Have you created something that gave others a buzz?

Michael Leunig is a treasured Australian cartoonist, writer, painter, philosopher and poet who I’ve posted about before. Leunig recently visited my workplace and shared a few honest and humble insights about his creative process.


Michael Leunig Photo credit: http://bit.ly/1I7f19p

At the beginning of almost every project, Leunig shared that he sinks into something similar to self-loathing. He asks himself, ‘What on earth makes me think I can write about something I’m not an expert on?’ (I wonder if that’s the point where many of us stop, listen to our negative inner chatterbox and go no further.) Eventually, from the ashes of this dark, doubtful and uncertain place, with a very deflated ego, he begins to create.

In his cartoons, Leunig hopes to be interpreted more as a catalyst for discussion rather than someone with a firm opinion.


Credit: Michael Leunig

He spoke about the under-rated appreciation of ‘mature innocence’, a quality he uses to explores emotions, or, as his website states –

‘the idea of an innocent and sacred personal world, the fragile ecosystem of human nature and its relationship to the wider natural world.’

For example –

‘We pray for the fragile ecology of the heart and the mind. The sense of meaning. So finely assembled  and balanced and so easily overturned. The careful, ongoing construction of love. As painful and exhausting as the struggle for truth and as easily abandoned.

Hard fought and won are the shifting sands of this sacred ground, this ecology. Easy to desecrate and difficult to defend, this vulnerable joy, this exposed faith, this precious order. This sanity.

We shall be careful. With others and with ourselves.’

AMEN (Michael Leunig)


Credit: Michael Leunig

I can’t begin to do this thoughtful, gentle, spiritual (yet not religious) and outspoken artist justice here. But the reason I’m blathering on about him again is a story from his childhood that Leunig used as a metaphor.

As a youngster Michael Leunig lived in the bush, and like many children he believed in fairies and pixies.

Down by a creek near his home, he’d create miniature gardens for the magic folk to play in – using sticks, pebbles, flowers and whatever was at hand. In the morning he’d go and see if his garden had had visitors overnight, and he was always sure he saw tiny footprints in the dirt.

Leunig likens his creative works as an adult to those tiny gardens he made in the bush as a young boy. If a reader wanders through his work (like the magic folk) and enjoys it, is enriched by the experience—then that gives him, the creator, great pleasure. More pleasure than awards and accolades.

That’s when I realised that should be enough. When we create something (cook a meal, write a book/post, paint, sew, compose, make a home/family etc), it really is a wonderful compliment to know that someone enjoyed the experience our creation gave them.

It is enough.

Have you created something others have enjoyed? How did it feel?

Michael lenig2

Fairies or angels? Credit: Michael Leunig

Note: Quite a few male colleagues admitted how much they enjoyed listening to Michael Leunig (who doesn’t shy away from feelings and emotions). Should be more of it. 🙂





This entry was posted in creative process, Leunig, Michael Leunig, writing, writing and confidence and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to Have you created something that gave others a buzz?

  1. I have the talent of making Nothing into Something…working with special kids for 30 years and now senior adults…My art talent helps trememdously…The feeling??? just about the best in the world to make some smile, some sit in amazement and others overwhelming me with compliments… Yes, a very good feeling!

  2. Carrie Rubin says:

    Knowing someone enjoys our meals is one of the things I like about cooking. Sure, I enjoy the process, but having others share the experience is the real treat. Same goes for my novel writing. 🙂

    • You’re right, Carrie, cooking is about sharing time together, isn’t it, setting the scene?
      Writing stories is like offering people an alternative reality, or garden. As they read, they visit their own version of that world. Thanks. 🙂

  3. Ha we shall see if I’ve created something worth the joy and appreciation of others as I am about to hand off the manuscript. At the very least, I hope someone else embraces my characters.

  4. Where can one acquire an understandascope?

  5. livelytwist says:

    What a powerful transformation of self doubt.
    Having someone read something I wrote and have an aha moment is wonderful. Having that work validated by peers in the industry via awards, must be wonderful as well, I suspect.

    I enjoyed reading what you shared about his creative process. Good for you, you heard it up close! 🙂

  6. Leunig is one of my heroes, and his ‘tiny gardens’ analogy says it all, for me. As does livelytwist

  7. stacilys says:

    “If a reader wanders through his work (like the magic folk) and enjoys it, is enriched by the experience—then that gives him, the creator, great pleasure. More pleasure than awards and accolades.”
    –I couldn’t agree more. That’s what drives me to keep creating. Knowing that something I wrote or did made a difference in someone else’s life, ahhhh there’s nothing like it.

  8. What a lovely tribute to a marvelously talented fellow, Susan. I’m always a massive fan of the underdog–the artist whose ego is subdued and vulnerable rather than planetary-sized. And Leunig’s work is simply tremendous. I’m so looking forward to exploring more of what he has to say. Many thanks for the introduction to a worthy character.

  9. Deborah says:

    Oh I love this idea as I never tend to write posts that ‘challenge’ people’s thinking as I don’t believe I have the expertise to. I like the idea of being a catalyst though.

    • Call it shadenfreude, but it was heartening to hear Leunig admit he had such frequent moments of self-doubt.
      You ask pertinent questions, Deb, so yes, catalyst is admirable!
      Thanks for dropping by. 🙂

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