Skip to content →

15 Things I Learned from The Good Creative by Paul Jarvis

The Good Creative book cover

Settling on the 15 things I learned from The Good Creative was not an easy task.

I’ve been a fan of Paul Jarvis for years now. His Sunday newsletter is not to be missed and I’ve always found him thoughtful, clear thinking and someone I could tip a few pints with if the stars ever align.

Which made my discovery of his book The Good Creative all the more enjoyable and instructive.

Advice for Newbies

I’m just starting out here at GLR Writer and all the resistance, self-doubt and second guessing that anyone feels when they start something new is taking up residence in my head.

After reading The Good Creative I felt better about what I’m trying to do here and have a better mindset as I build my author platform and get my ideas out there. I think anyone looking for that little nudge to get their creative spark for the first time or even again would have much to gain from reading this book.

Below are the 15 things I learned from The Good Creative. Some are just bits of trivia and some are more impactful, but together they combine as vital lessons from one of the the best books I’ve read this year.


The following are common habits that good creatives share. They’re not commandments, because they require critical thought, not obedience. Question all 18 of them.

1 – I like how Jarvis urges the reader to question what he has written. Too often writers seem to project an image of omnipotence. They think acting like they know everything will make their arguments more believable. Jarvis is asking us to be critical because if we are and his habits resonate we are more likely to change our behavior.

Henry Ford went totally broke five times before successfully selling people horseless carriages.

2 – I highlighted this one because too often I think successful people have always been and will always be successful. The reality is success usually comes after getting through all our failures. I need to remind myself of this more often.

Walt Disney was fired from his newspaper job due to “a lack of imagination.”

3 – Like #2 above, what if Walt Disney decided his boss was right and he didn’t have a good imagination. It would have probably saved me some money when my son turns 5, but how many lives would not have been impacted if Disney just stopped chasing his dream.

Steven Spielberg was rejected from the University of Southern California’s theatre school not once, but three times.

4 – This one I love. Spielberg didn’t just fail once trying to get into USC’s theatre school, but that didn’t stop him from trying. He could probably buy the school these days. I do wonder though what he thought after that third denial.

You aren’t a single work of art; you’re a whole collection.

5 – I started a YouTube channel a couple of years ago and uploaded short screencasts of me reviewing nonfiction books. I got one bad review and didn’t make another video. Sad, right? That was just one part of me and I let it end what could have been something. BTW, the reviewer was right, the sound quality on my videos sucked.

The casting notes from Fred Astaire’s first screen test said, “Can’t act. Can’t sing. Slightly bald. Can dance a little.” Once Astaire found success, he framed those notes and hung them where he could read them every day, just to remember where he came from.

6 – This is a story I plan to swipe. How great is it to use that criticism as fuel? Reminds me of Stephen King and all the rejection letters he got from publishers. Every “no” is one step closer to “yes.”

So hug even your most misguided critics. They’ve taught you two important lessons: First, these people are not your intended audience. Second, you’re not your art.

7 – Some people don’t like Game of Thrones. Others can’t stand Walking Dead. I’ve even heard there are people out there who hated Breaking Bad. If those works of art have haters, you and I will too. Like Jarvis says though that’s not our audience and we are not our art. I still struggle with making that separation though.

It’s human nature to see creative success and want the same for ourselves. Too often, though, we fail to recognize that successful people may have taken years to reach the top. Those accomplished folks may have spent most of their lives studying, perfecting, failing, trying again, and building up the knowledge required to connect their art with the right people.

8 – I read recently that the basketball play Ray Allen hated when people called him a natural. They weren’t giving him credit for the hours he spent everyday over the course of his lifetime getting better in the gym.

If you want to write a romance novel, do you give up because Jane Austen already wrote Pride and Prejudice in 1813? If you want to record a heavy metal album, do you stop when someone shows you Metallica’s And Justice for All?

9 – I listened to Nick Loper’s Side Hustle Nation podcast recently where he interviewed Steve Cunningham from ReadItFor.me. Steve’s company summarizes business books and has built a solid business out of it. I’ve read over 1,000 business books since college and have the notes to prove it. At first I was like, “Great, another idea already taken.” Then I remembered the quote above and realized if their is a company making money in a field I want to get into that is a good thing. That means there are customers willing to pay for quality stuff.

Chris Brogan and Julien Smith talk about “packaging your quirks” in their 2012 book, The Impact Equation, because those unique qualities make your creativity stand out. The most compelling story your art can tell is your own. You just have to tell it.

10 – I wonder at times what I can bring to the topics of self-publishing, personal and professional development and digital platform building. Then I remember that my quirks are different from your quirks and on and on. Packaging your quirks could be a great book title and at the very least it is something we need to keep in our heads at all times.

Roman Mars isn’t technically qualified to host his podcast, 99% Invisible , which explores how architecture and design shape our world. Mars has a background in biology and plant genetics, not design, but he applies his inquisitive nature to each episode and learns right along with the audience. He’s gone on to successfully crowd-fund significant growth for his podcast, which is consistently ranked #1 on iTunes. Mars has re-created public radio by ignoring the rules.

11 – I struggle at times with knowing I’m not an expert on some of the things I talk about on this blog. Then I read something like the above quote and I realize if you don’t know something, you teach yourself and then teach others what you learned, you are the expert. Or, at least more expert than those a little behind you on the learning curve.

Approach your creativity as a series of experiments. When you release your art, you’re testing a hypothesis. If it works, it proves your theory. If it doesn’t, your theory was invalidated and the variables need to change.

12 – This is one of the supporting pieces I’m using to build my Kindle publishing business around. I want to write short, actionable ebooks that help people solve specific problems like time management, organization or productivity. I think the hardest part has been accepting that getting the work out there is how it will get better. Using reader feedback and sales history I’ll quickly find out what is and isn’t working. But I have to get it out there or nothing happens. Obvious, but so easy to forget.

Become a fan of small. Launch in the tiniest increments possible, as quickly as possible. A book can start as a single tweet or article. An application can launch with one feature. A music release can be an EP or a single instead of a 100-song box set.

13 -This could be the best advice in the whole book. Start small and start often. I have a 70,000 word manuscript on my computer that I work on here and there. The first book I publish will be 15,000 words. I outlined it today. I may never publish that 70K beast because with so many moving parts it will never be “perfect” in the way I want it to be.

Write, paint, sketch, dance, or build for an hour a day. Ignore television or the phone or drinks with friends if you have to eliminate something. Saying yes to your creativity probably means saying no to something else. Art is sacrifice.

14 – This one is easy. If anyone tells me they don’t have time I tell them to stop watching TV and let me know how much time they have now. I read somewhere that watching TV is watching other people be successful. That simple statement changed my relationship with TV. And gave me back hours I was just letting slip by.

If connecting online isn’t your thing, don’t do it –or do it sparingly. But find some way to routinely connect with your audience. Art shows, book tours, networking events, teaching seminars, and conferences exposed new people to creative work long before Al Gore invented the Internet.

15 – Is it possible to be successful these days without being everywhere on social media? I want to find out.

One aspect of my platform building is establishing bright lines when it comes to connecting. I haven’t made a name for myself yet. Nobody would want me on their podcast or to guest post or to interview.

The thing is though I will never do those things. I’ll interact on email all day, but my strengths lie elsewhere. If it is possible to get your work discovered without following the standard path I’m about to find out. I think there can be some valuable lessons there for other shy and introverted entrepreneurs like me.


That is what I learned.

Paul, if you ever read this, thank you for writing a great book. I can see myself coming back to it year after year for guidance, motivation and creativity lessons.

And dear reader, if you haven’t read Paul’s book and you are looking for some help to get over some creative obstacles or you just want to get a little better at what you do, check out The Good Creative.

Published in Today I Learned

Comments are closed.