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The rest happens when I’m not paying attention – a chat with Dallas Clayton

January 25, 2010

One day Dallas Clayton decided to write a book about dreaming big for his six year old son. He spent thirty minutes writing it, six months drawing the artwork, and called it An awesome book. It plays on the idea that the dreams we have when we’re sleeping can be so magical and outlandish, but the ones we have when we’re awake – hopes and aspirations, are often bland and practical.

Selling more than 30 000 copies from his website only, Dallas decided to use some of the profits to set up his own foundation. For every copy of the book sold The Awesome World Foundation gives a book away to a young person to encourage them to pursue their dreams.

I wrote to Dallas, told him that I liked reading his story because I’m interested in the power of creativity if we act on our ideas and asked if he would answer some questions. He is clearly an awesome dude because although Pencil&Pipette at this stage is pretty small and not very influential, he took time to write back. It’s a pretty long interview, but if I show you the first question:

Me: Did you have awesome parents?

Dallas: Yes. Very much so. My father is a sea-captain/retired pirate and my mother is a lion tamer.

…you understand why you would want to read on. Here’s the rest (below the handsome fella):

Me: Have you seen people get inspired to do their own thing after reading your book?

Dallas: Yes, actually. It’s quite amazing. I get a lot of mail related to this, with people telling me the ways my book has made them rethink their own lives and goals. What a tremendous reward that is.

Me: Your book has just been translated into Russian – will there be a difference do you think between how it has been received in America (where you’re taught that every one can achieve a better, richer, and happier life) and how they will interpret the message in Russia?

Dallas: I can’t say exactly as I have never been to Russia and don’t know for certain what people dream about there but for me the purpose of writing a book like mine from a thematic standpoint is that everyone no matter what age, or nationality or background can appreciate it. Dreaming is a universal idea, the same as love, or hope, it’s just how you relate to the idea that makes the book different for you.

Me: You are working with Spike Jonze at the moment, creating sort of a blog for Where The Wild Things Are– was that an unexpected byproduct of the book, or were you friends before all of this?

Dallas: Well Spike was a fan of the book, and my writing beforehand and so the blog was actually more of a perfect merger of talents than a byproduct. He approached me with the idea, and it just fit fantastically with everything I had been working on. What a great opportunity.

Me: Does everything start with a dream or are there some things that need to be approached some other way?

Dallas: For me? Most things start with a dream. The rest happens when I am not paying attention. Perhaps those are a part of someone else’s dream.

Me: You’ve named your kid Audio Science, he’s seen you making this book and also traveled with you on the book tour around America last year.
Do you think him growing up in an environment like that guarantees him growing up thinking outside the square? I guess what I’m asking is how much is our creativity innate and how much does it need to be nurtured?

Dallas: Well, we’re all animals with our own genetic predispositions toward wanting to achieve certain things but certainly growing up in a world surrounded by art and creativity can help present opportunities to a child. That said, a lot of the most amazing art ever created has come from people who’s lives were full of repression, poverty, and lacked any alternatives to the understood path. I guess it’s all about doing what makes you happy.

Me: What would you say is your most important creative habit?

Dallas: I like to try new things and go new places as often as possible. Don’t create in a vacuum. The world is a very big place.
Indeed. But it feels small when you can just email anyone you want on the other side and they get back to you while you sleep and all of a sudden you’re talking. I love that. Thanks a million, Dallas!
(You can read more by and about Dallas here or on His blog chronicling the making of Maurice Sendaks/Spike Jonze’s Where The Wild Things Are is called We Love You So and worth a good thorough check as well).

3 Comments leave one →
  1. April 28, 2010 7:07 pm

    Anna, this interview of Dallas and his book an awesome world found me in a mode of ´why bother caring´they come every now and then, when the world seems so big that being one person can be very belittling.
    but you and the people you find and they way you represent them, helps, and people like Dallas help..
    thanks so much

    • April 29, 2010 8:56 am

      Hey Karen,
      thanks for your comment.
      I think we all feel like that sometimes, and I do think that inspiration through reading about other ordinary people and the extraordinary things they’ve done is the best medicine.


  1. Pencil and Pipette – Interview with Dallas Clayton | Illustration Friday

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