  1. Take risks – even big ones.
  2. Don’t worry about starting in a small, modest and slightly embarrassing way.
  3. Accept you’ll be laughed at. Welcome it as a good sign.
  4. Work hard. Then work harder.
  5. Forget the “exit strategy”. If exiting is that important to you, maybe you shouldn’t have gone into it in the first place.
  6. Don’t moan, don’t blame.
  7. Let some things go - that might include your own sense of your own identity.
  8. Think. Even a little bit, but regularly.
  9. Don't cling to your day job. Those shackles are holding you back, not keeping you safe.
  10. Don’t confuse creativity with novelty.
  11. Don't expect someone to save you from the big, bad world. Protectionism has never worked.
  12. Find a few people you trust. Use them mercilessly - and let them use you just as much.
  13. Avoid all the people who would rather pull you back. If you can't avoid them, hum loudly while they're talking to you.
  14. Don't believe other people’s hype and spin unless you can see clear evidence.
  15. It usually takes years – don’t merely accept that, welcome it and love what time brings.
  16. If you find yourself nodding off while talking about your work – either you’re up far too late or you’re doing the wrong thing.
  17. Look to the future constantly. But understand that you can’t predict it.
  18. If it’s cool and fashionable – run from it before it eats you up.
  19. Don’t worry about what happens after the current project. Long before you get there, you’ll know.
  20. You remember that silly, unrealistic dream you had when you were twenty-one? Now just might be the time to chase it.
  21. Get a “feel” for recognising clearly what your best work really is – regardless of what others think.
  22. Don’t buy (with your few pennies) into the starving artist myth. Unless, that is, you really, really want to starve.
  23. Talk to people. Listen to customers. Then make your own decision.
  24. Know that you can do it. You can do it.

The inspirational bit  

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Let's get one thing out of the way. This is not going to be a "happy, happy, smiley, feel-good" blog. I am bored with the way that "inspirational" blogs and books are relentlessly positive.

However...

On the brink  

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I've been on the brink of starting a blog like this for quite some time. But for the last four/five years I've written a book a year - nothing very enormous, but enough to make me put all my writing focus elsewhere.

This year is different though. Not just because I don't have any writing deadline looming but also because we seem to be right on the brink of some huge changes in the 'global economy" (more of that concept at some point). So all in all it seems a good time to discuss what I know about setting up a creative business that works - in terms of giving satisfaction, excitement and security and income to those who run it.

I am not a consultant, although for some years I actually did make my living from consultancy. This blog isn't intended as a "front" for a consultancy or a coaching business - our studio produces imagery which we put on a variety of our own products (mainly paper and textiles so far) and I have no time or inclination to do anything else - or to work for clients. It's more a way of me collecting my own thoughts about what I've learned, and maybe also a way of articulating my strong belief that you have to live your life now, without putting it on hold.

Many of the opinions I'll voice will be wildly irresponsible in some ways, and won't by any means work for everyone. But if you're also on the brink - just about to ditch the "day job" or to take a risk in your work or just to make a first step - then some bits of what I have to say may resonate.