What do you think of when you think of creative people?
Slackers? The people in the office who often wear jeans, but rarely wear socks? The ones bouncing the rubber balls off of the walls or the ones with the desks that are littered with action figures and video game stickers? How is it fair that these people get to play all day, while the rest of us have to deal with the hard work of number crunching or calling on clients and sitting in meetings? It’s amazing how much our world has changed. Granted, we don’t want creative accounting, but then again, we kind of do (in the purest sense of the words and not in the perverted ways that caused an Enron). It seems like creativity and commerce are now one. The most impressive companies are the creative ones. The most inspirational companies are the creative ones. The companies that we’re banking on in the future are the creative ones.
How are we supposed to get any work done if we leave it up to the creatives?
There’s a dirty little secret of the creative class (that few really know and understand): creative work takes a massive amount of time, energy and practice. The most affective creative people don’t spend their days wandering around bumming smokes and drinking cappuccinos. The most affective creative people spend their days in the long, hard throes of their craft. This was one of the main themes that stands up and demands attention from the book, Spark – How Creativity Works by Julie Burstein. And, in reading this amazing book on how creative people work (and, by the way, I had the pleasure of interviewing Julie at the TED conference, so look for that conversation in an upcoming episode of Six Pixels of Separation), you start to see a very similar pattern from creative success to creative success: a ton of work in the "office."
From circular to linear.
For years, I would describe the creative process as being either circular or squiggly. It wasn’t linear (like going to work from nine to five and taking lunch at noon). I used to embrace the saying, "creativity does not keep office hours," because who knows when inspiration may strike? And that kind of thinking was my downfall. There is no doubt that inspiration can happen anywhere (shower, middle of the night, on a subway ride, etc…), but turning that inspiration into something functional (be it a book, performance, presentation or Blog post) is a process. And, for many of the most creative people that I know, that process is actually quite linear. Meaning: they have rituals, a place they prefer to work, a way to deconstruct the inspiration to turn it into something tangible, a set time to make it happen. It’s a topic that Steven Pressfield talks about so passionately in the book, The War Of Art (more on that here: SPOS #251 – Do The Work With Steven Pressfield). The most creative people are the ones who apply a blue-collar work ethic to their assignments. They wake up, eat their breakfast, take a shower and get to to work. The different between the creative class and everyone else is that the majority of the creative class also love what they do (which makes it both easier to do and enables them to work at it for hours, days, weeks and months on end).
We could learn a lot from the creative process.