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Arts Life & Philosophy Productivity & Work

Artists are scavengers and tweakers

Artists are scavengers, modern-day hunters of information. And they pluck inspiration from everywhere: people, places, and things. 

They even gather resources through error. Mishearings, misspellings, and mistakes are idea producers. 

The creative process is two-fold. Ideas bloom, and then they require execution and management. The producer thinks about them, reads about them, talks about them, and ultimately acts on them. What emerges is something fresh and original.

Artists are continually developing novel techniques, ways of seeing, thinking, being, and diligently applying those efforts from various tools onto the canvass. 

The painter studies the way light falls on an object; the sculptor manipulates a hunk of marble to carve a figure; the poet converts a banal phrase into a haiku; the photographer reveals an obscure item plain eyes miss; the musician observes how a note lingers and uses it to create a melody that fits the song’s mood.

No matter what medium is involved, the creative process is the same. It starts with experimentation, struggles with tweaks, and ends with precision.  

The best artists study, learn, practice, and perfect the skills they need to imagine and design. Creativity is impossible without attention and effort.   

The never-ending search to consume and build something unpredictable keeps life interesting. Like nature, art is not static and remains subject to change. 

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Arts Creativity Productivity & Work

Creativity is a game of inches

It comes as no surprise that lousy work begets good work — the more one creates, the more they have to play with. 

People mistakenly believe that successful artists excelled all along. In reality, what the viewer sees are remarkable stories told by people who decided never to give up

The internet is a great liberator because it allows anyone can show their work. Of course, that doesn’t guarantee anyone’s going to see it. 

It’s nearly impossible to stand out when everyone’s an Instagram photographer. The world’s drowning in jpegs that all look alike, punctuated by countless candy-colored apps begging for attention. 

It’s no surprise that artists do their best work while toiling in obscurity. They may emulate conventions at first, but starved of significance, the creator begs to be different. 

It takes a lot of time and a ton of practice to develop both good taste and a unique craft. 

When we create for ourselves, rage into our work, the world becomes our oyster. “It is a joy to be hidden, and a disaster not to be found,” once said English pediatrician and psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott. 

From stylization to originality, cultivating talent unfolds slowly into a game of inches. The only guarantee is the willingness to try repeatedly for a breakthrough.

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Arts Life & Philosophy Productivity & Work

Tighter the brief, the deeper the craft

Once we commit to a creative project, we make choices within it. We narrow down everything into a tight brief so we can build something conclusive.

The frames in place help guide our unconscious decisions. There’s no blur between what we’re making and what we want to make. 

Slowly but surely, we commit to a process despite all the doubt. We gather a proper stream of blood flow and breathing, focusing free-flowing talent into a concentrated effort.  

Distracting opportunities have to die for the most important craft to live. 

We don’t need more of anything; instead, we play with what we already have. We hunker down on the front lines and figure out how to shape our materials. Boredom is welcome, as it provides the opportunity we need to have the next big idea. 

And once the art is out there, it’s out there. We try not to take feedback personally — not to repress or ignore negativity — but to acknowledge we shipped! 

How we perceive our work is more important than how others look at it. Society is either too polite or doesn’t care. Passion, care, sticktuitiveness — these traits are leverage. 

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Creativity Life & Philosophy

Less is best

We achieve breakthroughs because of restraints, not because of endless options.

There’s a reason we feel satisfied when someone removes the cashews at a party; it eliminates the temptation to snack on them.

Our willpower is generally weak. And a surfeit of choice further aggravates self-control problems. Even worse, we transmit vices to others.

When we have a limited offer or altogether remove what we can use, eat, etc., we’re more cautious in our entire approach.

Constriction is a life-enhancing passport to better decision making, a challenge of a challenge that forces us to cope with what we already have.

Less is best, and more. Everything else appears as a nice-to-have pleasant surprise.

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Arts Creativity

The critics

The critics try to impinge as much as possible on the artist. It is their job to find weaknesses and room for improvement. 

The irony, of course, is that they couldn’t repeat the artist’s work. Critics are inadequate makers, no matter how masterful they are in their feedback. Said French-American painter, sculptor, and writer Marcel Duchamp, “Not everyone is an artist but everyone is a fucking critic.”

“Not everyone is an artist but everyone is a fucking critic.”

Marcel Duchamp

From the artist’s perspective, criticism is at least more actionable than a handful of compliments. Creators learn from negative feedback: what to ignore, what to tailor, and how to approach the next project, even it’s to double-down on their existing craft. 

The artist does it for themselves. They create what they want to see in the world regardless of humiliation and fear. What matters isn’t always the most popular

It’s not the artist’s responsibility to predetermine interpretation. The brain makes inferences whether it likes to or not. The maker makes — work so straightforward it echoes like an answer through a marble hall. If the craft becomes the lightning rod for criticism, so be it. 

