Where Creatives Find the Good Stuff

Tue, Sep 14, 2010

Blogs, Fearless Creativity

Where Creatives Find the Good Stuff

The myth I enjoy seeing squashed is one that includes being a professional in your spare time as a pathway to competing successfully in {insert creative profession here}. I’m willing to bet that most highly successful creative professionals are obsessed, or possessed – not sure which. Competition is crazy tough so personal commitment is crucial.

Permission to Suck Manifesto law #3:

There’s NO plan “B”. Quit moonlighting.  Put in the hours; work without a net.  If you have a plan “B” it’s too easy to bail, and you’ll want to.  Part timers can’t keep up with the guy who’s bustin’ it like a sex crazed school boy.

We read things; stories about this or that prodigy, or that talented lucky SOB who launched a career overnight by tripping on a tree branch and hitting their head thus causing joyful insight that this creative thing is their true life path. Hell yes this happens, but if it happened often it wouldn’t be news worthy.

Seth Godin committed his thoughts to a graph that inspired me to steal borrow it for some enhancements. The graph from Seth’s Blog post “The Myth of Preparation” attempts to show that the improvement from novice to expert is marginal – see how soft the line slope is at the top? His point:  it’s sufficiently marginal so that delaying product “shipment” because you’re waiting on expertise is a needlessly fearful delay. There is real truth in that.

The blue line is my overlay. I choose to call it the creativity-craft curve and it’s the average path of the creative professional’s quality output. The ramp up is steep, then it shoulders off as we approach 10,000 hours of intense uninterrupted (accounting for sleep and reasonable recreation) practice: the expert zone.

To Godin’s point, fear amplifies in the Novice Zone as the curve reaches its shoulder. Who determines the zones?  Why it’s your competition and the market of course. You’re an expert because you know more than the bottom 2/3 in your market niche. Ship as soon as you find demand for what you got. Don’t delay – fear only gets worse as you enter the Expert zone; the stakes are higher.

The Godin Preparation Curve w/ overlay

That said however, creative professionals compete with themselves and previous niche leaders in equal measure. The creativity-craft curve shows where the good stuff is found. The shaded area at the shoulder between The Godin graph and the Permission To Suck C-C curve is where the good stuff lives. Notice how little of it there is.

Below, I’ve added an X and Y axis plotting chart for Creativity and Craft.  The blue curve fits somewhere on these axes. Generally the good stuff is in the upper right quad – it’s where we all want to hang.  Place a dot for each piece you produce and hopefully most land in the upper right.

Creativity / Craft Plot

If it were only that simple, right? In real world there are immeasurable circumstances, abilities and sweat that make a career, but at its root there’s passion, hard work, and an inborn talent in unpredictable measures. Occasionally you’ll find lazy outrageously successful talent but I’m not putting my money down. In addition to Godin’s point of novice shipping despite fear, the good stuff comes after commitment to a passion, followed by years of shipping good enough mediocrity with a firm dedication to find the good stuff.

*The masthead painting is Expulsion from Eden, Thomas Cole (1801-1848)

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