Mythbusting Creativity

The process of creativity isn’t glamorous. It’s simply about hard work, the management of emotions, and delayed showmanship. And it’s necessarily lonely. To want to be creative—truly creative—is to want to entertain, which is often depressingly opposite of being entertained.

– Eddie Smith, Practically Efficient.

There is no trick to creativity, no secret initiation or gnostic teaching to be revealed by invitation only. You can’t sit someone down and teach them how to be creative. It’s simply a function of doing the work and knowing full well that it’ll suck occasionally. The actual mechanics of creativity? Let me the first to tell you that it’s remarkably dull stuff. My desk is strewn with crumpled pieces of paper signifying very little. Abandoned ideas. Scuttled projects. Reminders that the simple act of putting pen to paper is a guarantee of nothing.

As the purposeful doer of creative work, I’ve often struck by the cult of personality that emerges and the mythology surrounding those who write for a living. Perhaps one of the most damning myths is one that writers thrust upon themselves – that inspiration is a fickle beast to court and tempt with the perfect environment, pencils laid out just so, the proper music queued up and ready to play, the piping hot cup of coffee at the ready to chase away the silence.

We want to enjoy what comes out on the other side of creativity – the recognition, the accolades, the smug satisfaction that we’ve done something right and good in the world. We have romanticized what it means to express creativity without really recognizing that it’s obsessive and secretive work to get things right. Ideas come and go. That spark of inspiration can shatter your day or keep you awake at night. If you’re serious about doing creative work, prepare yourself for the unwavering blank screens starting back , the self-loathing, and the deafening silences. Work with them and through them. Hone your skills. Prepare for failure but not mistakes.

If writing is your thing, do it every day. Develop the discipline and know that it’s going to hurt sometimes. When I was first learning to play mandolin, my fingers ached and bled because the calluses weren’t formed. Stretching my fingers to form a chop chord pinched and pulled, but the glow of the reward far off in the distance was hard to ignore. That’s a strong motivator to ignore, so find yours. A daily content creation rhythm has its own music if you learn to listen – and your creative output will improve in style, quality, and maturity.

Do the work and prepare for the setbacks because they will certainly be there. You’ll quickly realize what you know and what you don’t, testing the limits of your knowledge and expertise.

And you know what? That’s when it really gets fun. So get out there and build something that matters.

This post originally appeared on Jason’s blog

Jason is the founder of JMK Media & Communications, a content marketing consultancy. An advocate of social good and strong storytelling, Jason works with small-to-medium sized corporate and agency clients to produce rock-solid audience responsive content. He is currently seeking new opportunities in the agency world as a copywriter and digital content creator.

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  • nice nicer

  • Ken Jacobs

    Great post, J. I think it takes tremendous discipline to be creative in a way that leads to a specific business outcome. Lots of creative types out there across multiple disciplines–advertising, marketing, PR–that seem to think that creative work is an end in itself. In my view, it’s not. If done well, it’s a means to an end.

    • You’re right, Ken – and how creativity feeds into those outcomes means very different things for different people. One of my previous clients was a technology startup – and they had a palpable disdain for “creativity” that exists outside of product development. That always made for some tense moments.

  • Kimberlyjo

    Great Post! Just what I needed to hear (read) today! Thanks! @1kimberlyjo

  • Thanks for te inspiration Jason!