THIS IS WHAT I DO
Back when I started drawing the Ignorecards in late 1997, I distinctly remember saying to myself, there’s no way on God’s Earth these little things will ever go anywhere, let alone make any money (which was part of the charm, by the way).
Well, I was wrong on the first point, right on the second. I never monetized the actual Ignorecards themselves, but drawing them led to the creation of Gapingvoid, the main day job. And all that made a ton of business and got a ton of exposure over the years, not to mention, made a lot of good people happy.
There’s this guy being on interviewed on YouTube about why the hell he doesn’t quit wing suit base jumping before it kills him eventually, which it probably will (The sport is by far the most dangerous in the world- it kills approximately one out of ten people who practice it, and at the elite level, it’s closer to fifty percent). And the guy says defiantly, “Because this is what I do.”
I was never one of those defiant “This is what I do” kinda artists; I never got mystical-holier-than-thou about the profession, however “This is what I do” is what kinda ended up happening.
In the beginning, it was just a hobby for after work at the coffee shop. Some people brought their laptops, their books to read, or their chessboards. I brought my drawing pens. No big deal.
But I kept at it. And then the Internet came along. And then the business model in its wake (which I’d give Laura Viberti Aceto and Jason Korman most of the credit for- I may do the drawings, but they do the real work of turning it into a business). The rest is history.
And so this is what I do. For better of worse…
[More thoughts on the IGNORE EVERYBODY book.]
KEEP YOU, GET RID OF EVERYBODY ELSE
Miles Davis said it best: “Man, sometimes it takes you a long time to sound like yourself.”
He was talking about trumpet playing, but he could just have easy been talking to something else- writing, filmmaking, drawing… or any kind of paid, professional work, really.
A Miles Davis record alway sounds like Miles Davis. A Picasso drawing looks like Picasso drew it. And nobody writes like poetry like WB Yeats, with every word an utter joy to read.
But we’re not just talking here about developing your own unique style. It’s more like, only do the work that only you can do.
When I draw cartoons, they’re *mine*. They’re unique. Nobody else can do that, at least, not the way I can.
I also know how to write ads and sales copy for a living, but then so do thousands of other people. So that’s why I focus on cartoons- because that’s where people single me out the most. In advertising, I’m just one more middle aged white dude waiting in line. So I don’t go there.
Eventually you want to get to the stage you’ve carved out you’re own little niche of one. You’re THAT guy. You’re THE guy.
Whether it’s Miami condos, New York cheeses, German enterprise software consulting, Seattle marketing communications, or New York divorces, pick something you can be a dominant force in.
It doesn’t matter so much what the thing in question is, the issue is whether you own the space or not.
And then go for it. Just makes sure it’s uniquely yours, make sure it’s uniquely YOU.