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Latest Update: Just correcting the formatting – the article never got properly formatted after it was imported from previous incarnations of PigPog.

A few thoughts on making those first steps, deciding what to try, and getting on with it.

I’m no Hugh McLeod…

But I’ve put together some thoughts on how to make those first few steps into whatever new creative project you might be attempting. You may have received a Christmas gift that you really want to get stuck into and learn, but feel a little uncertain about how to get yourself going. You may have decided to try something different as a New Year’s resolution, and don’t know where to start, or, like me, you need that little bit of a push to get yourself going each time you sit at the computer, notebook or music stand.

These are things that occur to me as I experience them. I am by no means an expert. But I’ve encountered quite a few useful experts on my way, and I’ll tell you more about them later.


That’s the trick. Just pick it up, switch it on, open it, wind it up and play. Regardless what it is, write anything, pluck random strings to see what they sound like, take a picture of what’s right in front of you, paint from each of your colours to see how they look on the page. Spend some quality time getting to know the stuff you want to work with. Read any instruction manuals you have (unless they’re the size of a phone book, in which case, familiarise yourself with the index and refer to it when you need to).

If there are bits you don’t get, skip them. For now.

Yeah, yeah, I know you want to master it. And you will. But if stumbling on one bit over and over again is giving you trouble to the point you’d rather throw the damn lot out of the window, look at the rest and see if you can continue without doing that difficult bit. I’ll give you an example. As I’m writing this article, I know I’ve got to link stuff, put the relevant tags on everything, and make sure it fits in to the site OK. I don’t find that bit easy, I don’t enjoy it. It is a major pain in the arse, but it’s something that has to be done. And I know that if I try to do that as I’m writing, I’m going to get frustrated, lose my temper, leave the room and throw my shoes at someone. So, I’m writing this in another window, with a message at the top that says WRITE THE ARTICLE FIRST, F**K ABOUT WITH IT LATER. So far so good. I’m still in my seat and my shoes haven’t become airborne yet.

Don’t worry about being laughed at.

Oh boy, that’s rich coming from me. But unless you have a space in your home where you can lock yourself away for hours on end practicing and practicing until you’ve (delete as applicable) painted a masterpiece/written the next great novel/perfected all the solos from ‘Freebird’/recreated the Venus de Milo in Play-Doh, someone else is likely to see your efforts, and because people you live with are occasionally mean and downright nasty, you will get laughed at. Or worse, someone in your house will know more than you on your chosen subject and will tell you in exact detail what they would have done to make it better. Find some way of dealing with them, or move.

Find some good role models.

I promised you experts, and here they are:

First is Hugh McLeod, whose business card cartoons are badly parodied in the illustrations here. His work, ‘How to be Creative’, is the best forthright, reality check, slap-in-the-face guide to those of us blessed/cursed with creative urges. He pulls no punches, just dispenses sound, sensible advice.

If you want something a bit more touchy-feely, a bit more colourful and a bit more in touch with your inner child, check out Sark. Where Hugh’s advice is a sharp, tangy, slice of lemon, hers is a big, bright bag of pure sweetness. There’s room on every creative bookshelf for both kinds.

For the writers, Natalie Goldberg is essential. Her best-known work, ‘Writing Down The Bones’, shows you how to let go and just write, combining writing exercises with her experiences studing zen and meditation.

And for general, confidence-boosting, ‘go-get-em-tiger’ advice, check out Susan Jeffers. Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway, will have you running out of your comfort zone and selling framed watercolours of kitchen utensils at craft fairs before you know it.

So that’s it for now. I’ll maybe add more ideas and thoughts as they arise. So what are you waiting for? Pick it up! Turn it on, tune it, open it, paint it, scribble it, go nuts, and have fun.