There are two quotes that have been in my mind a lot lately. First, by Christopher McQuarrie (via the Daring Fireball post where I read it):
After twenty five years in the craft, I’ve learned the secret to making movies is making movies—starting with little movies no one will ever see.
The secret to knowledge is doing and failing—often and painfully—and letting everyone see.
The second quote, by Robert Greene in his book Mastery, is in a similar vein:
There are two kinds of failure. The first comes from never trying out your ideas because you are afraid, or because you are waiting for the perfect time. This kind of failure you can never learn from, and such timidity will destroy you. The second kind comes from a bold and venturesome spirit. If you fail in this way, the hit that you take to your reputation is greatly outweighed by what you learn. Repeated failure will toughen your spirit and show you with absolute clarity how things must be done.
Amen to both. Make stuff, post it, and it’s okay if it flops as long as you learn from it. (I say this as if I’m already doing that, but ha, no, I’ve let fear of failure strangle my creative work far, far too often. You have no idea how often. Here’s hoping this time the lesson sticks, though.)
Continuing along the lines of what I wrote on Friday: I’ve gotten into a bad habit of releasing new work the moment it’s finished. While I like getting feedback immediately (which can absolutely be useful in some cases), for me I’m finding that a slightly more delayed approach is better.
More specifically, there’ve been several times where I’ve released a painting and then shortly thereafter regretted it, suddenly seeing flaws in the work that I hadn’t noticed when I was in the thick of it. (I tend to take those paintings down.)
My new rule: wait at least a week.
A week gives me enough time to see the work with (somewhat) new eyes and to fix any newly evident dealbreaker flaws. If the piece still looks good after a week, then it’s ready for release.
One thing I often tend to forget (and really need to remember) is that the first few drafts of something — a painting, a story, whatever it is — are usually imperfect, and that that’s okay. I forget that and get discouraged and give up, but I’m fairly certain in hindsight that many of those abandoned projects would have turned out fine if I’d stuck with it and iterated a few more times. (Especially if I had let things sit for a short while and then reviewed the work to figure out the specific things I needed to fix.)
Moral of the story: Keep calm and carry on.
Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art is only $1.50 on the U.S. Kindle store right now. Such a good book on creativity and resistance. Highly, highly recommended.
The copy is the original:
In China and Japan, temples may be rebuilt and ancient warriors cast again. There is nothing sacred about the ‘original’
An intriguing perspective on art and creation.
I recently saw a short BYU news piece on Robert Barrett. Toward the end of the video, there’s this nugget that stuck with me:
Do I approach religious painting different than normal painting? Actually, I don’t. I pray about everything that I do.
That’s something I need to do more of.