Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Moments of Conception 124 -- The Drawing Scene from The Peanuts Documentary

All creativity begins with the moment of conception.

That little piece of kindling that gets the fire going. That initial source of inspiration that takes on a life of its own. That single note from which the entire symphony grows. That single spark of life that signals an idea’s movement value, almost screaming to us, something wants to be built here.

And so, in this blog series, I’m going to be deconstructing my favorite moments of conception from popular movies. Each post will contain a video clip from a different film, along with a series of lessons we can learn from the characters.

Today's clip comes from the drawing scene in The Peanuts Documentary:

What can we learn?

Volume to the power of consistency. The greatest force in the artist’s career is compound interest. Building our capacity to generate more and more value over time through the slow, unsexy, but consistent creative increments. It’s a long term, disciplined strategy, but if we stick to it, the compound interest does most of the heavy lifting for us. And the result will be more than worth the slog. Schulz was a master of compound interest. He famously said that the secret of his success was focusing on drawing one good comic strip every day. Not making millions. Not achieving fame. Not changing the world. Not advancing his personal agenda. Not making publishers and newspapers happy. Just the art. Just the work. Just one good strip, every day. That single goal governed his work for more than fifty years, and it made him one of the most influential, popular and profitable cartoonist in the history of the medium. The strip was his mission piece. That one chunk of art he committed to, focused on and obsessed over, each day, until it was done, no exceptions; trusting that everything else, including the television specials, the merchandising, the licensing and the books, would flow from that. Proof positive, that the best way to beat the odds is with massive output. That compound interest is what keeps the value growing. How are you incrementally approaching your creative breakthroughs?

Small times long equals big. Schulz started drawing cartoons when he was a young boy. But he didn’t go full time as comic creator until he was in his mid twenties. Meaning, he must have logged tens of thousands of hours putting pen to paper before he earned a dime. And that’s the part nobody likes to talk about. Because it represents the pure, unromantic slog of sitting down and doing the work, every single day. That’s what it all boils down to. Not unlike the recovering alcoholic who asks himself if he took a drink today, the successful artist asks himself if he created today. If the answer is yes, and continues to be yes, then there will be a bright, green light at the end of that sweaty tunnel. Schulz saw that light. He knew that his art would take a long time to pay for itself. But he kept cranking out that strip. And its peak, his comic was syndicated to nearly three thousands newspapers in seventy counties and twenty languages. He was earning forty million dollars a year. Even after his death, his brand now generates an estimate two billion dollars in revenue every year. All because he did the work. The work that nobody asked him to make. Paid today for the free work he did yesterday. Are you willing to give your work away for free until the market is willing to pay for it?

You give me the seed, I’ll cultivate it. Schulz started out in the fifties with a comic strip. He had no intention of branching out into other media. But when he started created the animated television programs in the sixties, that new channel gave him the opportunity to add new dimensions to his work. Additional characters, personality elements, interesting actions, diverse voice talent, and of course, the distinctive jazz music. Schulz even said it himself, his animators could do things with characters that he couldn’t do in the comic strip. And that’s precisely why the brand became such a colossal success. Schulz was humble enough to ask for help. To raise his hand when he surpassed the perimeter of his competence and enlist other people to fill in the gaps. That’s a hard thing to do. Especially for creators, people who are notoriously independent. People who hesitate to bring others into their dream, because it represents a loss of control. But the reality is, we can’t do everything ourselves forever. What we can do, though, is build a vision that infects people and transfer enthusiasm and inspires them with the purpose behind our work so they can cultivate the seed we give them. When you’re ready to start stretching other muscles, whom will you enlist?

What did you learn?

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Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author. Speaker. Strategist. Filmmaker. Publisher. Songwriter.

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