A scrapbook of stuff I'm reading / looking at / listening to / thinking about. Ask me anything you can't Google.

Posts tagged "faq"

Jan 13, 2013
Austin, what did you like to read when you were a teenager?

Oh, God. If I had to sum up the spirit of my reading habits as a teen: THESE IDIOTS AROUND ME HAVE BEEN LYING AND EVERYTHING IS BULLSHIT. It was ridiculous. I was 17 during the Bush/Gore election and couldn’t vote, so I’d just run around quoting Molly Ivins to my relatives and begging them to vote Gore. Like everyone’s teenage years, it was pretty pathetic.

Books off the top of my head:

My parents subscribed to Newsweek, so I read that a lot, and we had dial-up internet, so I remember reading The Smoking Gun a lot.

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Dec 31, 2012
One piece of advice you give writers/artists is to put their work out on the internet. However, how does someone get noticed in a place that has become so mainstream that the people who have established a spotlight for themselves don't allow for any light to be shed on the newcomers that have the potential to be great?

Do good work and share it with people

Okay, here we go, real quick:

1) “Be so good they can’t ignore you.” Nobody gives you points for the “potential to be great,” unless they’re your parents or your teachers or something. Stop worrying about getting noticed. Keep making work, keep putting it out there, but most importantly, keep getting better.

2) Make a lot of work, know that a lot of it will suck, share the stuff that doesn’t. Just crank, crank, crank. Sturgeon’s Law tells us 90% of everything is garbage, so post the best 10% of your work online.

3) Own your own turf. Get www.yourname.com. Set it up as your homebase. The spot where people can find you.

4) “Do what you do best, and link to the rest.” If you want your work to be noticed, start noticing the work of others. Share work that you love by your peers, by your heroes, etc. Blog, tweet, tumble. Don’t just pin it to your pinterest board, write about it. The way to be interesting is to be interested, etc.

5) “Give yourself a decade.” No, really. Every overnight success is a myth. This shit takes time.

More in my book, Steal Like An Artist, and more in the next book, which I’m in the middle of writing.

Nov 01, 2012
What are your opinions on National Novel Writing Month?

Looking at a blank page of paper is pretty scary, but if you’ve got this repeatable project set out, you know what you’re supposed to do.
Kate Bingaman-Burt

Honestly, I don’t know much about NaNoWriMo, but I think anything that helps people stick to a daily routine can’t be all bad.

I really think the day is the ultimate time unit for artists, because it’s the only really natural time unit that we can sense intuitively— the sun goes, up, the sun goes down. (Weeks are totally artificial.) If you have a shitty day, you go to sleep and start over again.

And there’s real power to doing something daily for 365 days — witness my friends Chad Hagen and Lisa Congdon.

Most creative people I know either work early in the morning or late at night — those times when the rest of the world is sleeping. The Europeans have it right: afternoons are for sleeping. (Dickens said of afternoons, “I detest this mongrel time, neither day nor night.”)

I've got ideas. I'm fully on board with your methods. I'm fine with things sucking, and I understand the need to get it out there regardless. I firmly believe that completing something, even if it's bad gets you in the habit of completing things. Any suggestions on how to stay focused in this ever-distracting world? Thanks!

Yes: get up early every morning, don’t look at your phone, don’t get on the internet, don’t even talk to anybody, and work for 2 hours. Do this long enough and you’ll finish something.

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Jun 20, 2012
I know you used to be a copywriter in the advertising industry...what books/websites/sources would you recommend to someone starting out as a copywriter?

First, watch this Bill Hicks routine and try to let him talk you out of it. Then, read my advice for young folks wanting to go into advertising here. And then, browse my advertising tag.

Honestly, if you want to be a great copywriter, you should read really well-written books not about copywriting, not written by copywriters. Read the best writing you can by the best writers. Soak up their prose.

