Q:Is it okay to take a break from a creative habit? I'd like to unplug for a week but it would mean not maintaining a daily writing goal.
It’s definitely ok. The really important thing is to find out what works for you. And sometimes different things will work for you at different times.
When I started this blog I drew everyday without fail. I forced myself to do it, and it worked really well for me. I got on a roll which kept me motivated, and my drawings and ideas improved from the routine. But then it kind of plateaued.
The daily drawing goal started to be more of a hinderance than a help to me. I’d get frustrated with myself, doubt myself, and feel pretty down about things. I didn’t enjoy drawing anymore and I wasn’t really getting anything good out of the routine. So one day I just stopped forcing myself to stick to that rule.
There’s a lot of positive things to be said for forcing yourself to be creative even when you’re not feeling it — I still have weeks or months where I feel the need to force myself to create daily no matter what. But there are a lot of positive things to be said for taking a step back every once in a while too. These days I could happily go weeks without creating anything, and that time usually ends up being pretty valuable to me. Whenever I walk away from a project or idea that’s not working, I figure it out pretty quickly when I’m ready to come back to it.
It can feel like you’re doing something wrong by taking time away from creating regularly, and I’m actually writing a post at the minute which is kind of about this subject. So I’ll post the link to that here when I’ve finished it.
But in the end it’s all down to you. If you feel like you need that week to unplug then you probably do. As long as you know the difference between taking a week to unplug and taking a week (that turns into a month) because you’re being lazy, then you won’t go far wrong.
Q:when you first started how much time did you spend on your work? i've been meaning to draw at least one thing every day but it's hard to stay motivated
When I first started posting drawings here I was unemployed, so it was much easier to spend a long time on drawings if I wanted to. It varied quite a lot, but I made a commitment to get one idea down on paper a day and spent as long as it took to make that work.
It’s really hard to stay motivated, I haven’t been posting daily drawings here for a while now. I do keep meaning to get back to it, but I’ve been working every day on other things. I read about a great productivity technique that Jerry Seinfeld recommended to a young comedian which really helps with motivation…
He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker.
He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day. “After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.”
"Don’t break the chain," he said again for emphasis.
He doesn’t say anything about how long you have to spend creating in a day, or how good it has to be. Just keep that chain going and things will start slotting into place.
If you search for something like “Jerry Seinfeld productivity” you’ll find a bunch of articles and posts about that technique.
Also, I should probably promote myself and say that I have an activity book that deals with this subject called The Art of Getting Started.
You can read more about that at leecrutchley.co.uk/books
Q:What was the happiest day of your life?
I hope I can never answer this question. Being able to recall the single happiest day of my life sounds terrifying. But I’m glad I could list thousands of happy moments.
Q:What advice/comment would you tell women as a whole?
I don’t think I’m in a position to offer women as a whole any kind of advice.
Q:is it true that "Maybe ever'body in the whole damn world is scared of each other." (John Steinbeck)? [even if you don't wanna answer, or don't know how to, it's still a nice quote :) ]
I think everybody in the whole damn world is scared of being rejected by each other, more than they are scared of each other.
Q:Hello, I am currently a second year undergrad studying graphic design. I would like to know what work experience you gained from external companies whilst at University yourself whether it be an intern, placement etc and also, how did you promote yourself as a professional creative after graduating?
I am kind of the worst person to answer this question. I lied about going to work experience at uni, and made a fake project to prove that I had been. My course asked us to get work experience outside of our chosen field anyway, because they were “wacky” like that.
I’ve met a lot of people since then who have done internships and work experience, and to be honest I really wish I’d done more. I think it’s definitely valuable to get “real life” experience while you’re at uni, because you can easily forget that real life is going to be there sooner than you think. For a lot of people it’s also a really great foot in the door. I know plenty of people who got their first job as a result of work experience.
There’s a new magazine you should read called intern: intern-mag.com
It’s all about internships in the creative industries. I’ve not read a copy myself, but it looks really nice and I’m sure it’ll have some useful information and opinions in there.
As for promotion, I didn’t really do anything special to promote myself after graduating. I just applied to a load of jobs all over the country and took the one I thought would be best for me.
I sent out my first self-promo as a freelancer last year, which you can see here. I think the best method of self promotion will always be making good work and showing it to people, so that’s what I try to do.
Q:How successful are your books? Do you self publish? If not how did you get your book deal? One last question, are sales of your books higher online or through traditional book stores?
I keep meaning to write more posts about this, because I get asked about book deals and things a lot. So I’ll do that at some point. But for now, here goes…
I have no idea how “successful” my books are, mainly because I’m not sure what a successful book is. That depends on what you’re using to measure success, and who is in charge of the measuring tape.
For me the major success is that I have books out there in the first place. I’m not even close to being rich from my books and I never will be. But I never really thought of money as success anyway. I am very aware of how important money is, and how much I need of it to exist. But having a lot of money has never been a goal of mine. As long as I have enough money to have “everything I need and a few of the things I want” I’m all good. I do make money from my books of course, but I’m sure it is much less than a lot of you imagine.
I know this will sound like bullshit, but another big success for me is getting emails from people who have bought my books. I get a lot of messages from people about them, and each new one is still an amazing and humbling experience. It’s a massive success to me that anyone chooses one of my books from the hundreds of millions they could have chosen. When they take the time to email me about it afterwards it blows my mind.
I haven’t self published a book yet. But I’m thinking about self-publishing Quoteskine Volume 2 at some point, so we’ll see how that goes. My first book was published by a UK publisher called Carpet Bombing Culture, and my second book was published by Perigee Books, which is an imprint of Penguin USA.
