Madman, craftsman, critic

With more and more businesses participating in social media, the pressure to be creative is getting intense.  Now every tweet needs to be interesting.  Every blog post, a ‘wow’.  And so everybody wants to know: Does Robroy have a process for that?

Hold on, let me check.  Why, yes, here’s something.  I call it the Madman, Craftsman, Critic process.  Catchy name, I know.  You can use Madman, Craftsman, Critic (or Madwoman, Craftswoman, Critic) to develop everything from business growth strategies to sales presentations to marketing content, tweets, blogs and more.  It also works for paintings and poems and love songs.  And Robroy posts.  Anything creative.  But only if you are willing to concede that you have three strong-willed personalities within you who all want to dominate the creative process, and it’s your job to keep them in line.  They are:

1. The Madman

His cheeks are tight and bright from holding back gales of laughter while dashing around the room goosing people.  The Madman is you at your irrepressible best.  Your passion, your spark, your zest for life.  He loves what he does and is inspired by finding original ways to express it, regardless of what anybody else is doing.

2. The Craftsman

After the wild hilarity has blown over, enter the Craftsman.  This is your technical side.  Fastidious, skillful and proud, the Craftsman makes logical sense of what the Madman has left behind, which he measures, cuts, joins and assembles into something structurally sound and useful.

3. The Critic

“Gentlemen, gentlemen,” says the Critic, peering over his glasses.  “Your masterpiece is stirring, indeed, but riddled with errors.  A detail is missing here and here.  And the surface must be rubbed, sealed and smoothly coated.  Really, gentlemen.   In the future, I insist we bring me in sooner.”

This is you and your high standards.  Ultimately accountable for whether the thing works or not, the Critic controls quality in matters large and small.  It would be a disaster to involve the Critic too soon in the creative process, as he would scold and nit-pick and criticize his brothers until they broke his glasses and made him cry.  Another common mistake is letting the Madman hang around so long that he burns it all down with his hair.  Finally, try not to allow the Craftsman to start or finish the project, as it will end up technically perfect, but emotionally stiff as a board.

Madman, Craftsman and Critic, in that order.

But, hey, you’re creative.  How does it happen for you?  Have your Madman/Madwoman leave a comment below.


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27 Responses to “Madman, craftsman, critic”

  1. Plato Hieronimus Says:

    Enjoyed this post, Rob.

  2. Mark Slatin Says:


    Excellent advice. For me, I’m most creative when NOT in front of the computer. Confining my mind to a 15″ screen limits my mind from going in all directions.

    Also, in your model, I have to catch myself from starting out with the critic and shutting down the positive chain reaction that happens from brainstorming.

    Thanks for sharing useful tips in a much needed area!


  3. Bonnie Says:

    This is so relevant to the newspaper business today, and one of the main reasons it’s suffering (besides that new-fangled competition called the Web).The madman inspiration is being squelched by the economically-minded craftsman. Usually this takes the form of eliminating people through content-sharing (mass shoveling of pages to sister publications), templating of sections and other cost-saving measures that leave the remaining staffers overwhelmed and unable to conjure the madmen. The haste at which these steps are being implemented only serves to alienate readerships faster. I am happy to see a few new newspaper positions on the job board. Perhaps they are reconsidering their wisdom.

  4. Randy Albers Says:

    Well, Rob, they can ruin your work, but not if treated in the ways you outline. Good, lively ideas and expression. Sound as though you are doing well. Hope all is going as well as it sounds.
    All the best for the new year. Randy

  5. EJ Gorey Says:


    Thanks for sending this to me. I love it. I find that, at the end of the process my Critic questions everything that the madman has created. I have to have a little confidence in the madman and throw a little caution to the wind…it always works!

    40% madman
    30 % craftsman
    30% critic (damn critic)

  6. Cindy Macdonald Says:

    Rob, I love this! And I can see the nice balance in you! For me, quilting or preparing a lesson to teach, I have to let the madman and the critic fight it out for a while. Usually the madman, though weakened, wins. Otherwise I wouldn’t even get started, but the critic has at least reigned in some ideas. Then I ignore the critic, take the madman’s mess, and let the craftsman have at it.

  7. Greg Caruso Says:

    Kill the critic – get more done and have more fun.

  8. Robroy Says:

    Can anybody name the Critic pictured in the photo above?

  9. Terri Says:

    Ideally, I see myself as the creative Craftsman first and then the Critic and then the Madman. Unfortunately, my life gets in the way and I have to deal with my critic first, and slam! I have to deal with other people’s stuff before I can get creative. OK enough of that you have help me bring this to my consciousness, I am ready to start with the madman! What the hell—my personality will only let my craftsman do as much as my critic will allow. In other words, I love thinking outside the box, but I get bogged down with “reality” constraints. I’m a turtle! How does a turtle blossom as a madman?

  10. Stacey Hunt Says:

    Great way to sum up the creative process within us. The Madman within me recently painted a dynamic, multiple themed wine glass at a painting party. While others reached for stencils and carefully laid out their design, I started with one stenciled flower and then my Madman went off creating a glass that I now have gorgeous dreams about. It wasn’t until after I finished my glass that I looked at the others’. With relief, I realized the Critic within me didn’t have a single moment (well maybe a teeny bit at one point) to gloat. Of course, all the supplies were laid out before me, so I didn’t have to notify the Craftsman at all. It was a very therapeutic evening, and I highly recommend doing a party like this with your friends.

  11. Adam Edelman Says:

    My Madman and Craftsman usually join forces together. The Critic then comes along and brings things back down to reality. We don’t like the Critic very much, but he’s necessary evil!

  12. Phil Brooks Says:

    Is that critic H.L. Mencken? (Is that how you spell it?)

    Very fine advice. I’d mention (as far as writing, but probably applicable elsewhere) that it’s a good idea to save all of your drafts. The craftsman and critic can sometimes kill a piece that was alive. Only by keeping earlier versions can you find out. I make a folder for a given poem/story and create a new numbered version each time I sit down to do serious editing. My two cents. p

  13. Robroy Says:

    We have a correct answer!

    Reader Phil Brooks has identified The Critic (pictured above) as H.L. Mencken, the Sage of Baltimore (1880 – 1956).

    According to Wikipedia, he was “one of the most influential American writers and prose stylists of the first half of the 20th century.”

    Thank you, Phil!

  14. Christen Says:

    Hmmm. Sounds very in line with my ego, super-ego and id. Am I brave enough to get “in touch”? Lovely post. Thank you!

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