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My Creative Manifesto: 50 Tips for the Driven, Obsessed, or Otherwise Insane

05/26/2011 08:30 pm ET | Updated Jun 26, 2011

If you feel like your creative life is a song you just want to keep turning up, you have come to the right place. Welcome. I admire and pity you because I understand. You'll get through it. And when you don't, you'll write about it. I'll read it and nod knowingly. Okay, on to my manifesto. I happen to be a writer, but I think the following applies to anyone who is misunderstood, by which I mean engaged in a creative endeavor of any kind.

1. Learn the power of negative space, the in-between, what others cannot see.

2. If it's not working, do it to music.

3. Become a student of people. Watch, spy, eavesdrop, wonder about, then write.

4. Figure out who you are when nobody is looking and then put that on paper.

5. Surround yourself with things that inspire you, be it knick-knack, bric-a-brac or paddy whack. Give a dog a bone.

6. It's okay if there's not enough difference between your life and your art.

7. Accept that you and your work will be rejected, belittled, and insulted, and that it will feel so very personal. Then accept that if you can accept that, you can probably be successful. You must send your work out with such stubbornness that even your friends start to pity you...until they have to throw you a publication party. It boils down to this--if you get used to looking like an idiot all the time creatively, odds are you will one day not look like an idiot all the time creatively.

8. Learn to look deeper, stare longer, live in what you are looking at.

9. When you think you are finally done, work at it even longer.

10. Make yourself create using whatever tactics do the trick. Get it done. You will never achieve your writing dreams if you're not writing. P.S. If this means that you can only write your best work at 3 in the morning, while on a sugar high, watching I Love Lucy episodes in your dinosaur underwear, so be it. Oh and if this is the case, please go ahead and contact me. You=awesome.

11. Accept that you may just be in it for the process, and not for the riotous applause you secretly or not so secretly dream of.

12. I'm not going to mince words. Coffee will make you a genius.

13. Find an image that will light a fire under your bottom when you're starting to lag creatively and put it right in the eye path of your work space. I chose Sontag with a cigarette. It's terrifying.

14. Don't be afraid to link your spirituality (whatever that means to you) to your creativity.

15. Don't be afraid to get a crush on, fall in love with, or feel almost sexual towards your art

16. Don't be afraid if you start to feel like you're losing your mind. This means you're getting close. I promise.

17. Don't be afraid to displease the people in your life with your stories. If we did that, we would never write. Wait till your work will definitely be published, then 1) worry, 2) make some awkward phone calls, 3) retract nothing; a corollary to this is never get close to a writer because they will one day put you in their writings.

18. Don't be afraid of messing up. Blogging and writing is like agreeing to stand in front of everyone naked on a bad naked day. End of story. Just say goodbye to your self respect and things will get a lot easier.

19. Don't even try to avoid overeating while writing; resistance is futile. I suggest donuts dipped in hot chocolate, but go with your heart on this one.

20. Figure out what your hang-up is (quick definition of terms--your hang-up is the fixating image, theme, or subject that you keep returning to, even when you try to resist), and start running towards instead of away from it. Tell your truth. We're usually afraid of it. I know I am; but I also know that when I figure out what it is and how to express it, I will 1) have something rather important on my hands and 2) be sure to dump it on you immediately. It will=awesome.

21. Don't be afraid to be competitive, as long as it spurs you on, and you don't try to take away from anyone else. I have done my best work after having my mind blown by how totally superior someone else's talent is to mine. If I'm really honest with myself, I don't want those people not to exist; I need them to exist. If I were the best, I'd be totally bored because I love to strive, and it gets great work out of me. I live off longing.

22. Also, if you see someone amazing, don't try to take them down; try to collaborate with them. Trust me, it's the best way. Our rivals are often better suited to be our friends if we are able to adjust our egos a bit. Ironically, it is only when we move our egos out of the way that the things that validly feed them can happen.

23. Get an animal. When you don't know what to make, pet them. Then repeat.

24. Don't be an idiot; turn your devices off when you're trying to write. Do I do this myself? No, I'm an idiot.

25. Don't be afraid to be lonely, different, mocked, dissed on big-time, or otherwise labeled as a freak. You can't fully do this creative thang without provoking the angry villagers.

