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Articles tagged “creativity”

Embracing uncertainty in creative work


I have no idea if what I’m working on is right, more than half the time.

Arguably, it’s the same for any of the creative individuals we look-up to as well. Austin Kleon is an artist and writer I admire, and it seems that lately almost everything he does is golden, but I’m willing to bet he’s simply doing things he enjoys doing, without any preconception of whether or not they’re “creative” or going to be “successful” or not.

Just look at the lives led by Picasso, Einstein, Jobs, Chanel, O’Keeffe, and others; they never pursued creating something like they did. Rather, they focused their efforts on the things they felt drawn to: right or wrong, path to fame or not.

And really this is worth repeating endlessly: creativity (and creative success) requires that we embrace the notion of uncertainty, that we pursue endeavors because we feel drawn to do so. Little else can do us as well as remembering this point.

You don’t need to know if what you’re doing is right, to be creative. You just have to do.

Pursuing creativity for the sake of being creative is like chasing a ball down a steep hill. Your better making your way down the hill at your own pace and meeting the ball at the bottom.

Read this next: At the heart of creativity: curiosity and uncertainty

“You’ll become known for doing what you do. It’s a simple saying, but it’s true.” Jonathan Harris

The only way to become is to do, and the best way to do is to do what you can, with what you have now. Start.


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Tons of great apps are on sale this week in the App Store. Get 50% off on some top creativity apps, including my creative writing app Prompts.


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You can have the perfect process, but without a purpose it will do you no good.


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“Everyone who became great at something has a similar story: For years, they worked on their craft every day, even if they weren’t in the mood. Always pushing, practicing, working, and improving…Yes it takes thousands of hours of practice, but that’s good news! It’s a clear path and it’s under your control.”

Derek Sivers on How to change, or build, your career. Appropriate time to announce that I’ve joined the Product Design team at Facebook.

It’s taken me a long time to build up the knowledge, capabilities, and portfolio to get to this point in my career. I’m fortunate to be where I’m at today, but a big chunk of that has been diligently working; day-in and day-out.

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The trouble with creative inspiration


Inspiration is troublesome, particularly if you’re actively pursuing it in hopes that it can help you accomplish something.

In his book, The Design Method, Eric Karjaluoto explains the trouble with inspiration:

“The problem with inspiration is that it’s random, which leads you to focus your hope on outside influences you can’t rely on…These stimuli aren’t under your control, available on tap, or always relevant to the work at hand. Thinking you can find ideas elsewhere leaves you flipping through magazines and browsing the web, hoping you’ll stumble on a magic cure.”

You may disagree, but it’s hard to argue that inspiration – in the context of hoping it will lead to creative insights – is a wasted effort.

The purpose inspiration should serve is as a fueling source for ideas, not as a quick route to insights.

If you’re not actively working on a project or problem, seeking out inspiration should be viewed as a welcome exercise. In your downtime you should actively be pursuing things that inspire you: exploring new artists or writers, reading strange books, listening to new types of magazines, and generally browsing the Internet or local bookstore for sparks of inspiration.

However, if you’re in the middle of a project and find yourself stuck, spending your time seeking inspiration is a sign you aren’t prepared to do the work itself.

Instead of seeking inspiration from outside influences, we should instead focus our attention on what it is we’re trying to do and how understanding the problem or task can lead to natural insights.

I explored this notion in another article I wrote, titled Where inspiration should sit at the table of design:

“Looking for inspiration is a sign that we may not fully comprehend the problem….by fully exploring the landscape of the problem, the situation that led to it being a problem, and how different solutions will affect the intended outcome, you are much more likely to land on an idea naturally, or know what to look for when you step away from the project for rumination or the enticing search for inspiration.”

Inspiration can certainly be helpful, but it’s more of a resource to utilize before you start your work rather than a solution-finding tool when you’re actively working.

If you find yourself seeking inspiration during a project, consider the fact that the desire to do so may be a symptom of not having a full understanding of what it is you’re trying to do.