Don’t read all the same stupid blogs people in the agency world do. Look for inspiration outside of advertising. Brain Pickings always has something interesting.

A good creative director will be looking for a good writer, but they’ll also be looking for someone well-rounded, someone who’s bright and curious and interested. In other words: have something to talk about other than stupid advertising.

For “how-to” or more instructive ad books:

Oh, and make sure to watch this Bill Hicks routine.

Mar 29, 2012
I have had a sketchbook for 3 years now and it yet has been filled. I love you sketchbook photos on our website and I was wondering do you have any tips for filling up a sketchbook and actually being more creative? Thank you in advance.

Dang, how big is yer sketchbook? Do this: fill a page every day, even if it’s with grocery lists or scribbles or collages. At the end lf the year your sketchbook will be full.

Also: carry it everywhere, and instead of long at your phone or the computer when you’re bored, start making marks.

Also: remember that a sketchbook is a tool for thinking, a place to work your thoughts out on the page. It ain’t precious.

Also: get Lynda Barry’s WHAT IT IS and PICTURE THIS

After having two books published, what advice do you have for other writers wanting to be published? Thanks!

Forget about it. Get a decent day job, find time to do your work on the side, and put your stuff online. Get as good as you can. Keep sharing. The truth is, most publishers these days are looking for someone with “a platform,” i.e. someone who already has a fan base. You can’t get that waiting around for somebody to publish you. Embrace the fact that publishing is just making your work public. (Google Richard Nash’s “Publishing 3.0” talk.)

Harper Perennial contacted me about doing a Newspaper Blackout book only after I’d had major blog mentions (Kottke, etc.) and was already selling prints through 20x200.com (They contacted me based on my blog, too.) 

I’ve never had writing or a poem in a lit journal, and I’ve never had a gallery show. Nothing good that’s come from my career has come from anywhere other than my website. 

Dec 07, 2011
I know you probably get this question a lot in your ask box: how did you get your book deal, what were the steps you used to get to where you're at right now? I know it's a different journey for everybody, but it's always good to know what others tried. Thanks in advance. :)

Ah yes, the magic formula. If only one existed, other than "do good work and share it with people." And, you know, mess around for a decade or so.

My agent has one, and that is: “Get famous.” (No, really, I mean, think of Snookie.) If you want to know all about the publishing world, you should listen to his workshops on publishing.

But seriously, [BEWARE OF SALES PITCH!] pretty much all the advice I have to give to folks starting out is in my book, Steal Like An Artist. It’s out in March, available for pre-order, for like $6, which is ridiculous. It’s based on this blog post.

All my other advice is stuck under my “career” tag.

Good luck!

Nov 27, 2011
Hi I was wondering if you could give me any advise about writing my personal statement for my aplication to art foundations because I'm having trouble expressing just how passionate I am without over using the word passionate or being cheesy. Art is all I've ever wanted to do and I feel like I have too much to say and I have no idea where to start (teachers are useless) :) x

It’s my opinion that personal statements and essays are mostly about sticking to a good structure. My recommendation? Tell a story. Specifically: Tell your Oprah story.

An Oprah story is just a ramped-up version of what I was taught makes up a story: a character wants something, goes after it despite opposition, comes to a win, lose or draw.

Translated to personal statements and college essays, this means laying out your journey in 3 acts—the first act is your past, the second is your present, the third is your future.

  1. Where you’ve been — What you want and how you came to want it
  2. Where you are now — What you’ve done to get what you want, and how you’ve exhausted all your current resources
  3. Where you’re going — How acceptance by this institution is the next essential step to getting you there

Most important thing to remember: someone is going to have to read your essay—most likely someone who’s read a thousand of them before yours.

Be brief. Be honest. Use spellcheck. Stick within the word count. Have 2 or 3 trusted people read it over before you send it in.

This is not a foolproof method, but it’s always worked for me, and it’s worked for quite a few people I’ve coached.

Good luck!

Jul 28, 2011
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