In his book “Mastery” George Leonard explains the psychology behind what it takes to mater any endeavor: persistent and deliberate practice.
Leonard uncovers how mastery is something anyone can achieve in any area of focus, creative or otherwise. Whether you’re someone who dabbles with painting, or someone who wants to try her hand at producing a blockbuster movie, to do it, Leonard explains, what you need more than talent and intelligence is time and grit.
That shouldn’t deter you.
Our entire lives are filled with examples of our ability to master what we set our mind to–learning to walk or speak, for example.
In the book, Leonard describes how mastery is a lot like touching your hand to your head.
When you were a baby you would struggle to touch your head on command. It took many months of learning to get the act right; to not only understand what your hand is and your head is and how the muscles between the two connect and move by thought, but also to understand the language behind the prompt and what each sound meant and the definition of the words themselves. There was a lot baby-you didn’t know how to do when it comes to touching your hand to your head, but today it is something you know and understand and—assuming you are of good health—can do without challenge.
This approach to mastery is just as true for creativity as it is for understanding language and learning the motor controls of your body.
Being able to identify what makes some ideas good and some ideas bad requires years of experience, otherwise you won’t know what indicators to look for. It also requires that you’re able to effectively utilize the creative thinking system within the brain.
You can read all of the research you want on how to go about this but ultimately what works for you is something only you can learn. What you read in books and online should only stand as referencing points for where you can explore on your own.
It’s not enough to read about how to be creative, creativity is an active process, it requires thinking and experimentation. You can’t read your way through invention.
And that, Leonard explains, is what makes any attempt at mastery so difficult.
But if you persist, if you are diligent with your practice and try to learn a little and experiment every day, you will undoubtedly succeed because you’ll be learning how the complex system of creative thinking works.
I’m reminded of a favorite quote of mine, this time from Craig Lambert in his book, Mind Over Water, where Lambert writes:
“Success is no big thing: it is every little thing, achieved on a daily basis.”
And one other relevant quote from blogger Jason Kottke:
“Shit just takes time, and creative people make time.”