It is highly improbable that the greatest creative works in history were the first things made by those who created them. For some people who find their true calling I am sure their first creations are superb, but potentially still only their best work at that time. With hard work they could create even more wonderful things. Art must be practiced to truly find where our talents lie and bring our own unique style of creativity to the surface.
It is almost a certainty that we must fail sometimes to improve our skills in the art of creating. Since the invention of white-out pens, erasers, and word processors there has grown almost a reticence to even look at something which did not work out as we intended. These tools, for that is what they are, encourage us to remove the very designs that show the progression of our creative process when the product of our toil has not turned out how we wanted. There is a time and a place for removing something from existence. Reusing paper in boardgames to save printing costs. Removing pencil lines when we are into the finalisation stage of an artwork. Deleting words and documents from our computer hard drive when we need to free up space and are certain we don’t need them anymore. Destroying something which by its existence harms people. But, we must remember each of our so called mistakes and failures. They are our learning opportunities. We gain information from these attempts at creating wonderment. This knowledge we can funnel into our future attempts to create spectacular things. We can pass this knowledge onto others to help them avoid making the same mistakes in their search for greatness.
The design process
A slight diversion. At high school one of my favourite classes was graphics and design. Early on we were taught a version of the design process. Most people will have knowledge of this in some form. It is a useful process to follow and works for all sorts of things where we want to make the best thing happen that with can with the resources we have available to us. Our version learned in school looked something like this:
So you’ve decided you want to start Project A.
Now you can decide the next steps; improve project A or think start Project B.
NOTE: Evaluation is an ongoing part of the process, not just a “one and done” type thing.
Two personal examples
1. Writing songs. This is at times a deeply tortured, individual process. Some of the first songs I composed are almost painful to listen to now. Both because of their primitive sound and some unintentional dissonance between instruments. These were failures in terms of creating something I thought others would want to hear, but they were successes in that I learned more about what sounded pleasing when played together. When I began writing music fourteen years ago my knowledge of theory was limited. It was mostly by trial and error I found chord progressions, and guitar and bass lines that sounded harmonically pleasing. With consistent development, repeated listening to what I’d written, and making small improvements, the songs I was writing got better. My overall affinity for musicality is also improving as I go. Write a song. Listen to it. Evaluate and make adjustments. Repeat as many times as needed until the song sounds finished.
2. Writing stories. The first few adventures I embarked on made it to fifty or so pages. I fell in love with the worlds I was creating but my writing skills were not yet refined enough to bring them to life as vividly as I wanted. I’ve kept these stories and still love the characters within their pages. When I am ready I will return to them in the future and edit them, continuing to craft the beauty amidst and between the lines. I have spent literally hundreds of hours writing and re-writing scenes of my book, searching for the right words. Learning new words is one of my favourite things. (Google dictionary and the Oxford English Dictionary have been my very good friends over the last eighteen months!) Sometimes I leave my stories for a while and let them ruminate in my brain. When I come back to them I often have a fresh perspective which helps me evaluate and develop them as I want. The design process in action.
An important part of creating music and writing stories is to let others listen to the songs and read them. If we create with the intention for others to enjoy what we’ve created then their opinions and feedback are incredibly important. People who look at things with a different perspective might offer improvements that didn’t occur to us.
Go on, get out there and start failing
There will be things we create which we don’t like. There will be things we create that are almost abhorrent to us even though we’ve created them. There will be other things which are so wonderful we are surprised it is us who created them. All creations provide opportunities for us and others to evaluate and hone our creative design process.
So, get out there. Get failing. Sometimes we’ve got to sift through seemingly endless pieces of coal to find our diamond. But we can find it.
I believe in you. I believe in me. Keep on keeping on being awesome. Peace.