26. Purchase a furry onesie for house-wear. Just trust me on this one.

27. Reminder--you do not have to laugh along with people who mock your creative endeavors. You are allowed to remove yourself from anyone who does so immediately. You are, however, not allowed to mock them back "all in good fun" because 1) you are bigger than that and 2) you have writing to do; get to it!

28. You are not allowed to look in the mirror after you have been on a creating spree because the sight of your unwashed hair, ringed eyes, and haphazard everything might spook you away from future work.

29. You are allowed to fire friends who generally don't get it or refer to your life's work as "your funny little poems" or your "blog thing."

30. Your mate doesn't have to love art in general, but if s/he doesn't like yours, you are allowed to fire said mate or at least put said mate on probation.

31. Don't trust anyone who hates dogs or sweets (I'm just sayin').

32. When you get an idea, write it down wherever you can. I'm a big fan of the skin notebook, but be warned that having weird notes all over the backs of your hands will freak people out. Don't care about this.

33. Make sure you have a place to work that makes you feel creative. If you have no space or live with your parents, make a lair in your closet, under the kitchen table, in a pitched tent--whatever, wherever, just set the space up. Growing up in New York City taught me that you can't wait till you have a room of your own to create. If you don't have alone space, put on your headphones, blast music that makes your mind a toaster and your art toast, and get to it.

34. If you find that there is anything in your life that takes away from or drains your creativity, fire it. If you can't fire it, totally ignore it. If you can't totally ignore it, include it in your creative piece. Moral of the story--you may not be able to remake the world, but you are always able to remake your world. In fact, as an artist it's kind of your duty.

35. Sometimes doing something other than creating will make you more creative. In that case you should do it. But do not, under any circumstances, B.S. on this. You know as well as I do that whoremongering will not help your Haiku (and if it will, consider doing it).

36. If a genie pops out of a bottle, don't forget to wish for a masterpiece.

37. If you get writer's block, as we all do, this would be a good time not to go easy on yourself. It comes down to this, if you force yourself to write through the block, even if you have to write reams of shlock in order to do it, you will write through it. It's pretty simple. The secret to writing is to keep writing. Make writing more like breathing or eating and less like collecting stamps and you'll be pretty much set.

38. Satire is your friend. People who criticize without constructiveness are not. You may fire them.

39. When you feel like you can't work anymore, picture people who famously do amazing amounts of work for a living--think Oprah, Obama or Franco--and you'll suddenly feel like a wuss for wanting to close up shop at 4 in the morning.

40. When people tell you it can't be done, fire them.

41. Shut up and listen and look. Don't you know that you'd be so much more interesting if you stopped trying to convince everyone of how interesting you are and listened and looked more?

42. Be a maverick. Rules (including my own) were made to be broken. Make your own way. Do what nobody else is doing; and if you think there's nothing new under the sun, move the sun.

43. Why should you listen to an eccentric nobody on these issues? Why not? What have you got to lose? Exactly.

44. Yes, the advice writers always give about keeping a diary and always carrying a notebook always applies.

45. If you had a disease that made you a Renaissance Person that was a tremendous pain in the behind but was not life threatening, would you keep it? I'm not saying there's a right or a wrong answer; I just think it's important to know where you stand on the issue.

46. It's also important to know where you stand on the question of boxers or briefs. Gotcha. Just making sure you were still paying attention.

47. It's also important to know where you stand on the question of goatee or no goatee. No, but seriously, answer that question. If you said goatee, perhaps you should seek writing wisdom elsewhere. Just joshing with you. Glad to see you're still paying attention.

48. Creative Life Equation: Love it. Love it. Then love it some more. Hate it. Then love hating it. Then love it.

49. Adventure; say yes to life; agree to do the weird thing with the weird person that you think might be just too weird. It will most likely be the best thing you have done for a long time. Ever since I took a job teaching college English and writing, and agreed to earn my keep by making a fool of myself, I have been all about trying new things. This had made all the difference. The most important thing is to put yourself and your work out there.

50. Don't fear the intensity of your passion. Those who laugh at Ahab and his whale are just cranky that they never had a whale of their own.

Please feel free to add your own manifesto in the comments section. As I mentioned, collaboration is king.