The Truth About the Creative Process…
People write to me a lot about creating things–how to do it, where to start. The best advice I can give is to get frustrated and learn to live with it. I began work on my most recent book in the summer of 2009, my second year of college. But the concept didn’t budge until the summer of 2015, and it would be another year after that until the book was accepted by a publisher. Between the conception and birth of this book I will have conceived (or at least helped to conceive), and overseen, the birth of three human beings. Babies are hard. Books are harder.
I’ve also created businesses and music. Not one thing have I ever made and been successful with–babies, books, or otherwise–did I not want to quit or pull my hair out along the way at some point. A few weeks back, for example, when writing a page of my book, my computer was acting up, so I punched it, thinking I could reset it like an old Nintendo. I’m not a violent person; I advertise myself as one who meditates. The truth is I wasn’t frustrated at my computer. I was frustrated at myself. Sentences weren’t connecting the way I wanted them to, and everything I had to say was sounding contrived. This is just the sort of self doubt that afflicts all who’ve ever tried to make something, all who’ve ever tried to do something creative and something good. And there is no getting over it. This will happen every time.
What I’ve learned about the creative process is that there is no such thing as a stroke of genius, at least not for me. If I’m able to make something worth reading, worth listening to, it’s because I’ve been willing to edit my mistakes and all the rest of my garbage. And believe me: Most of what I create is on the level of garbage–no offense, Garbage. But there is good stuff even in garbage; that 1% that still holds nutritional value. The crusts of bread. They’re in there. And that’s what sucks so much about the creative process: You spend most of your time sifting through stinky, rotting piles of trash.
But like anything else, patience and persistence seem to be key. Because every time you imagine you are this-close to completing your project, something smacks you hard on the nose, and when you return to your senses you come to realize you’re not half as close as you thought you were. So you keep reaching halfway points, that you thought were end points, and suddenly one day, you are finished–for real this time. And then what? Well, then you get on with next project. There is no celebrating, no sweet release that comes with success. There is only the next thing you’ve been wanting to create–the next book, the next business, the next song or album, the next pile of garbage to begin sorting out and sifting through.
PS – You might also enjoy my podcast episode on creativity and how to increase it.
PPS – Here are some other things I’ve recently created. (What have YOU created lately?)
- New business with Dr. Spencer (The Fat Loss Prescription.)
- This post. (Thanks for field testing. This has been a Shitty Rough Draft of a chapter in my book.)
- This song. (Well, demo. Still requires drums and vocals.)