“If you take the process of creativity seriously, it has no shortcuts. You need to wait for authenticity. The discomfort is always there.”
Jad Abumrad – Founder of Radiolab
We all have our heroes. Creative individuals who make the creating of art seem easy. The quality of their work inspires you in one breath and stalls you with another. We see them way up at the top of the creative mountain and we’re stuck right down the bottom. The gap is enough to deflate you. Enough to make you not want to start the climb.
But don’t walk away.
Megan McArdle writes in her book, “Up and Down”, that “it is easy to begin once you have accepted that what you produce may not be very good, and that is normal”. Giving in to the idea that your first attempts at climbing the creative mountain won’t be very good is liberating. Every first iteration needs work. Think of the work your students hand you. How often is the first draft a masterpiece? Pixar is an incredibly creative organisation and they say that ALL their movies are terrible when they first begin. It takes time and dedication to make the beauty appear from a first draft. It is step by step with no shortcuts. “Ask anybody doing truly creative work, and they’ll tell you the truth: They don’t know where the good stuff comes from,” Austin Kleon writes in Show your work, “they just show up to do their thing. Every day.” If you are wanting to do creative work, you need to do it every day.
The challenge with truly creative work is that the journey can be a lonely road. You toil away every day and there seems to be little interest. You have days where you question why you continue to pursue it. You have days where the creative work just doesn’t flow. It is not as good as you want it to be. Don’t fret.
“The first couple of years that you are making stuff, the stuff you are making is disappointing. Most everyone who does interesting creative work, the most important is to do a large volume of work. The work you create will then be as good as your ambitions”
Ira Glass – The Gap
A study conducted by Professor Dean Simonton shared by Adam Grant in the Originals supports this.
“Simonton finds on average, creative geniuses weren’t qualitatively better in their fields than their peers. They simply produced a greater volume of work, which gave them more variation and a higher chance of originality. “The odds of producing an influential or successful idea,” Simonton notes are a “positive function of the total number of ideas generated.”
Adam Grant – Originals
The key is to produce more work.
Every day, create more work. I can attest to this. I have written so much lately (over 50,000 words in two and a half months) and a large amount of that is just crap. Straight up garbage. Amongst the garbage though are ideas worth iterating on. Good starts. This post alone has been rewritten about 7 or 8 times. To get it right, I just had to keep going. One move at a time.
Creative work is as much a battle against ourselves as it is a battle against the generation of original thought. Everyone is their own toughest critic. We all face insecurity. Feel like a fraud, an imposter at times. Being in our own heads all the time can stunt your creative output. Get out of your head and get your idea/s out there. Do as Seth Godin says and “ship it”. Talk outside of your head with someone on that idea. It is this process that helps you improve it. Constant self-editing and analysing stunts growth. Create, share, feedback, create, share, feedback. A great story or artwork is hardly ever created in one sitting. It is an ongoing dance.
To help you develop your ideas, take Austin Kleon’s advice
“Chew on one thinker – writer, artist, activist, role model – you really love. Study everything there to know about that thinker. Then find three people that thinker loved, and find out everything about them. Climb up the tree as far as you can go. Once you build your tree, it’s time to start your own branch”
Everyone starts out as a cover band. We are the product of our influences. The key is to continue to do it. Day in and day out. The great ideas aren’t gifts from the heavens above. They are the product of dedication and hard work. While you may feel like the top of the creative mountain is too far away, the journey to the top is the same for everyone. One move at a time.
“Don’t walk away from the mountain”
Srinivas Rao – Unmistakeable Creative
Your voice will come.