Letter to the struggling creator of anything

Dear creative human,

You are always busy. New ideas, new work, new output every hour after hour. At the end of the day it’s all meant to push you, bit by bit, closer to the place you want to be in. May the place be called “The top of the (collective) mind”.

When you do get in the “top of mind”, with a badge of “known” or “established”, you receive the magic rainbow of: authority, creative freedom, influence and respect — personally handed to you by Roy G. Biv. Let me introduce this place as “The Promised Land”.

Between you and “The Promised Land’s” endless supply of daily joy, the universe has placed a horde of folks which will do anything they can to fight you and your calling. We’ll call these folks “The gatekeepers”.

The place where you are now, nobody cares and nobody will ever care what that place is. In all honesty, I am convinced some people have already answered many fundamental questions and have solved truly profound problems, but we’ll never know they did it — because, like you, they are in this huge, hot, empty and sandy land I’ll call “The desert of anonymous”.

As you hike along “the dunes of unnoticed material” and walk along endless piles made from grains of existential purpose, shattered smoothly by the senseless passage of time, the brief fifteen seconds of fame are the cherished water to wet your lips with — just enough to keep carrying on.

From time to time, there might be an “Oasis of opportunity” hovering above the ground like an unreal vision — some stupid joke Faith keeps repeating and laughing at, all by itself. You’ll enter it, filled with hope. However, while refreshing, the oasis of opportunity is still just a closed circle of friends making some “Promised land” in the middle the same huge “Desert of the anonymous”. Sometimes, even worse, you’ll enter it just to find it shatter when your better judgement gets a hold of you, a fata morgana of creative recognition.

Nevertheless the true wanderer, the berber skilled on surviving anonymity conditions lives with the ordeal. Some have a map, some start out the journey really, really early and some follow the right footsteps “leaning in” the right direction.

Struggling with your hike effort and thirst for audience you will be often spotted by the all seeing eye of the peers. This, just like the one in the famous Mordor in The Story, sees everything and only likes his army of minions. The all seeing eye of the peers is what will always keep innovation at the gates because if, by any chance, you are breaking taboos, shattering established foundations or challenging long held beliefs — you will be scorched. The flaming eye of peers shall spot you and burn you as many times as needed until you either conform or give up.

This is the main foe to fight in the Desert of anonymous and the best strategy is, like in The Story with The Hobbits, to move low profile and decisively act only when the army of minions attacks some other group at war. Being distracted, the all seeing eye of the peers might not spot you just enough to ensure safe passage trough the Desert of anonymous right to the walls of The Promised Land.

Once you’re close be warned: handling all the ancient creatures guarding the walls, lands and gates of The Promised Land means an even greater challenge than crawling all alone and miserable trough the Desert of anonymous. Yet all the truly brave creatives will muster up the guts and force, because they’ve beaten the desert, survived it and at least they got near The Promised Land, having now a chance to go trough what we think of as:

“The Promised Land defense system”

1. The moat of critics

Every wondering soul who didn’t get in, who got tired of trying, who got a really bad fall from the wall, ended up in the moat around The Promised Land. This is the moat of critics.

They are being thrown slices of old bread from the towers of The Promised Land and drink the muddy waters in the moat. They can’t get out because only the Desert of anonymous can be their home since in The Promised Land everyone knows them from the moat.

The technique to pass this first defense is to very carefully bridge the moat: once you fall in no one can pull you out — until you are too old to matter anyway. These folks will shake your bridge and they will throw their mud at you. Simply make sure to walk on determination and hang on inspiration and the swing from the moat’s edge to the Wall Of Publicity will be clear, pure flight. If you get dirty, jump back and clean up because the moat of critics has the stickiest of mud; you don’t want to be stuck to the Wall Of Publicity while the journalists fire their bows at you.

2. The Wall Of Publicity and the towers of journalists

The Promised Land’s towers are filled with journalists aiming at you bows of inconclusive reviews, armed with arrows made of mean phrases and with burning tips of ignorance, all while you strive to climb the Wall Of Publicity, a living wall, made taller and taller by every human who manages to climb over it. Give up fast enough if you’re shot! Just jump back and try another wall.

Walls Of Publicity are usually climbed faster with “controversy” at your belt. Also, a shield made of the highly reflective “sensational!” will blind the towers’ archers by the very sun of the hot Desert of anonymous. If you’re missing “controversy” and “sensational”, then you can always try to catch one of the grown leafy Trends — there are many of them, swinging freely on the badly maintained Wall Of Publicity.

3. The Gate of curators, BDFLs and promised land xenophobe residents

Curators are the noble class and land owners of The Promised Land. They own by right of birth some portion of The Promised Land.

You need their permission to cross their land. Those who own the outskirts of The Promised Land are the most fierce in their terms for the permission, since every wall jumper ends up in their backyard begging for a visa.

Once you’ve jumped the Wall Of Publicity the way around curators is to walk the public roads. Considering the curator’s terms, spending the night under a street spotlight is usually far better than spending the day on a privately owned part of The Promised Land.

Benevolent dictators for life (BDFLs) are traders who take stuff from the “Oases of opportunity”, and bring the stuff in The promised land.

Remember them, the “Oases of opportunity”?

Sometimes these oases produce some uniquely fine idea, or even a superfine concept, which either the opportunists or the brave take to The Promised Land’s fortification. If what they bring is of value to the residents of The Promised Land, they live to become BDFLs on the trade route of creativity that they have founded. The problem with these is the dictatorship part: you do it because they say you have to do it; they do it because they know the route, they have the contacts and the influence.

You might want to stay away from these smugglers of creativity and try to make it on your own. Otherwise, be prepared for some years of mental slavery before you’re finally given your part in the bargain.

Your next problem: some of the The Promised Land’s residents are xenophobic. They are those who suddenly learned that whomever lived longer inside the The Promised Land, clearly must be better beings than those beggars from the sands of the Desert of anonymous. Unfortunately they own the third Gate.

Some of these xenophobes are born inside The Promised Land and some, just a few, a tiny faction, really are better, better than anyone other than themselves: they are the geniuses, the ultra productive, the prolific creative machines, the singers of the word of God — or something of sorts — those who did not have to struggle one day to learn anything and yet they’re simply outstanding. What the xenophobe residents will do is mock your normality and call it mediocrity, blissfully ignorant at the side of your creation that is special and unique, made better by each hour you’ve spent working hardly on it.

To avoid being held at The Gate, disguise. Walk confident, make a friend who lives on the other side, talk to people who come out and who go in — a clear strategy:

learn the culture, move like an insider and speak the subculture.

If you’re acing all these, no one will ever ask a thing. Not who you are, nor where you’re coming from and all the gates will open like you said “Sesame!”.

Once you have entered trough The Gate, well, that’s it! Bravely step in and rejoice! You have found The Promised Land and Roy. G. Biv. awaits you to hand over your very own special rainbow. Huzzah! Yay! Hooray! Oh, and once you’re in, dear creative human, please do write me a letter and ask a dove to deliver it to me. The dove will find me — they all do.

Now that I’ve made enemies of about each type of people guarding The Promised Land, by revealing their wicked ways and doubtful days, and since I despise the Desert of anonymous so badly, I think I may strive for the remainder of my days to find that spring of creative youth which I know it to be somewhere at the edge of understanding. Send the dove there before I reach the spot.

The doves always find it first.