I’m thinking about the amount of work that has to go into creative success, no matter how you define “success” for yourself. And across the board, in my opinion, quality work means extended deep focus. Such dedication requires a removal of feigned personalities.
Pretending to be someone you’re not is utterly exhausting. If you’re met with obstacles to our own authenticity, whether they be externally or internally imposed, your mind becomes consumed by the role playing. The focus you could be putting on your true passion is put on back burner.
I’m personally trying to remove myself from environments where, for whatever reason, it’s not possible to bring my full authentic self to the table, flaws and all. It’s not just an issue of dignity or morals. It’s about actually getting work done. I can’t create my best work if I can’t be myself — if I have to set aside time to focus on what others want me to be rather than on what I know myself to be already.
In other words, I would always rather spend my time somewhere where I can werk.
I can only hope I’m always this naïve. Isn’t life so much better for those of us who lean in to our ignorance?
No one can know everything. To pretend otherwise is to dig yourself an inescapable hole and miss out on all the fun. Projecting an image of unwavering confidence means turning a blind eye to all the small delights of discovery.
There’s a delight in fumbling: awkward questions and missteps open us up to new and interesting revelations. I’m learning to be OK with my silly inexperience.
I’m noticing a trend in my circles that makes me feel icky.
Artists do not need to be “productive” to be good artists. We don’t need to be churning out viral videos, TV pilots, or reams of great poetry to be deemed worthy. I’m seeing a number of people (including myself) feeling uninspired or overwhelmed these days, and for good reason. This restlessness can be exasperated by a self-imposed pressure to “use this time wisely” and present completed, polished projects to the public.
Maybe it’s becoming a bit of a cliché to say, but inward reflection is on par with quality work. We can simply delight in the musings of our own mind. We don’t need to prove our creativity to others.
There’s enough going on for all of us right now. If the pressure to prove yourself is prominent in your life, give your permission to step back from that. There’s no huge rush. Look for some space to breathe and take in the moments as they come.
Enjoy the brilliant, small-scale thoughts you have as they come up. There’s no need to add extra stress by trying to make them larger.
Well, this was a failure.
Not in its entirety, I suppose… While I didn’t write every day this year, I did write some, and the pressure I applied to myself to form better writing habits did prove to be somewhat useful. But the project continues, and I thank you all for coming along for the ride. I hope you found some connection with these words: some idea, big or small, that resonated with you.
As it grows, decentre will become a support network for queer Atlantic Canadian artists (yes Luke, we get it!). While that happens I’ll continue throwing some ideology out there and see what sticks. Perhaps soon, my personal thoughts on writing, creating, expressing, and coexisting will be met with others’, and we’ll have a beautiful combination of both harmonious and contradictory views.
While I don’t know exactly what will come of this project, I do know this: I will continue asking questions. The creative process, for me, always starts and continues with good questions. And maybe at the start of this new year, instead of setting resolutions, I’ll get curious and ask the right questions of my own creative pursuits…
We can’t get anywhere without first getting curious. And we can’t help each other with our unique creative journeys without first asking what it is we’re after.
These “daily doses” of 2020, if nothing else, were certainly a display of curiosity. I’ll try to stick to an even stricter habit in the new year. It may just require asking myself, and others, better questions: ones that lead to more pertinent answers.
A common theme in my creative efforts these days is granting myself permission. For example, I grant myself permission to hold two opposing concepts as true. Yes, I’ve been easily distracted lately. But I’ve also been writing interesting material. I may not be dedicating a lot of time to perfecting what I make, but I am making compelling stuff.
Great leaders and creators take the “both, and” approach to problem-solving: These two seemingly contradictory ways of thinking may both be true. And what else might be true? Is there another element that may provide a more rounded perspective?
I’m easily distracted and not working as hard on my creative projects. But what I do get around to creating has some interesting threads to follow. AND, when more time passes and we become more relaxed in our new normal, I could probably focus a bit more.
Get comfortable with paradoxes. ‘Cause life’s full of ‘em.
I couldn’t begin to tell you how much junk I’ve accumulated.
I don’t mean physical stuff, though maybe I should examine that as well. I mean the overflow of words that didn’t make it to their intended projects. Many notes are piled on top of each other, virtual and otherwise, each containing thoughts and ideas that couldn’t find a home.
I doubt I’ll get back to much of the excess, but I keep some of it around just in case. There may be some interesting kernel in there somewhere. And it’s not as if I go digging through the junk piles every time I’m desperate for a certain je ne sais quoi. Writing something down, even if it’s useless in the moment, makes for more effective memorizing. When I happen across a gap in whatever I’m working on, I might suddenly recall that I wrote down that random thought about ice cream cakes, then go searching for it.
Do you keep a dumpster of your darlings? Or do you kill them and let them deteriorate?
I can’t possibly know everything.
Yet I catch myself pretending I do all the time.
One thing I’ve never quite understood is people’s (read: my own) lack of curiosity when they encounter contradictory information. We tend to get a bit too set in our ways, don’t you think? Of course it’s one thing to argue for what you know to be true (and perhaps we should avoid debating facts…) but such arguments are always much more effective when you’ve listened to the other side.
In my view, a common obstacle to creative success (however you define that) is a lack of curiosity and a refusal to accept the fact that we can’t know everything. We need the perspectives of others to broaden our understandings.
And maybe we tell ourselves that we are open to new and contradictory ideas, but the people we interact with wouldn’t necessarily know that unless we clearly state it. It could mean the world to someone for us to say “Oh, how interesting. I never thought of it that way before. Tell me more.”
I’m learning to be easier on myself for having particular needs during the creative process.
I find I write best on Saturday nights, usually after 10pm. I love this quote from President Barack Obama, pulled from a recent New York Times interview. He’s also a fan of late-night writing: “I find that the world narrows, and that is good for my imagination. It’s almost as if there is a darkness all around and there’s a metaphorical beam of light down on the desk, onto the page.”
There’s often a voice in my head telling me I should be productive at all times; that I shouldn’t have to shape my environment in particular ways to work more efficiently. But, while getting started on the work no matter the distractions may have some value, it’s fine to get specific about what you need.
What brings you the most focus? How might you create an environment that inspires you to get to work?