Cartoonist Jimmy Margulies on being creative

Even though cartooning (is that a verb?!) and writing aren’t the same, I found a lot to take away from this interview with cartoonist Jimmy Margulies. He’s a Carnegie Mellon alum, which is what drew my attention in the first place, and he worked at the former Houston Post. He’s got some great insight into being creative professionally / being a professional creative.

Another observation I can offer about having to be creative all the time is by comparing it to a car. If you have a car parked in your driveway that you use only once a week, it will be harder to start up when you need it. But if you drive it every day, it will start more easily. I feel that by having the discipline of making myself come up with a number of ideas every day, it is much easier to get into that frame of mind than if I had to do it only occasionally.

I can certainly attest to this. I find that whenever I “take a break” from writing, it’s much harder to get back in the groove. Oh, sure, a random idea might occur to me and I might scribble it down, but that’s not exactly being creative. That’s being inspired. The creative part is developing that idea, turning it from a spark into a bonfire.

Developing one’s talent is important, but that is only half the battle. In the creative arts there is so much competition that anyone who is serious about success needs to be a great salesperson, publicist, and marketer of themselves. While creative people don’t often like to think of themselves as business oriented, it really is necessary. You have to be as creative in pursuing your career as you are in producing your art form.

Ugh. This is the part I’ve had to push myself on the most — well, second to the whole discipline thing — because selling is just not in my nature. I don’t know if it’s the Asian humility I was instilled with, or just a sort of natural inclination to keep to myself, but I find selling / publicizing / marketing MYSELF very difficult to do.

Fortunately Andy’s influence has been great for that. I like to think we balance each other out — he injects me with business sense, I draw out his artistic side — but really he’s so thick-headed I’m not sure anything I say gets through…

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8 Comments

  1. Les

    I like those.. very accurate description of what happens lol

    Les’s recent blog post: “Vacation”

  2. This break I wrote a short story. Just to see if writing the blog has helped to spark my creativity. It was a lot of fun.

    And yes, the Asian factor probably accounts for some of the humility.

    phhhst’s recent blog post: Spin Cycle: Guilt Trippin

  3. phhhst-
    Ooo, how’d the story turn out?

  4. Liz

    I think you wrote this post just for me. Loved the car analogy… so so very true. I’m trying to do that, do something everyday. And blogging doesnt count. Blogging has become my excuse for not writing here lately.

    Liz’s recent blog post: Hope Is the Thing With Feathers

  5. my gosh, Kristin, you could’ve been talking about me here. I guess many writers are the same in this area. I just want to write (when I want and not being forced to or, better phrased, having the discipline to do so every day). yet, if one is serious about the craft, it all begins with discipline, doesn’t it? this is one of my goals for this year. i tend to be lazy in this area. and the selling? pft! it’s not an Asian thing, it’s a personality thing, I think.

    But, his advice, a very good one and one that will stay with me for sure. Good analogy.

    rebecca’s recent blog post: The Rains of Despair

  6. I guess it also could be like running?

    Don’t worry you’ve got your PR machine right here.

    Angie’s recent blog post: Is it strange to be emotionally attached to your car?

  7. Aisha

    Hmm that theory could explain why there aren’t many famous Asians in the arts (trouble selling themselves.)

  8. Liz-
    Yeah, I’ve learned to separate blogging time/to-dos from REAL writing time/to-dos. Or at least I’ve learned that I need to…

    Rebecca-
    Yes, unfortunately for me (us?) it does all begin with discipline. :( Do they sell that at Macy’s?

    Angie-
    Yeah, running too. I like the idea of “building up endurance” from the running analogy as well.

    Haha, good, and it better be free! (At least to start.)

    Aisha-
    Yeah, I do think that contributes. I know it’s something my mom struggles with (selling). But I think as the family lines get more American (more generations here) that problem will fade. I already see a huge difference between immigrants, first gens, and second gens.

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