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creativity takes time

Thursday, October 26, 2017

You don’t have to be great, you simply have to want to be great. That is my mantra when it comes to creativity. It’s a journey without end, so time doesn’t really much matter, except that you must find time to be creative. I’m blessed in that what I do professionally pushes me to be creative consistently and regardless of how much money I may or may not make, this constant requirement to create it is undoubtedly the biggest joy of my life. For years, I struggled with creating : I would reach the limits of my abilities and yet what I aspired to create was so visually clear to me. It’s an infuriating sensation, seeing what you want to do and yet despite effort after effort, not coming anywhere close.  I’m sure many of you who are creative will know precisely how hellish it feels. It has made me question my sanity time and time again. For years now, I always return to this Ira Glass quote for solace  : ‘All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this.’

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And so for my next segment with Henry London, I wanted to discuss time, but not in management or how to maximize efficiency, I could not speak on those ; I take too many naps, but also I will also comfortably confess to spending 2 hours organizing my cosmetics as well as another 90 minutes in bed reading about coffee beans yesterday. Time management is not my forte but powering through creative pursuits? I’m somewhat of a mad-scientist expert. I’ve been wrestling through it for over a decade now. I have a pattern; 2-3 times a year I’ll sink into a crazed hole I viciously dig by convincing myself that everything I create is absolute garbage. I’ll then hit youtube for photography and editing tutorials, I’ll lose sleep editing, re-editing and staring at photos until I start to mistrust my own eyes. In fact everything blurs and I start to wonder if I’ going crazy. This same cycle will happen with my writing, again, around 2-3 times a year – so annually I’m tumbling through around 6 creative meltdowns a year, which is approximately 1 every two months. No wonder I take all those naps. It’s exhausting. But faithfully somewhere in the midst of this deep neurosis, there is a clearing, a peace I cannot even quite describe. I feel invigorated, confident in my talents and happy that I spent all that time frantically studying new techniques in hopes of improvement. I’ve grown to realize that these bouts of near-hysteria are how I work, develop and get better at the pursuits that make me happiest in life, but also the skills I rely on for paying my bills. So when I hit one, I power through, I honour the anxiety that comes with it and I do what it takes to find that creative peace again. It’s very much a getting lost to find myself again kind of process. So when it comes to creativity, it’s all about TIME; but not in the ticking sense or schedules or efficiency, but in that it TAKES A LOT OF IT. It cannot be rushed. Another favourite man of mine, Malcolm Gladwell believes that greatness takes 10,000 hours of practice. We aren’t born with creative talents, they only arrive to us with effort. I truly believe that all that stands in the way of me becoming the next Annie Leibowitz or Cheryl Strayed are many, many hours of work I have to make time for. That might sound arrogant but it’s really just a testament to how dedicated I am to becoming great, creatively. It is my grandest goal. And so my grandest advice for your own creativity is giving it time, more time than you’d like, more time than you can tolerate, more time than sanity allows. Let whatever you are working on to arrive slowly. Creativity cannot be condensed in the same way a workout or cleaning or errands can be. Stay patient and power through, because ultimately, there is no greater satisfaction than stepping back and looking at something with pride and thinking ‘Wow, I created that’. But that quiet glowing pride? It takes time.


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