I’m on week 2 of the altMBA, and last night submitted my project 5 before going to bed. This meant I needed to miss out on the group discussion starting at 11pm UK which I wasn’t delighted about, but I needed to recharge. The altMBA is requiring most of my previously spare time and energy in order to give proper attention. I’m finding it really rewarding the second time around and I’m fortunate that my fellow cohort are generous and supportive, as we nudge eachother to go deeper on the topics we’re exploring.

I’ve managed to create space and time this morning to write here (I’m working at home today). I’m doing plenty of writing in the altMBA but there is an understanding among attendees that we don’t post details of the prompts; doing so would spoil the surprise for future students.

Here’s something I noticed this morning.

Seth Godin, creator of the altMBA, talked to Larry King recently about his work, and the altMBA in particular. In the discussion Seth talked about the story of Daedalus and Icarus which has morphed over time from don’t fly too high, or too low to don’t fly too high. (The interview is really good, and linked to at the end. If you watch it, I hope you’ll see why I believe his work is important.)

As I sat down this morning I skimmed the book and noticed this paragraph. He’s talking about vulnerability.

Am I ashamed to go stand up and share my vision for what they might do next? What right do I have to say anything at all to these talented practitioners of their craft?

My work is always about connecting with the audience, and that connection brings vulnerability with it. Here I am, I have to say. Here is what I think, not what someone else said, not what some study said.

This made me think. I understand there is limited value in regurgitating other’s work, although there is value in curation and summarising. I’ve noticed in recent altMBA calls that I have a tendency to say “this [thing I’ve seen before] might be useful to you” and this is from my collecting of things that are useful and interesting to me over a number of years.

There is a pressure to create original work.

Steal Like an Artist is one of my favourite books. It’s short. No filler. And packed full of helpful wisdom for creative people.

I appreciate writers who don’t pad out their books with lengthy anecdotes which vaguely support their argument.

Austin Kleon has a helpful perspective on originality:

Nothing Is Original

The write Jonathan Lethem has said that when people call something “original”, nine out of ten times they just don’t know the referneces or the original sources involved.

What a good artist understands is that nothing somes from nowhere. All creative work builds on what came before. Nothing is completely original.

And he quotes André Gide:

“Everything that needs to be said has already been said. But, since no one was listening, everything must be said again.”

I share Austin’s optimism:

If we’re free from the burden of trying to be completely original, we can stop trying to make something out of nothing, and we can embrace influence instead of running away from it.

Hackathons are one example; synthesizing familiar things in new ways.

There are so many quotable paragraphs in Steal Like an Artist. If you have a creative itch to scratch you should read it.

A key piece of advice stands out for me and explains the nuance in what Seth said about quoting others:

Copy your heroes. Examine where you fall short. What’s in there that makes you different? That’s what you should amplify and transform into your own work.

That’s what I’m aiming for here. (The “what is it for?” for this blog.): Looking for patterns in the work others have done, applying my own perspective, writing about it, noticing what’s there, and then iterating.

Related links: