Be true to your subject (and other good advice)

Piles of books
Image by Eli Samuelu (

Ask Arden

I’m currently reading It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be by the late Paul Arden (1940-2008). It’s one of those books I’ve had for a couple of years and never got round to reading (The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks—I resorted to the audiobook—and How to Change the World by John-Paul Flintoff are amongst them). Arden’s book is, of course, full of gems directed at creatives in the advertising world, but many of them apply to creativity in general. Arden on mistakes is encouraging: “The person who doesn’t make mistakes is unlikely to make anything.”; on getting started he is forgiving: “… failures and false starts are a precondition of success.”; and on being stuck, unorthodox: “Do the opposite of what the solution requires.” But, Arden on doing your own thing has to be my favourite:

Do not try to win awards. Nearly everybody likes to win awards. Awards create glamour and glamour creates income. But beware. Awards are judged in committee by consensus of what is known. In other words, what is in fashion. But originality can’t be fashionable, because it hasn’t as yet had the approval of the committee. Do not try to follow fashion. Be true to your subject and you will be far more likely to create something that is timeless. That’s where the true art lies.

Forgotten Fields in six words (or less)

Towards the end of the book, Arden writes about the power of a slogan when communicating an idea. It got me thinking about a slogan for my music. Describing Forgotten Fields in a single phrase is tricky—it took more than 500 words just to explain the band name! Like an album cover, a lot must be conveyed in a single communication—and unusual ideas don’t help, they can even turn people off. But, Arden’s words reminded me to be true to myself, to make the music I have to make, and to describe it plainly and frankly. When I joined the Minds social network, I wrote the shortest profile description I could think of: Sad music to make you happy. I later changed it to: Sounds of wonder and loss. To me, both phrases encapsulate Forgotten Fields. When I read them, I think: Yes, that’s what I’m trying to create!


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