The viewer or the critic, for that matter, should judge without prejudging one’s possibilities. However, they’re still permitted to scan with remarkable precision. And the artist goes unshadowed by their threat. 

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Creativity Life & Philosophy Productivity & Work

Never mind the mood

The work doesn’t begin or end at the mercy of mood. Feeling lazy or prepared is neutral — both are non-starters. The mood’s texture remains unchanged. 

Having a daily discipline is the best way to keep the shipping alive. Habits are stronger than moods. 

If your emotions or conditions get in the way because you’re either unmotivated, too sick or cold, exhausted, or missing the perfect seat, you’re screwed. 

Show up and ride the wave of frequency

Sitting in the chair and beginning promptly by 10 AM is non-negotiable. By sticking to a schedule, you alleviate the pain of starting while forcing yourself to dance with all the anxieties that arise. 

If you get frustrated or stuck, try running out the clock. So be it — you showed up but didn’t produce. 

Dissatisfaction is part of the creative process. Afterward, rest or take your thoughts for a walk to digest the reality of incompleteness. A blank canvass with even the most disappointing attempts is a refreshing experience. There is always tomorrow!

When your perspiration and dedication are the muses, the creativity always comes back because the motivation is the same. The sink keeps dripping. 

Even while going about your day, discipline pays off. Deep work compounds, as the brain uses rest periods to reconvene, reconnect, and make sense of all the input. 

Creativity is complicated, but moods are untrustworthy. Once you’re committed to the process while following your curiosities, there’s no wasted time. 

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Arts Creativity Productivity & Work

Beware the mind virus

Creativity dwindles with age. First, school sucks it out of you, and then corporate work puts the nail in the coffin. 

Patterns of normality and absolutes are leaches. Like a mind virus, they try to kill off the imagination and train your organic reflexes into compliant sheep. 

If you’re lucky, you’ll have no choice but to follow the siren song of vocation. Suppose that means becoming an artist; if it’s a bank teller, ditto. Follow up your calling way with the utmost passion. To echo Mark Twain, “The secret of success is making your vocation your vacation.”

Never let your ambition slip out of sight. The happiest people chase their human truths to exploit time. 

As the musician Brian Eno reminds us, “Try not to get a job. Try to leave yourself in a position where you do the things you want to do with your time and where you take maximum advantage of wherever your possibilities are.”

Following the herd is a mind virus. Ride the mind wave of opportunity instead. 

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Culture Tech

We make great trends

Some people enjoy the process of discovery. They want access to niche communities and discrete resources, trying to “get it” before everyone else.

These people are also the incubators of trends, filtering the good from the bad before deciding what goes mainstream. Naturally, the edgy curator loses interest as soon as something becomes a commercial sensation.

But the internet flips the trendsetters on their heads. The so-called cratediggers become an uber tribe of their own. Take a walk around Brooklyn, where hipsters run rampant.

The arrogance of taste consumes the hipster, ultimately conforming to a cohort that shares similar interests and looks the same. Uniqueness becomes standardization. 

Meanwhile, the closet researcher remains individuated in digging up abstract art for themselves and for their little circle. For them, popularity is rarely a barometer of what matters

The difference between standing out and fitting in lies at the center of who we are. We are all collectors and explorers of each other’s artifacts. We are also free to throw away, remix, redefine, or tweak that which sturs us.

As influential physicist Richard Feynman reminds us, “You are under no obligation to remain the same person you were a year ago, a month ago, or even a day ago. You are here to create yourself, continuously.”

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Life & Philosophy Photography Science

More than a job

The photographer’s job is to capture. They get a pass on intrusion despite a face of expressive flesh. So too does the scientist who uses their more elusive hands to dabble in a dangerous experiment.

The maker needs no excuse to have skin in the game, as they should feel free to explore via an aura of invisibility to discover and connect the seemingly unconnected.

Creativity is an imaginative process that makes one bolder. Both the artist and scientist live to be more than proactive, to think and feel something beyond the sheath of obviousness.

Should palette beget the pedestal, fame and earned respect follow from doing what matters.

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Arts Creativity Life & Philosophy Productivity & Work

From seeing to believing

Obvious to you, not to others.

It’s the human condition to see patterns but leave them to abstraction.

Identifying the gaps is only the start. No one gains from keeping silent on the puzzle of opportunity.

What occupies the rest of the grey space is doing the work.

Creators play the dual role of keen observer and competent persister. They control the master switch between idea and reality, optimizing their time, energy, and luck while never having all three simultaneously.

Anyone can learn how to see — how to build off a concept, sell the story, and contribute something meaningful is the worthiest challenge.