Best Creative Advice Ever From Mick Napier

Mick Napier is a brilliant improviser from the Annoyance Theater in Chicago. The quote below is from his book Improvise: Scene From the Inside Out. This advice is given in the context of what you should do in an improvised scene, but I love it as advice and a warning about what not to do with your life. Just replace the words "improv scene" with "your life."

For God’s sake, do something. Anything. Something. At the top of an improv scene, do something. Please, do it for yourself. Do yourself a favor and just do something.

You see, there’s this guy you know, nice enough fellow, and he’s always talking about what he’s going to do someday. He has big plans, and if he’s in The Business, then he talks about a screenplay he’s going to write or a thing he’s going to shoot on video or an idea he has for an improv form. If he’s not in the The Business then he talks about  what he’s gonna do at work or to his house or some scheme he has for this or that. He talks endlessly in great detail of the necessary steps he will take to someday execute his master plan for whatever he will do and speaks of all the rewards he will gain once he does his thing.

Maybe you know this guy for two or three years and begin to notice that he doesn’t really carry out anything he talks about doing. Perhaps you begin to label him as a "talker" or "full of it." Maybe as he speaks of his next scheme you begin to , "I wish this guy would stop talking about it and just do it."

And as time goes by, you see this guy at parties and notice that you doing a little bit to avoid him. When he catches you and engages you in conversation, you begin to observe that you are bored "someday I will do this" tirade. As a matter of fact, you start looking around the room at other people  kinda hoping that someone will rescue you from this person because you are so bored. There he is again talking about something he’s gonna do, and you know that it’s never going to happen and it bores the hell out of you as you have to listen to it again.

Two weeks later he catches you walking down the street and now, as he approaches, you actually get a little angry on the inside. You’re still nice but you feel as if your time is being wasted. You want nothing more than to release yourself from this guy that never does anything, but talks endlessly about what he’s going to do someday. You wish he would do something, anything, and just stop talking about it.

He goes on to make the point that this is how an audience feels watching a bad improv scene. But, isn’t this a good metaphor for the people that say they’re creative, but never create anything. It’s easy to create, the difficult part is to create something lasting. A writer must write. A painter must paint. An actor must act. If you are just talking about what you want to do, please, do something. Anything. Something. Don’t be that guy.

Reader Links

Peter-Callesen-I’ve got some great reader submitted links I want to pass on to you.

Mark sends an article on the 10 most flagrant grammar mistakes. While it’s obviously incomplete, avoiding these mistakes will make sure that no one stops reading something you write because they lose respect for you or start to doubt your intelligence.

Erin sent this awesome link to an article on how to design your own post-it notes.

Erin also sent Peter Callesen’s page. His paper cuts are amazing. He uses a single sheet of paper to make amazingly detailed pieces that are beyond description. That’s his skeleton rising out of a sheet of paper at the top of the post.

If you have a great link, pass it along!

Jack Kerouac On Writing

Allen Ginsberg wanted Jack Kerouac to explain his spontaneous writing method and he wrote out a list of 30 rules called Belief and Technique For Modern Prose.

A few choice examples:

1. Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for yr own joy
2. Submissive to everything, open, listening
3. Try never get drunk outside yr own house
4. Be in love with yr life
17. Write in recollection and amazement for yourself
19. Accept loss forever
29. You’re a Genius all the time

Read all his rules here

Random Idea Generators For Writers

Seventh Sanctum provides a series of idea generators. Most of them were designed for use in fantasy role-playing games, but they also have a section specifically for writers. Now, you probably won’t use anything you get directly out of one of these generators, but there’s a lot to start you thinking.

They have one that basically gives you a Hollywood pitch by envisioning an existing story in a new form. Example result:

The story of Gulliver’s Travels being about a group of hackers.

Another gives you an entire story. Example:

This is a documentary-style story with an emphasis on defeat and the oddities of the human condition. The story is about a cartographer. It takes place in a ghost town on a desert world of magic. The story begins with a discovery. The issue of abortion plays a major role in the story.

Lets not forget characters:

The striking, bloodthirsty police chief who is a complete fraud.

Take a look at all of them, a great way to get your thoughts churning.

Want a gallery show? First step, bathe…

From That Ain’t Art, artist Mat Gleason answers questions about the art world for their readers. His advice is practical. My favorite bit, not quoted below, is that if you want a gallery show, make great art.

Dear Mat,
I am an artist. I feel I am ready for a gallery show, but I have never exhibited before. When I talk to galleries they seem snobby. What can I do?

Bathing and proper hygiene are the first order of business. After that, looking good and being rich cannot hurt too much either. But the reason they seem snobby to you is that you do not know them anymore than they know you. Get to know each other. Get to know the art world.

Click here for the rest.

The Myth of Prodigy and Why it Matters

From APS Observer

What does being a child prodigy mean? Not as much as you might think according to this article which quotes Malcom Gladwell, author of Blink and The Tipping Point and a gifted runner as a child, quite extensively. One interesting distinction it draws is that a child genius is a gifted learner, but an adult genius is a gifted doer.