Both times I was approached by the publisher, which some people would consider being lucky. But I really do believe that you make your own luck. On an extremely basic level, the thing that got me both book deals was making stuff and showing it to people. Obviously that’s a massive simplification and I did lots of other things too, but I’m trying to keep this answer short. So I’ll write some more in depth posts about things like this in the next few weeks.
As for online vs traditional stores, I don’t have any concrete numbers. But I would take a guess that my books sell better online.
Q:You're not insignificant ok.
I wasn’t being melancholic, we are all insignificant.
We are tiny little specks, on a tiny little rock, hurtling through an unimaginably vast universe.
That’s insignificance, and it’s beautiful.
Q:How would you explain your basic life philosophy?
Insignificance is bliss.
Q:what are your favorite books? what are you reading right now?
Q:Just to say, I ordered your book 'the art of getting started' and it arrived this morning. I'm looking forward to starting it! It reminds me of Wreck This Journal actually, and I enjoyed that. It just challenges the perfectionist in me and that's quite tricky! :P
Thanks for buying the book! I really hope it helps you out, or at the very least is fun to work through.
It is really hard to tell that perfectionist inside you to shut up. I always struggle with it, and it’s stopped me trying a lot of things because I was afraid I’d never be as “perfect” as I imagined.
But recently I’ve been trying to embrace the imperfectionist that’s inside too. Perfection is always really boring, well at least I think so. I hate things that are shiny and smooth and look like a computer made them rather than a person. One of my favourite quotes on this subject is by Margaret Kilgallen:
"Even though I do spend a lot of time trying to perfect my line work and my hand, my hand will always be imperfect because it’s human. And I think it’s the part that’s off that’s interesting, that even if I’m doing really big letters and I spend a lot of time going over the line and over the line and trying to make it straight, I’ll never be able to make it straight. From a distance it might look straight, but when you get close up, you can always see the line waver. And I think that’s where the beauty is."
I agree with that, learn to enjoy those wavering lines!
Q:I'd just like to say that I really appreciated your latest post. Very honest and, oddly, inspiring. Thank you. :)
Thanks, it was much darker than I intended it to be when I started writing it. But it felt good to write, and I’m glad it was oddly inspiring to someone.
I am always pretty honest on the whole. But it’s still easy to get caught up in that modern condition of only sharing the good things and always projecting positivity, especially when you’re someone who uses the internet to promote their work.
I get so many messages from people who ask for my advice because they see me as someone who has “made it”, and It’s easy to go along with that. I am doing ok on the whole, and I can see how I look like someone who is in a position to give advice and encouragement with some kind of authority. And that’s what I tend to do, I genuinely believe all the positive advice I give people, it’s all the truth and is based on my experiences.
But I think it’s equally important to show people the other side of that. Life is hard for everyone at times, and I think we’ve become almost scared to admit that these days. Especially when we achieve any kind of “success”.
The internet makes it all too easy to see your dreams, and how supposedly easy it is to achieve them, so it can be a real kick in the teeth when you realise what a struggle it is. I take great comfort in knowing that other people struggle too, especially people I admire and look up to.
happy ok to admit that it’s a struggle for me sometimes. Hopefully there’s people out there who take great comfort in that too.
Q:Do you have someone you would consider a "best friend?" If you do, what qualities do you like about them the most? If you don't (I'm available for the role), what qualities do you like most in the people you surround yourself with?
That’s a really good question.
I have a few people I’d consider best friends. It’s funny, I always think that they’re really different people. But now I’m thinking of their core qualities, traits, and beliefs they’re actually very similar in a lot of ways.
I think the main qualities I like about them are they’re all honest, funny, open-minded and smart. I think all of those things are massively important in friends. Being inspiring is a good quality for friends to have too. All of my best friends are inspiring in different ways, and pretty much everyone I’d consider a friend of any kind is inspiring too.
Q:You've probably already answered this but I'm new around here, so... hi Lee! My question: How do you make a living? Do you have a day job? Love your work and online engagement!
I have answered it a few times I think, but how I make a living tends to change anyway. So it’s always worth answering it again.
I guess I’m “officially” a freelance illustrator and designer. So I’m self-employed and I work for a bunch of different clients. I kind of do anything and everything that comes my way though really. So it still feels a bit weird to say I’m an illustrator, or designer, or both. But I can’t think of another good word to describe it.
In 2013 I finally got to the stage where I was working on more projects that I enjoyed than projects I didn’t, which is awesome. So I’m working hard to make sure that trend continues in 2014!
Last year my new book played a big part in how I made a living too, and hopefully there will be more books in the future.
Q:What's the best way to do daily drawings without getting discouraged?
I think the first thing to do is define what you want to get from the project.
Do you want to get better at drawing, hone a particular style, try a new technique every day, be able to draw more realistic people, etc, etc…
I think the easiest way to get discouraged is to have no boundaries set. My boundaries, or “rules”, when I started out were that I would draw a quote a day in my sketchbook using felt tip pens.
The biggest stumbling block I had to get over was accepting that a lot of my drawings were/are shit. When I first started the project I genuinely didn’t think anyone would see these drawings. They were just for me, and putting them on a blog was simply a way for me to learn more about html and css.
So when I started getting a lot of messages telling me I was shit, I was like, oh yeah I am a bit shit maybe I should stop.
But then I went back to what I wanted to get out of the project. The big thing I wanted was to get an idea out of my head and onto paper everyday. The law of averages says that if you do XXX drawings then YY (or even YYY) of them will be shit.
And now I’m ok with that. I still post a bunch of drawings here I don’t that particularly like, or that are “technically shit”. But I never intended to do shiny gorgeous illustrations. So that’s fine, I’m getting what I want out of the project.
So I genuinely think that is the most important thing, and the only way you’ll stick with it. Right from the start, be clear about why you’re doing it, and keep reminding yourself of that fact. Over and over.