“The Tense Duality” that governs every creative career

[Exhibit A: My more personal side]

[Exhibit B: the gapingvoid mission]

One of the better things I ever wrote was The Sex And Cash Theory, something to explain how to realistically balance the need to pay the bills with the need to do something creative with your life. It ended up being a key idea in Ignore Everybody.

“The crea­tive per­son basi­cally has two kinds of jobs: One is the sexy, crea­tive kind. Second is the kind that pays the bills. Some­ti­mes the assign­ment covers both bases, but not often.”

“This tense duality (between these two extremes) will never be transcended.” Even if I know that to be true (Hell, I pretty much wrote an entire book on it),  most days I still struggle with it.

But we all do, artist or non-artist, creative or non-creative. “This tense duality” is what one of mankind’s great books,  The Bhagavad Gita is also really all about: Poor ol’ Arjuna would like nothing better than a quiet life of spiritual contemplation, but his duties as an up-and-coming  warlord keep getting the way.  So Heavenly Lord Krisna comes down from On High and tells Arjuna, well, get used to it, Kiddo. This tense duality is in the DNA of Creation. Hence the Dharma, hence Karma. By the end of the book, Arjuna “gets” it. Happy Ending.

My personal “tense duality” is a lot less tense than it used to be, Thank God. It used to be “silly advertising day job by day, drawing silly cartoons on the backs of business cards for fun by night”. Now the duality is more, my wee “business card doodles” on the personal side (See photo above), the external side is the “Transform Office Art mission (See video above) that gapingvoid is on.

And I’ve grown to treasure the duality. Every time I’ve  tried to permanently wear just one hat,  the personal hat or the business hat, I get bored silly within a week. The work seems to need the constant dialogue between the inner and outer.

But like I said, I think we all have that. Finding that sweet spot where that never-ending dialogue can exist happily forever, is one of THE great tasks (and gifts) our brief life gives us.

I hope you’ve found yours.


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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
  • The New Republic
  • Len Schlesinger
  • Tony Hsieh
  • Brian Clark