seth godin on creativity: ‘there’s only what works for you’

In the course of a year, quite a few people ask me for advice about how to DO what they dream of doing. Many, not all, are writers. The question is not about how to achieve success, but simply how to start and keep going. It is a central question of the creative process.

Seth Godin‘s succinct quote applies to all creatives as far as I’m concerned, not just writers.

It’s often helpful to see how other people work, and even try out their methods, which is why ‘improvised life’ publishes a lot about artist and writers processes, what they’ve figured out to make their creative life move forward. Ultimately though, you just have to discover what works for you: what are the various tools and practices that will actually get you doing what you want to be doing?

Is it a deadline or a consequence? (I once made a deal with a friend that everyday she did not work on her new photography project, she had to pay me $50.) It DID get her working, though not without her racking up a few IOU’s in the process, because the process is never without a hitch…)

Is it rolling out of bed and writing or painting, not allowing yourself to talk to anyone first? (This was my method for writing a 750 page book.)

Is it doing everything BUT the work until the end of the day when you finally get going on the real task at hand? (Which is why I was so amazed and happy to see the great writer John McPhee’s “resemblance to the sand of Gibralter” so heartening. )

Is it making a mess?

Is it keeping things neat?

I find that what ultimately gets done is often due to a series of many small steps (and missteps). 

But no matter how messy or zig-zagging the process may be, whatever it is, if it works for you, IT WORKS FINE.

pedro guerrero

pedro guerrero

Here are some reminders of the very different ways creative people do what they do:

space voyeurs: studios of 10 brilliant artists

henry miller’s microcosmic bathroom

what’s the perfect desk (for you)?

leonardo da vinci’s self-doubt

junot diaz on having a slow ‘creative metabolism’

john mcphee on ‘getting going’ and ‘finishing things’

isamu noguchi’s creative process

working at the kitchen table (andrea zittel)

Photo of Alexander Calder’s studio from 1963 book Calder At Home: The Joyous Environment of Alexander Calder by Pedro E. Guerrero.

One Response to seth godin on creativity: ‘there’s only what works for you’

  1. sahana martin 08.07.2013 at 6:14pm #

    Ok, then i’d also say , just try it out and find your own way. That is improvisation, right ? Copying – processing – ingenuity , all part of it .
    If we are talking expression, it has to come from the heart ; it’s like an urge and you just start and no matter what the result, there’ll be some truth in there .
    Of course, if that way is blocked -and who are the people so chock-full of experience that they need to express this some way !? -that is what one needs to work on quite a bit . To not focus on the ‘wrong stuff’, i.e. on how one is not able and at worst being judgmental about it .

    So when you can’t get started , either it’s too soon for that idea, or an ingredient is missing or something inside needs attention . The question why one hesitates to step forward, applies to art as much as to life and goals overall .
    How many out there are not really doing things with their heart in it ?

    I know how it can hurt to get stuck , not being able to do what you feel you want to do . We just need help sometimes . And probably A LOT of patience . faith . sense of humor helps, too ( if not too self-depricating ) . I’d say luck, but am sure it will find you on the way

    “There is nothing with which every man is so afraid as getting to know how enormously much he is capable of doing and becoming .” (S. Kirkegaard )
    Do you find that to be true ?

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