Catching up on some reading, I just spotted part of an article by Louis Chew on behaviors of creative people. The one that struck me as most important was that creative people give themselves permission to suck. Think about it.

Creativity sounds good theory, but it’s difficult in practice. Stephen Pressfield explains in his The War of Art,  the fear that all creatives have  is the Resistance.

“The amateur, on the other hand, over-identifies with his avocation, his artistic aspiration. He defines himself by it. He is a musician, a painter, a playwright. Resistance loves this. Resistance knows that the amateur composer will never write his symphony because he is overly invested in its success and over-terrified of its failure. The amateur takes it so seriously it paralyses him.”

Society has trained us to tie our self-worth to our accomplishments, as if success is the only metric that matters. If that’s the case, who would willingly create a piece of work that would be used to judge him, possibly to label him a failure?

For this reason, Pressfield says that we must turn from amateur to professional. Only then can we produce truly creative work.

“Resistance wants us to stake our self-worth, our identity, our reason-for-being, on the response of others to our work. Resistance knows we can’t take this. No one can. The professional blows critics off. He doesn’t even hear them. Critics, he reminds himself, are the unwitting mouthpieces of Resistance.”

The way to creativity is to create a lot, and the way to create a lot is to give ourselves permission to suck. People will forget the mistakes and garbage we make, but will remember our best works.


Here’s a little Sunday morning, behind the scenes graphic insight for you. For me, the best graphic jobs involve working with historic photos.  I learned to love the intricate detail in emulsion layers that only a chemical bath can produce. The processing is what makes analog photography so rich looking, and enhances details you’ll find lacking in digital photography. If you scan an old photograph at super high DPI, go scrounge up a magnifying glass and then compare the digital scan with the original print. You’ll be able to tell immediately which is which.

One of my clients wanted a book cover based on a historic photograph of a street scene. After doing some research sourcing the right photograph, sent a few candidates to the client for selection. I started to work on my layers with the chosen photograph, a 1930 street scene of the Feast of the Assumption in Little Italy on Mayfield Road.

Cleveland Press Collection

A beautiful street scene, but foreground clutter and other elements need edited to make room for book cover graphics. There are banner elements and iron work that I can reuse in more layers to develop a composite image. A draft of elements for the feature graphic is below, with many more steps to go to clean up the assembled graphic elements to go.

Draft of work in progress…

Once the client approves the direction of a graphic like this, I’ll move on with adding author, sizing, and developing the complete layout for front, back and spine. The final cover can’t be completed until the book text has been laid out and the total number of pages has been determined. It is the number of pages that dictates how wide the spine, and therefore, the complete cover will be.



Burning River Design is a Northeast Ohio creative company with support and consulting services in photography, design, publishing, research, curation and archives.

  • Photography (asset documentation, catalog and museum)
  • Graphic design (refreshing, restoring, and recreating images)
  • Publishing projects, including layouts for book interiors, covers, and illustrations. Read more about why you should hire a book designer…
  • Research of all kinds, such as genealogy assistance, company histories, photographs sourcing, and library crawling of all kinds. When we do the research for you on specialized topics, you can focus on your overall project.
  • Primary asset archival treatment, digital asset management, archives organization. We have over 15 year experience in archive management, digitization, and other special collections needs.

Lynn Bycko, the company founder, is a historian, curator, archivist, photographer, author, speaker and instructor with over 20 years experience.