When I was a kid, growing up in Catholic Schools, Advent Calendars were a big part of the holidays. A countdown to Christmas Day, every day spent opening little cardboard doors to reveal some sort of treat (ranging from just a picture on the cheap ones that we’d get at school, to candy or even small toys on the super-deluxe ones). I stopped going to Catholic Schools in 1984, though. Stopped going to Catholic Church around the same time. I still kinda miss Advent Calendars, though.
Another thing has changed since I was growing up. Back then, if you wanted to work as a creative professional — a writer, an artist, a musician, etc. — your chances were roughly equal to a Lottery win. It required garnering the attention and approval of the powers-that-be in your particular niche (Record Company, Publishing House, etc.), who acted as a gatekeeper. If you were one of the lucky few, you could gain access to the benefits of those gatekeepers — production, distribution, marketing. The gatekeepers held the keys to accessing the audience required to make a career. Your chances, of course, were slim, which is why most of us were never encourage to pursue such things. We were told instead to put our noses to the grindstone, our shoulder to the wheel, our asses into the cubicle, etc., to labor as a cog in the great societal machine, where work was something you did to have money to live, and the things you love were something that you got to do as downtime from work. Nobody ever talked about doing what you love for a living — it was a dream.
Fuck that noise.
Things have changed. The gatekeepers still act like they haven’t, of course. It’s critical to their business that they maintain the status quo — but creatives are beginning to realize that they don’t really need the gatekeepers approval any longer. They can storm the gates, so to speak.
John Rogers, writer and producer-creator of Leverage, once wrote on his blog (which you should read) about what he called “4th Generation Media”, a term that he spun off the “generational” theory of warfare. 4th Generation Warfare (4GW) is the warfare of insurgency, of non-traditional armies, of terrorism and the breaking of the Nation-State’s monopoly on combat forces. Warfare is capable of being carried out by small groups against larger forces through non-traditional means, and, as John puts it:
“An effective 4GW army projects its force past the battlefield in order to directly affect the political will of the opponent.
An effective 4GM entertainment source projects its force past the mainstream media distribution system in order to directly connect with its audience.”
Hence my choice of the title for this series: Insurgent Creative. Storming the gates, going around the gatekeepers, reaching a direct connection with your audience, and having the tools for production, distribution and marketing in your own hands.
There’s been a lot of soapboxing in various media circles about “indie/self” vs “traditional/legacy” approaches. I’m not planning on rehashing those arguments here — there are plenty of folks who will push their particular one-true-wayism on you, and tell you that you’re stupid for ignoring the future, or somehow suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, defending your abuse at the hands of Corporate Dinosaurs.
But one thing that stood out for me in recent discussions, something raised by Chuck Wendig (another person whom you should read if you’re not already) — the fact that doing it yourself is a good fit for those people who have the necessary skills to do everything themselves. Not everybody has those skills, or even wants to do everything themselves. The more I thought about that very solid point, the more I also realized that there were so many resources available to creatives today, but not a lot of places where somebody was pointing them out, explaining their use, giving tips on their use, etc. Tons of resources and tools are available, and more are coming every day — but it can be simultaneously hard to discover them and overwhelming in their numbers.
So, I’ve decided to an “Advent Calendar” of my own. Every day, from today until December 25th, I will be posting a new entry in this series. We’ll cover tools, tips, resources and more that allow creatives of all stripes to bypass the gatekeepers and directly engage with an audience, forgoing the old lottery and making a nice living. The age of the Insurgent Creative is here. I’m not going to pontificate on how this path is somehow manifestly superior to the traditional methods — my only goal is to share those things which make it achievable, which will allow you to make the choice for yourself.
Feel free to comment and ask questions, I’ll answer if I’m able — and although I have a bunch of topics ready to cover, I am also very willing to take suggestions from folks as to what they’d like to see covered in detail, which I’ll fit in where I can.
See you again tomorrow…