Early acquisition of skills — which is often what we mean by precocity — may thus be a misleading indicator of later success, said Gladwell. “Sometimes we call a child precocious because they acquire a certain skill quickly, but that skill turns out to be something where speed of acquisition is not at all important. … We don’t say that someone who learned to walk at four months is a better walker than the rest of us. It’s not really a meaningful category.”

So what does lead to success as an adult? The article dismisses Mozart and then points to a better model.

A better poster child for what precociousness really entails, Gladwell hinted, may thus be the famous intellectual late-bloomer, Einstein. Gladwell cited a biographer’s description of the future physicist, who displayed no remarkable native intelligence as a child but whose success seems to have derived from certain habits and personality traits — curiosity, doggedness, determinedness — that are the less glamorous but perhaps more essential components of genius.

Where do you get your ideas? Part three – Alan Moore


The question that everybody asks writers is: ‘where do you get your ideas from?’ It seems like a banal question, but it’s the only important question: where do ideas come from? For me, getting into magic was just a way of answering that.

First, there’s nothing there, and then there’s a vague unformed idea in the mind of the artist or writer. Then the idea takes on a little more form, and then, suddenly, it’s a finished script or a finished drawing. Something has come into being out of nothing. It’s the rabbit from the hat. That to me is the definition of magic. It covers a lot of other ground in that everything anyone has ever said about magic is true, it’s a very rich landscape to explore and it certainly has an effect in some way or another on everything that I do.

Alan Moore

Bribing People With Art to be Happier


Bren Batlan is an artist who leaves his work around cities for people to take for free. (He also sells it if you really want to own one of those adorable paintings) Attached to each is a note that reads, “This painting is yours if you promise to smile at random people more often.”

Check out the feedback on his site to see how deeply this simple act can change people’s lives.

One example:

One winter afternoon I was walking through Holyoke Center in Harvard Square after coming from the doctor’s office and realizing that I was going to have to take a leave from my job at the university. I was crying and nothing that my sister seemed to say to me was giving me any solace. As I was walking by one of the benches I saw someone smiling at me. I smiled and kept walking in a daze. As I was about to exit out of the door, I unhitched my arm from my sister and turned around and started walking towards the bench without saying anything to her – something was pulling me back. It was what had made me smile and what had caught my attention from the corner of my eye. It was the green finger-smiling-good mood maker-alien cartoon. There he was sitting on a bench waiting for me. I couldn’t believe it. He had the whole bench to himself and the center was packed with people milling about. Attached to him was the note ‘This painting is yours if you promise to smile at people more often’. I stopped my crying and started laughing. I swear to God that this meeting gave me something that I hadn’t felt in months – lightness and I know this sounds cheezy but hope. It felt like a sign or something. And it broke my darkness. Even my sister was laughing – kind of uncontrollably. It was the best mood maker and as we left with it, it seemed to give us the lift we needed or sent out some sort of vibe to other people around us because we met like 3 awesome dogs that night, a bunch of super nice people, and kind of kept running into random good energy ‘stuff’. I kept it in my bedroom for six months. I’m in a much better place now and felt like it was time for him to work his magic on someone else. My friend just had a baby. They named her Nelly but her real name is Prunella – the poor thing – she needed some magic. So now its in her baby room. And I told her older sister Bernadine (I know, I don’t know why they are obsessed with naming their kids with these names that belong to great-Aunts) who is five now that when she wanted to she could take out the painting – which still has the sign taped to it – and put it in some random place in Jamaica Plain for someone else to pick up. She liked that idea. — Catherine

Very close to the truth

As usual, The Onion nails it.

Child-Safety Experts Call For Restrictions On Childhood Imagination

WASHINGTON, DC—”By constantly reminding kids that they’re human children with no magical skills, you ensure that they will live a long life”, said child-safety expert Kenneth McMillan

Although no cure has yet been developed for childhood imagination, preventative measures can deter children from potentially hazardous bouts of make-believe.

“Many of the suggestions are really quite simple, like breaking down cardboard boxes or sewing cushions to couches so they cannot be converted into forts or playhouses,” McMillan said. “Blank pieces of paper, which can inspire non-reality-based drawings, should be discarded unless they are used in one of our recommended diagonal folding and unfolding activities. And all loose sticks left lying in the yard should be carefully labeled ‘Not a Sword.'”

Unfortunately, removing everything from a child’s field of view that could stimulate his active young mind is extremely time-consuming, and infeasible as a long-term solution, McMillan acknowledges. “To truly protect your children, you must go to great lengths to completely eliminate their curiosity, crush their spirit of amazement, and eradicate their childlike glee. Watch for the danger signs: faraway expressions, giggle fits, and a general air of carefree contentment.”

Added McMillan: “Remember, if you see a single sparkle of excitement in their eyes, you haven’t done enough.”

%d bloggers like this: