It feels so good to be excellent. You’d just as soon keep doing this thing that you’ve mastered. You’d prefer to continue gracefully skating your perfect figure eights until the end of time, but you know there’s more to this creative life than that. You need something new in your old bag of tricks, but you can’t stand the thought of beginning again.
But begin you must if you wish to go further, and in order to begin you may need a break from being excellent.
I couldn’t agree more, but I’ll go a bit beyond nodding my head in agreement this time.
The common advice that people give about focusing on one particular thing is way over-rated for most creative people. Sure, you may only be able to be truly excellent at a few things, but the creative process is driven by disparate experiences and ideas. Create the same thing in the same way everyday and your creations will match how bored you are.
But when you introduce new experiences and ideas, creativity happens. If you’re a writer, read a book on design and try it out. Yes, you probably won’t be any good. But you’ll notice things about the layout of paper and whitespace that you never thought about before. The next time you write, you’ll see your words differently. And sometimes that’s enough to inspire you and jumpstart your creative process.
Beyond that, though, the path to excellence is paved with a bunch of failures and missteps. We become excellent by doing things repeatedly and learning from our actions, but many of the products of our actions aren’t themselves excellent. Sometimes they suck. Sometimes they’re awesome. Our goal should be getting to good enough – but even then our goal isn’t to get to excellent on the first shot.
The usual result of worrying about excellence or perfection before you start creating is that you’ll never start creating. Let go of how good the end product will be and embrace the act of creating. Excellence comes as a byproduct of continual creation and learning.
Ken is an awesome writer and runs a great blog – if you like what you see here, you’ll definitely like what he’s up to over there. Run – don’t walk – and check out Mildly Creative.