We build careers off of clever hybrids, sampling the treasure trove of the Internet’s archival content to remix and recast as our own.
With a quick copy-paste, anyone with the tools can replicate a beautiful photo, record a song, or publish a book on Amazon.
Originality is dead. But that’s not to say it ever existed in the first place. Every piece of art, music, and writing we swallow was based on something before it. We continue the fad, bending genres and jamming stems into each other to create something novel.
Even the great Vincent Van Gogh adopted the style of Japanese prints and incorporated them into his work.
When we have access to slices of culture, the world (thanks to the internet) becomes our oyster.
“I think you have to have a few things that you have to kind of chew on to get.”
When you first listen to a new Radiohead song, something about it sounds off. But after a few listens, the sounds in between appear and ameliorate Thom Yorke’s mystical voice. Nothing makes sense, but the emotional tug works, the same way laughter doesn’t need thought.
It shouldn’t be the author or musician’s goal to demystify everything. The maker is often still figuring it out himself, recasting their own interpretation.
We don’t make art because we need to. We do it because we have to. It’s not just an addiction; it is therapy.
Without our work or side projects, we are an empty shell. Each project gives us meaning.
“Art is a line around your thoughts.”
Gustav Klimt, Austrian painter
Yet, the tendency to overthink our work’s value often misconstrues the act of performing it. Sometimes making stuff doesn’t need thought nor interpretation. Like laughter, it just is.
The power to take a picture, draw, run a science experiment, or just write clears the fog of perfection or the need to appease others. The end product is not always for Instagram but for us. Art constitutes our thought’s core.
The homogeneity of stuff begs our mind to make what’s unique to the person. Limits are self-inflicted. Artists are inspired individuals, especially when they are working.
Sit and think about what you want to say. No computer. No pen and paper.
Because writing requires daily practice, doing it can get boring and predictable. It helps to have a system of hacks to drive the writing habit along the way.
Whether you’re writing a book, a blog post, or in a journal, writing is the most efficient way to purge your thoughts from the darkest and dormant corners of the brain. Writing is like talking to your therapist, a bicep curl that strengthens familiarity with your mind.
“I find that by putting things in writing I can understand them and see them a little more objectively. For words are merely tools and if you use the right ones you can actually put even your life in order.”
Hunter S. Thompson
You don’t have to be a published or aspiring author to write, nor do you have to be a student. Writing is a system for coping with the vicissitudes and celebrations of life.
As David Ogilvy once said, “People who think well, write well.” People who write well think well because it’s hard to clarify thoughts. The writer’s main challenge, therefore, is to find ways to keep on doing it.
The paradox of messiness is that it can also describe someone who’s extremely productive.
For instance, your desk may be full of sticky notes, cords, and other office supplies and your computer desktop may be buried in a trail of untitled (and empty) folders. But all this frenzy could be a sign of busyness rather than laziness.
In fact, clutter inspires creativity and it is an essential part of the making process.
We can choose to live uncomplicated lives by keeping it super-tight. But the messy stuff is so much more interesting.
Envious of the Italian artists like Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael, the German artist Albrecht Dürer ventured to Italy in 1496 to prove his worth as a painter. He had already gained a reputation for his woodcut prints.
After years of hanging out in Venice and gathering the technique of oil paintings, he created one of his most notable pieces, Feast of the Rosary, In 1506.
“I also silenced all the artists who said I was good at engraving but, as a painter, I did not know how to deal with colors. Now everyone says they have never seen more beautiful colors.”
At first, we develop good taste and copy. With time, we originate.
There are two essential phases in the creative process.
The spontaneous phase is where ideas sprout, unintentionally and seemingly out of nowhere. Everything interesting goes in the hopper, including the slightest observation, things seen, imagined, overheard, or misheard.
Whether it’s a notebook or your phone when you’re gathering string, the medium is less important than recording.
“I’m not writing it down to remember it later, I’m writing it down to remember it now.”
The best notebook is the one you have with you. But seeing the world starts with being open to the repetition of arbitrary stimulus and its messy upshot: discovery.
The revision phase is where ideas get pieced together like a puzzle.
You go through all your notes, images, sketches, etc. for the purposes of synthesizing concepts and tossing away others.
When you start to piece together artifacts, revelations seems to arise out of epiphany. But there is no such thing as immediate discovery — such is the aggregation of everything we learned along the way.
The two-fold creative process never changes so it’ll always be there to fall back on if and when you feel stuck. First, we collect, and then we deduce.
The more you practice the creative process the better you get at connecting ideas and turning them into reality.