Category: Creativity

How to Start Your Craft

jan-kahanek-184675

One of most important lessons I’m learning is to love my craft even when nobody cares.  Learning this lesson is an important first step in getting started on whatever it is you want to accomplish. One of the best and hardest advice I’ve heard on creativity is from William Zinsser’s On Writing Well: write for yourself. He captures it well in this statement:

“You are writing primarily to please yourself, and if you go about it with enjoyment you will also entertain the readers who are worth writing for. If you lose the dullards back in the dust, you don’t want them anyway.”

When it comes to your craft, whatever it may be, your primary audience is you.

In a world where fame is the most praised sign of success, writing for yourself in an important lesson. Our world tells us that the only things that matter are things that get a lot of attention.  A mentor once asked me, “would you still write if only one person reads what you wrote?”   He spoke of a woman he admired for being committed to writing to her audience of three.  She valued the craft itself more than the little attention that came with it.

There’s something beautiful about someone who experiences her craft even when it doesn’t “succeed.”  There’s something innocent and childlike about it. We affirm it when we see it in children, who don’t really care about who admires their creativity.  After we’ve enjoyed the process for its own sake can we take the next step to share it with another, as a child does with her parents, or as a blogger does with the internet.

How many are kept every day from exploring their craft because they’ve equated importance to fame? There are many articles that I didn’t write and books I didn’t read because I didn’t think it mattered to enough people. We all have moments where we miss out on enjoying the process of creating and loving our craft because we believe that it only matters if it matters to a lot of people.

It is human to create, so do what you love, even when no one shows up.

What’s keeping you from exploring and creating something new?

 

on learning to finish

finishing

I started writing what you’re about to read 5 months ago, but it remained unfinished until now.  I have an honest confession to make about the pain of creativity in a world of shortcuts. As part of the Millenial generation, we’re immersed in a world of technological advancement that trains us to value the speed and efficiency of things, and therefore devalue that which seems slow.

So, I ask, what does it take for you to be creative? What does it take for you to finish?

Take an honest look at yourself: How good are you at reaching your goals? Do your Monday goals get forgotten by Wednesday? Do you start things with excitement but forget about them shortly after? Are you a master of finishing the projects you start? Do you ever get excited about something new–a hobby, a sport, a project, a goal, only to neglect it after a few hours or even overnight?

I’ve learned this about myself: I love to learn, and I love to get excited about learning new things. But what I know too well is that I prefer the novelty of learning, the idea of it, than the hard work it takes to truly learn. I am, I guess, a compulsive learner. I’m becoming aware that the interests that plague me today, will likely be boring old news tomorrow. I move on.

I have tons of examples from my life. Recently I found tutorial videos on a topic that interested me so I started to binge-watch them. After an hour of watching, I started to  watch the videos at twice the speed to hurry the learning process. I crammed as much as I could in a short period of time. Why? Because I seemed to have known that I’d lose interest the next day. I knew that tomorrow, I won’t real be motivated to explore this subject the way I do today. Tomorrow, the subject will lose its shining novelty.

Another example: A few weeks before my tutorial binge, I found a syllabus on a topic from a well respected school and told myself that I’d fulfill all the reading and the assignments, totally on my own. I had a second, more sober thought, which said: “no, that’s too lofty of a goal… how about you read just the articles mentioned in the syllabus. ” I thought, great, that’s what I’ll do. Then closed the syllabus and moved on. I never opened up the PDF again.

I do the same when it comes to creating.

Have you been there?

There are tons of unfinished projects sitting in the no-man’s land of computer folders, and basement closets. There’s always something new and more appealing to get on with in our information age, whether it’s something we’re learning or something we’re making. I often believe the myth that “I’ll go back to that,” but I rarely do.

Perhaps one of the problems is that I like a lot of things, but don’t really love any of them. I’m over-curious, over-distracted, undisciplined, and too easily bored. But how will I learn to love? The problem is with my expectation of love to be something I discover rather than work towards. This is something that stood out to me so powerfully in a talk given by Simon Sinek which you can listen to here.  Love is not something we simply “fall” into, nor something we discover. It’s something that emerges because of commitment, endurance, and all the small moments of attention we give it.

Perhaps one of the most important lessons to learn is to be willing to meet the boredom head-on and drag our feet through it.

We walk away from the creative projects we start for a lot of reasons, sure. But how dreadfully tragic to walk away from from creativity because of boredom. Our romantic notions of love can be so tragic. True, deep love experiences moments of boredom; it takes endurance through the boring bits to experience the transcendence of love. To love something or someone is to give oneself to it despite the desire to be stimulated by its novelty. This isn’t just about creativity anymore, this is about being a human being in relation to others, and learning to love them with a love that is divine.

So don’t just start your projects, but stick with them and love them until the end. Be willing to endure the boring stages of creativity, and fight through them.

What are some things that keep you from finishing your projects?