25 Nov Tosses and Turns: Finding Your Originality
What’s up, Cheer Readers?
Welcome again to Tosses and Turns, where I rant-chant about whatever reading-related issue that’s been keeping me up at night. For first-timers out there, cartwheel to my previous rants here!
A couple of weeks ago, I borrowed a book from my cousin’s library called Steal Like An Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Creativity by Austin Kleon. As I skimmed through it, I couldn’t believe I have never read it before. Now, it’s like my bible, after Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style.
Reading that book couldn’t have come at a better time – bookbed has just been named a Finalist at the #bloggys2015 under the Fiction and Literature category last Saturday and this Saturday, we are going to be at this year’s Filipino Reader Con. I, personally, couldn’t be any more grateful for all these. We are a young community and times can be really tough, but we pull through – always, big thanks to all who believe in what we do.
Back to the book, I found many things in it that resonate with me, with bookbed. Below, I share some of my favorite insights, in the hopes of inspiring you to *steal like an artist* as well. (Because despite of what everybody aims to be – original, unique and all that – we all steal ideas!)
In the words of Austin Kleon, “this book [and blog post] is for you. Whoever you are, whatever you make.”
What a good artist understands is that nothing comes from nowhere. All creative work builds on what came before. Nothing is completely original. Every new idea is just a mashup or a remix of one or more previous ideas.
Before anybody hyperventilates, know that I’m nowhere yet being a good artist, let alone an artist. But what I can tell you is that this rings so true.
When I started bookbed in 2010 on Sulit.com.ph, it was no way the first to sell books online. When I turned it into a community in 2014, it wasn’t something completely original either. I stole ideas from blogs, websites, communities and yes, people.
Your job is to collect ideas. The more good ideas you collect, the more you can choose from to be influenced by.
My piece of advice: If somebody tells you he or she has an “original idea,” don’t trust easily.
ON TAKING THE FIRST STEP
You might be scared to start. That’s natural.
The truth is, I was more scared of the fact that somebody may beat me into it again if I didn’t. just. do. it. right. then.
And then when I finally did, ta-da! Self-doubt commenced.
There’s this very real thing that runs rampant in educated people. It’s called “impostor syndrome.” It means that you feel like a phony, like you’re just winging it, that you really don’t have any idea what you’re doing.
Did I really have to do it? Was it really down to me? Did I know what I was doing? What if the people I invited to join me find out I have no idea what to do next? What if what I’m doing is nothing special and will not contribute to anything?
Guess what: None of us do. Ask anybody doing truly creative work, and they’ll tell you the truth: they don’t know where the good stuff comes from. They just show up to do their thing. Every day.
So I did that. We did that. We wrote and wrote, even when it was only us who read the posts. (And occasionally, our friends, too.)
Fake it ‘til you make it.
My piece of advice: Be brave. Anything and everything can be learned.
Learn to code. Figure out how to make a website. Figure out blogging. Figure out Twitter and social media and all that other stuff.
The manifesto is this: Draw the art you want to see, start the business you want to run, play the music you want to hear, write the books you want to read, build the products you want to use – do the work you want to see done.
I might have shared this before but let me say it again: I have always wanted to be part of a reader community and the book heavens know I have tried. At times, I even tried so hard it was almost embarrassing, lol. But it never felt like I belonged; it never felt like I read the ‘right’ stories or said the ‘right’ things.
That was why when I built bookbed, I wanted it to be a place where people who loved to read are free to talk about whatever they wanted. No ‘right’ stories or comments, just pure feelings. I wanted it to be a community I wanted to be in.
But while I wanted it to be a free land, I also wanted it to be a free, quality land.
It’s a two-step process. Step one, “do good work,” is incredibly hard. There are no shortcuts. Make stuff every day. Know you’re going to suck for a while. Fail. Get better.
That way, people will see we care about what we do, especially when we share our work with them.
Speaking of which…
ON SPREADING THE WORD
Step two, “share it with people,” was really hard up until about ten years ago or so. Now, it’s very simple: “Put your stuff on the Internet.”
The posting part is easy. But people-actually-clicking-and-reading-and-sharing part? Not so much. This is why this next one is much more meaningful:
Find people on the Internet who love the same things as you and connect with them. Share things with them.
We always get giddy when we find people commenting and/or sharing our posts in return. It means there is a – bam! – connection.
My piece of advice: Be proud of your project. Get. it. out. there. You never know who shares the same passion.
Your brain gets too comfortable in your everyday surroundings. You need to make it uncomfortable.
Oh, trust me, we’re not comfortable yet. But being young has its advantages. We get to try new different things without hesitation. We try art, we try vlogging, we even try makeup!
There’s no pressure when you’re unknown. You can do what you want. Experiment. Do things just for the fun of it. When you’re unknown, there’s nothing to distract you from getting better. No public image to manage. Enjoy your obscurity while it lasts. Use it.
But while we enjoy our freedom, we take note of the fact that being able to do anything is actually limiting.
Nothing is more paralyzing that the idea of limitless possibilities. The idea that you can do anything is absolutely terrifying.
So we also tick off which of our ideas won’t work for us, no matter how great.
My piece of advice: Open your eyes but wear shades. I mean, be open to ideas but be smart enough to filter them.
If you ever find that you’re the most talented person in the room, you need to find another room.
We’re not original and we’re definitely not the best out there. (Yet. Hope is a good thing to nurture.) This is why we reach out to other people, be the bridge and/or be the platform.
Or some other times, we simply write about things because we feel like this art, author or publishing house is too awesome not to give tribute to.
Maybe your hero will see your work, maybe he or she won’t. Maybe they’ll respond to you, maybe not. The important thing is that you show your appreciation without expecting anything return, and that you get new work out of the appreciation.
My piece of advice: Remember that you are not the only one with a great idea. So connect, collaborate, create!
Most people I know hate to think about money. Do yourself a favor. Learn about money as soon as you can. Make yourself a budget. Live within your means. Save as much as you can.
What, you thought we don’t think about money??
bookbed has a humble sum of seed money – from our Store, our team’s day job pays and the goodness of our members’ hearts. It’s something we definitely need to work harder on, especially that we plan to hold events and activities more regularly in 2016. Also, maybe, finally: bookbed cafe!
Oh and now that ‘day job’ has been mentioned…
ON DAY JOBS
The truth is that even if you’re lucky enough to make a living off doing what you truly love, it will probably take you a while to get to that point. Until then, you’ll need a day job.
Sad reality we all have to face, people. I, for one, have a day job. Almost everyone in the bookbed team does (the others are students). We are not those people (yet) that have made a career out of this passion. But, do take note:
A day job puts you in the path of other human beings. Learn from them, steal from them. The worst thing a day job does is take time away from you, but it makes up for that by giving you a daily routine in which you can schedule a regular time for your creative pursuits.
Think of it like a means to an end because, as Austin Kleon put it,
It’s the side projects that really take off.
So, don’t worry about not having an “original idea.” Choose old ideas and make something new out of them. Also, be patient and work smart. It took bookbed a long time to take the first step and it wasn’t (isn’t) always perfect. But here we are and we plan to keep on going.
Author’s note: If you want to hear more about bookbed, come to this year’s Filipino Reader Con! Register here.