Thursday, February 12, 2015

Surviving as a Round Peg in a Cubical World

Some people have all the luck. Imagine working for a giant corporation, complete with daily meetings, cubicals, marketing geeks (Dilbert, anyone?)—and having carte blanche to do whatever trips your trigger. Gordon MacKenzie has detailed his experience as "Creative Paradox" at Hallmark in Orbiting the Giant Hairball, a book that defies description. 

It is pseudo-biographical: In addition to MacKenzie's own personal hegira, it covers the growth of the greeting card industry and the founding of Hallmark by Nebraskan Joyce Claude Hall. (That's "Joyce" like "Joyce Kilmer" by the way.) 

It is semi-comical: Every page is covered, marginalized or illustrated with doodles. That's right, as in bored-out-of-my-skull-in-this-meeting sketches. According to MacKenzie, his doodles literally set him free to be creative during the mandatory morning meetings. 

It contains bad poetry, transcriptions of Garfield cartoons that promote his philosophy, actual cartoons that promote nothing much at all, personal ads and squibs of important information given a page of their own: Orville Wright had no pilot's license. 

Nevertheless, the book succeeds—perhaps because it is deliberately, unendingly iconoclastic—in communicating how to free creativity in a business environment. I can recommend it to anyone who wants to go out on their own, who wants to stay sane while keeping a day job, or who wants to employ either of the former. 


If you go to your grave
  without painting
  your masterpiece,
    it will not
    get painted.
    No one else
    can paint it.

        Only you.
           —Gordon MacKenzie, Orbiting the Giant Hairball

This book is not available on Kindle, but is one of the few items in my library I wouldn't want to read on the digital screen. It isn't really text, but a semi-graphical glimpse into a creative brain.