Good life-advice in this fine addition to Tyler Adam Smith’s ingenious project, 100 Books That Should Be Written: Busy Is a Decision by Debbie Millman, a title borrowed from her very real synthesis of 10 hard-earned life lessons.
Luckily, Millman did write an actual book, and a most excellent one at that, of illustrated wisdom on life.
Chuck Close would agree: “Inspiration is for amateurs — the rest of us just show up and get to work.” As would E. B. White: “A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.”
The strategy is to have a practice, and what it means to have a practice is to regularly and reliably do the work in a habitual way.
The notion that I do my work here, now, like this, even when I do not feel like it, and especially when I do not feel like it, is very important. Because lots and lots of people are creative when they feel like it, but you are only going to become a professional if you do it when you don’t feel like it. And that emotional waiver is why this is your work and not your hobby.
Richard Branson’s advice to graduates, echoing Debbie Millman’s fantastic commencement address on courage and the creative life.
Pair with Don’t Go Back to School.
The question is how we react to this great prejudice against women. The rule of law and social activism certainly are crucial. But no matter how strong the social structure, there is always that cheek-slapped moment when you are alone with the anti-woman prejudice: the joke, the leer, the disregard, the invisibility, the inescapable fact that the moment you walk through the door you are seen as lesser, no matter what your credentials.
I have no guidance for women who want to rise through the ranks into technical management. I have led a peripatetic life, moving on when a project was done or the next thing intrigued me.
And I am not advising younger women (or any woman) to tough it out. You can lash back, which I have done too often and which has rarely served me well. You can quit and look for other jobs, which is sometimes a very good idea.
But the prejudice will follow you. What will save you is tacking into the love of the work, into the desire that brought you there in the first place. This creates a suspension of time, opens a spacious room of your own in which you can walk around and consider your response. Staring prejudice in the face imposes a cruel discipline: to structure your anger, to achieve a certain dignity, an angry dignity.
Never copy, only get influenced
May 20, 1990: Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson’s remarkable Kenyon College commencement address on creative integrity.
Alexander Graham Bell knew this when he famously said, “It is the man who carefully advances step by step, with his mind becoming wider and wider … who is bound to succeed in the greatest degree.”
Thomas Edison knew this when he proclaimed, “Success is the product of the severest kind of mental and physical application.”
Amelia E. Barr knew this when she asserted, “Everything good needs time.”
Some of the best advice you’ll ever receive, in a handwritten illustrated essay.
If you imagine less, less will be what you undoubtedly deserve. Do what you love, and don’t stop until you get what you love. Work as hard as you can, imagine immensities, don’t compromise, and don’t waste time. Start now. Not 20 years from now, not two weeks from now. Now.
Debbie Millman’s timeless advice on courage and the creative life, in a wonderful illustrated essay.
Brian Eno, born on May 15, 1948, on art.