“Make something amazing that will really blow the mind of anybody who sees it.”
– Hugh MacLeod, Ignore Everybody And 39 Other Keys to Creativity
I’ve got a cold, or a mild flu (or as the BF likes to say, “Swine Headcold”), which means I’m spending a lot of time in bed, trying to sleep. And when not sleeping, reading. This afternoon it was reading Hugh MacLeod’s brilliant little book, quoted above.
I love the book. Highly recommend it. But I have a problem with the quote.
The problem is this: if you set out to make something amazing, usually what you end up with is either paralysis or mediocrity. At least that’s how it works for me.
The trick for me is to just make something. Try something. Ask the question “What if..?” and then try to find the answer.
You may work differently, which is cool. Whatever. Figure out what works for you. For me, any set-up expectation of judgment – especially when competition is involved – scares my kindergartner with her crayons (read the book if you don’t get the reference) away and puts me way too much in my head.
On the other hand, somehow I manage to create work that I’m proud of when working for a client, which is interesting, because I’m very aware that I’m being judged (and on a deadline no less!), yet I’m able to create. Why is this?
Certainly part of it has to do with what McLeod calls the split between “Money” (i.e., work you do to pay your bills) and “Sex” (i.e., work you do because you love it). When I create for a client, rather than just for myself, there’s a certain distance that always exists between me and the work. In fact, depending on the project, I may have no ego-involvement at all.
I suspect another part of it is the very fact of having an externally-imposed deadline. Deadlines are magical things; I dread them, despise them, yet they are frequently the only thing that gets me off my butt and actually doing something, and for that reason I feel an almost doe-eyed adoring gratitude to them. Deadlines also force you to allow something to be done, when in the absence of one (a deadline) you might feel compelled to tweak it a little more, a little more, a little more, in perpetuity.
Take my CD, for example, a rare instance of a self-imposed deadline that actually worked. Self-imposed deadlines, when not hooked onto some external deadline (ie “I need to get this done in time to take advantage of holiday shopping season!” or “I need to get this done in time to exhibit it/perform it/sell it at the show opening/gig/etc. on such and such date!”) are easy to not take seriously. After all, if you let it slide, who will care?
At least that’s how it works for me.
I have found that a short, specific self-imposed deadline (ie “I really want to make a brand new ketubah design today“) tends to work better than a long and/or general one (ie “I really want to add several new ketubah designs to my collection this year”), but hooking a goal to a hard deadline always works best.
So what’s the tip in all of this?
A) Set out to MAKE SOMETHING. Not something amazing that will blow people’s minds, but just something.
B) Create a deadline, and hook it to something that has weight for you.
Then get started. I also recommend allowing the something that you’re creating to have a life of its own. In other words, don’t get to invested in your finished something being identical to your initial vision. If you allow your something to evolve, you may be amazed at how, well, amazing it turns out to be!