Creativity is B.S.


One of the most common questions that creatives get asked is this: “What is your process like?”

One thing I’d like to say about process is that it’s never the same. The process of making art, of building something, of carrying out a plan, of learning, of growing, of failing (yes, failing is a process too), of defining yourself, pushing yourself, letting go, or really DOING anything, is never the same. Process is rarely repeatable. Trying to repeat a process is like stepping in the same river, at a different bend, different time of year, and under completely different weather conditions. It’s the same river, but the surroundings have changed. The situation has changed. And you have likely changed too.

Another thing I’d like to explain is that people ask this question (and I do as well) to try to gain an understanding of how to invite creativity into their lives with the least possible resistance. How to lube up the creative chute and let the muse slither on in. In my experience, however, creativity (whether you are painting, coding, writing, or designing a marketing campaign) is largely a struggle, with very brief, very rewarding bouts of flow and inspired action. Those brief periods of embodied action are euphoric and keep us working, but in general? It’s a damn slog! It’s work. It’s repetition. And sometimes it’s capital B boring.

I could tell you about how I arrange my pens, the places I look for inspiration, the tools that help me, the podcasts I turn on, the rituals I undertake in order to entice the muse, but it largely doesn’t matter. Everyone is going to approach creativity differently and what works for me might be your worst nightmare. But for me, the most interesting thing about the creative process, and the thing that many creatives share, yet don’t talk about, is that every creative endeavor comes with a massive side helping of doubt, failure, and compromised vision. With very few, savant, exceptions, perfect execution of a creative vision is a myth. I’ve mapped out my average “creative process” above as a visual aid.

Why am I talking about this? Because I'm a teacher, and my students constantly tell me that they aren’t creative, and I think that’s self imposed bullshit. I solidly believe that everyone is creative and has the potential to put their vision into the world, but that “creativity” has become exoticized to the point of intimidation. So we ask others about their process in an attempt to demystify creativity when in fact, it simply comes down to this:

Creativity is having an idea, feeling doubt, and carrying it out anyways. Over, and over again. Getting a little better each time.

I don’t care if your medium is cooking, accounting, sculpture, or law, the process remains the same. If you have an idea, a moment of inspiration, a revelation, don’t dismiss it out of fear. Acknowledge your doubt and fear as passengers along for the ride, forgive yourself in advanced for the ways you are bound to disappoint yourself along the way, and do it anyways.

Tory // Slant Press