“make art every day”

I meet young, creative people all the time, just out of college. They’re tending bar, waiting tables, stacking shelves in bookstores, folding jeans at The Gap, working in an office.  All trying to get by, all trying to figure out what to do next, where they fit in this big ol’ world of ours. And it’s tough for most of them. Of course it is.

My advice to them is always the same: “Make Art Every Day”.

When I say “Art”, I don’t necessarily mean paintings or literature or music or whatever. I mean, whatever it is that’s meaningful and powerful to them. Like the old song said, “T’ain’t What You Do (It’s the Way That You Do It).

Only they can know what that is, of course. For me, it was always drawing cartoons. But for others, it could be about business or cooking or carpentry or screenprinting tee-shirts or raising money for charity.

That was my M.O. for years. I remember in my early mid-twenties, working my ass off all day long at the ad agency in Chicago. Then after work, instead of going home to watch TV and hang out with roommates or whatever, I’d head for my local coffee shop, pull a seat up at the bar, and sit there for hours on end, drawing cartoons. Even if my cartoons weren’t very good, even if they weren’t commercial. Even if some of the waiters and fellow customers used to made subtle and frequent quips about me “needing to get a life”.

It paid off eventually. Eventually the cartoons got good, eventually they got commercial. Eventually I didn’t need a day job anymore, eventually I got a life. Happy Ending.

I didn’t wait for the money, I didn’t wait to “be discovered”, I didn’t wait for the approval from others. I just got on with it, every day.

Like a very talented pianist friend once told me when I was a boy; it’s better to practice a musical instrument for five minutes a day, than to practice for two hours, once a week. It’s something I never forgot.

Which is why regardless of what the rest of the world needed from me on any given day, I found the time, somehow. Simply because I made the decision to do so, somehow.

Whatever your EVIL PLAN might be, “Make Art Every Day”.



  1. Great post, especially the part about practicing five minutes a day. I’m a music teacher in East Texas and this is exactly what I tell my students.

    I enjoy your art, and I enjoy your posts!

  2. A fantastic post, I wholeheatedly agree.
    Boredom and time wasting is the biggest threat to the completion of evil plans!

  3. Great advice, Hugh. Sort of a corollary to “do what you love and the money will follow.” – Todd

  4. If only I’d heard this advice half a lifetime ago…

  5. Great post. It makes sense on a number of levels. I really like the quote about practicing 5 minutes a day rather than 2 hours every 2 weeks. I must share this with my 10 year old daughter.

    Now back to my Evil Planning.

  6. Balaji Sowmyanarayanan says:

    Figured this out only recently. As Rick said, must have figured it half a life ago.

    Well put! Hat tips!

    -Balaji S.

  7. Art, I think, is like sex. There is no such thing as bad …..
    It really is the doing that does it.

  8. LOVE the coffee shop story!
    Perhaps we all need a place to get away from life’s demands in order to create “Our Life”.
    Thanks for the reminder.

  9. I recently challenged myself to do just this! What a difference in my quality of life it has made! It’s not necessarily the most amazing stuff every day, its just the act of DOING!

    Glad I found this article!


  1. [...] “make art every day” via gapingvoid by Hugh MacLeod on 4/14/10 [...]

  2. [...] Work on your art everyday. We all have those things – hobbies, passions, whathaveyous – that take up our mind, but not necessarily our time. Because they don’t make money. At least not at first. But they make us richer in ways that money can’t even touch. That thing is your art. Work on it. It is the only sign that you are alive. (Thanks to Hugh MacLeod for the inspiration.) [...]

  3. [...] “make art every day” | gapingvoid [...]

  4. [...] Go ahead. Change the world. Make art everyday. [...]

  5. [...] Godin, Steven Pressfield, y Hugh MacLeod hablan de la necesidad de hacer arte en aquello que hacemos. ¿Quién dice [...]

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Hugh MacLeod is a genius.  Genius.

Seth Godin
Best Selling Author

His work acknowledges the absurdity of workaday life, while also encouraging employees to respond with passion, creativity, and non-conformity...   MacLeod’s work is undeniably an improvement over the office schlock of yore. At its best, it’s more honest, and more cognizant of the entrepreneurial psyche, while still retaining some idealism.

The New Republic
Lydia Depillis

Last year my State of the College address was 76 slides loaded with data. This year it was 14 cartoons that were substantially more memorable.

Len Schlesinger
Former President, Babson College

"There are only two daily newsletters that I look forward to opening and reading every time they show up to my inbox: Seth Godin's and gapingvoid."

Tony Hsieh
CEO, Zappos

In moments of indecision I glance at the wall [to Hugh's work] for guidance.

Brian Clark
  • Seth Godin
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