Make Something Already!

As you can tell from what I’ve written elsewhere, I’ve come to the conclusion that “productivity” is not the point. And being organized is not the point, either, although it can be tremendously helpful in a number of ways (that we’re not going to delve into today).

The point is whether you are making anything at all. You can plan and plan and plan all day long and have little to show for it, except for a bunch of plans. I’m reminded of the Beatles song “Nowhere Man,” which is about this indecisive head-in-the-sand guy who makes “all his nowhere plans for nobody.” In fact, “isn’t he a bit like you and me?”

If you spend all your time capturing without doing anything about it, there’s no point. It’s all a bunch of useless stuff. It has no value. Ideally, a good review process will eliminate the things you’ve captured that aren’t worth any further time, energy, or thought.

Don’t get me wrong: Capture is good. In fact, it’s necessary, if you want to act on the ideas you have. We all know how easy it is to forget the great ideas we have. Whether you capture stuff on index cards, in a sketchbook, on a voice recorder, or with a camera, don’t go overboard to the point it becomes a fruitless obsession. (I know I’ve mentioned this before.)

The real reason I write this is that the past few months I’ve really fallen off the creativity wagon. Sure, I bang out creative stuff all the time at my day job, from clean, simple direct-mail campaigns to funky film-noir-inspired photo shoots to smart magazine-style website layouts, but my fine art painting and photography have been neglected since last summer. Yet like the Nowhere Man, I’ve got a list of plans for things I want to create, but never get to them.

I’ve been reading Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit. In it, she presents an interesting twist, although I advise this with caution and a grain of salt: try “un-planning.” Have an overall sense of purpose about your work, but don’t be afraid to follow rabbit holes for a bit. This reminds me of one of the concepts presented in The Artist’s Way:

“Get through your first 50 failures as fast as you can.”

So explore. See where the path leads you. Isn’t that what art and life and love are all about, anyway? But do have the prescience to know when to stop following a certain path when all you’re doing is gathering information with nothing to show for it.

3 Comments. Add your own below.

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  2. Very good points here. I have, in the past, spent a lot of time developing enormous lists of things I wanted to do without, in fact, doing anything other than developing said lists. Not very satisfying in the long run.

  3. Thanks, David. I hate to admit that I’m pretty bad about this myself. :-/

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