content creator

Block by Simeon Smith

Sometimes I take photos. 

And sometimes I do not. 

Last time I went to London I shot an entire roll of film in my walk from the underground to the conference I was attending and during my lunch break. 

Today I went to London and didn’t take a single photo. 

Maybe there weren’t great subjects. Maybe the rain put me off from taking the lens cap off my camera. Maybe I was focussed on the meeting I was there to attend, and in a different frame of mind. Maybe I took the wrong camera. 

Or maybe I just didn’t take any photos. 

I loathe the term “block”. Writer’s block. Artist’s block. Photographer’s block. As if we’re machines that have jammed. Printers churning out content until we overheat or run out of paper. 

I especially find it unhelpful, because then you focus on what might be causing you to not be inspired to write, create, make photographs. 

Instead I prefer to relax a little more in my skin. Enjoy being. Take the scenic route. And yes, enjoy not making art. 

I used to be more hungry, but then I realised that not all of the greats are crazy prolific. 

As a photographer people will only remember a few of my images. Maybe not even that. 

How many Picassos can you remember right now? Guernica, the blue guitarist dude, the squiggle of a dove, the lady with the big eye… And yet this is an artist that changed how we look at the world. 

So maybe it’s okay that sometime I take photos. 

And sometimes I do not. 

How to be Inspired. Always. by Simeon Smith

You don’t need fancy gear, a purpose built studio, the right weather and a full moon to be inspired.

You don’t need fresh ideas, positive vibes, and the praise of peers to be inspired.

You just need to go to work.

Picasso said: “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.”

So get at it.

1.       Carry a creative tool with you everywhere. No, your phone or laptop does NOT count. I carry a film camera with me everywhere, or if I’m on a train, I take my tenori-on. Having something to hand always reminds me that I’m on this earth for more than survival.

2.       Switch off your phone, switch off your wifi. I am weak. Chances are, so are you. I can’t even read a book these days without being distracted by ooo… shiny! I wonder what’s on Instagram. My hands do it automatically. Even when I’ve left my phone on purpose, I still reach for it. I was with David last night, and he called his smart phone “crack cocaine”.  Yup. It’s that bad. Disconnect from the world, and reconnect with… oh that was about to be cheesy. Thanks for stopping me.

3.       Collaborate. However inspirational you find stuff, art, music, nature, it’ll be better if it’s shared. I’m lucky enough to live with my best friends. I work on art at least once a week with someone else, and I could see this as time that is taking away from me making my own art, but it inspires me so much. Also, without collaborators my palette would be seriously limited. They introduce me to new sounds, new ideas, new instruments.

4.       Be kind to yourself. Take a shower, go for a walk, grab a coffee, sit outside, eat healthy food, phone a friend, get comfy. You can be blindsided by inspiration anywhere, but sustainable inspiration comes from a place of wellbeing.

5.       Slow down. Count your victories, not your frustrations, maybe today you took just one photo, maybe you recorded just one harmony. Maybe that’s enough. Start looking at how much you’ve accomplished this week, this month, this year, not how much you’ve done in the last half hour.

201114 by Simeon Smith

Last night I went out, had some curry, won a pub quiz, went home and watched a video of that Jack Conte guy of off the YouTubes talking about art, and promoting his Patreon project at an XOXO conference. He used some dirty words like “Content Creator” (I’m not content creator, I’m a free man!) and monetisation (which he obviously spelt wrong, being of the American persuasion), but he’s a generally inspiring guy to listen to so I then spent the next hour and a half (in the early hours of the morning) fantasising about starting my own Patreon page, and it being successful.

I signed up, and filled in the very specific boxes. I watched the “How to make your page successful” videos. I carefully picked and edited a photo of my actual real face (rarely seen in conjunction with my art) because that is What Works. I wrote a little bio that was neither overly chatty nor overly formal and didn’t make me sound like a douche. I set myself some “Funding Goals” and dreamt up some “Fan Rewards”. I mean there’s a lot to like about Patreon, and none of my concerns over disingenuous Kickstarter campaigns really apply to it. But then I had A REALISATION.

Jack’s little inspirational talk thingy at XOXO stated that not making money from music is fine, if you only want to do it once. But to continue spending time and effort on music, you will eventually need money. So far, so good, and the money I spend making music is currently coming from same pot I feed my kids and pay the mortgage from, so yeah, that’s kind of a problem I need to address.

The talk also contained the formula “f(music)=money”. He said that in the past “YouTube(music)=money” and that now, for him at least,  “Patreon(music)=money”. But I think this is that this is kinda flawed in the whole “correlation does not imply causation” way. Jack’s little formula could contain many successful music service and seem to be true (BBC(music)=money). But… what’s the common ground here? Where does the money actually come from? 


And I should say that Jack also touches on this, but at that time my sleep-deprived brain was full of the fluffy dreams of Patreon-fuelled world domination.

This week I casually went to a lunch event with a Billionaire. His advice? If you ain’t got a customer, you ain’t got a business. For artists I suppose this equates to: if you ain’t got an audience, don’t print the t-shirts.

So let’s say I go on the Twitter and promote my brand spanking new Patreon page to my totally whopping and amazing 285 followers. To my 90 SoundCloud followers. To my 316 Facebook friends. To my 93 Instagram followers. To my bros on the Monome forums. To my actual friends when I meet up for beers or coffees (Okay, I only put coffees because I don’t want to sound like an alcoholic. It’s usually beers). And, you know, I might get some retweets and friendly little reposts on the tinterwebs, but…. do any of these people value my music enough to give me a couple of dollars, the equivalent of buying me a coffee (beer), every time I release a track? Do people engage with my art enough to care? Is my music marketable? Is it good enough? Are these questions I really want the answers to?

I know there’s one way to find out.

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