What to do when you’re just starting out as a creative

If you’re just starting out: your only job is to try things, explore, gain diverse perspectives, and find the things that work for you.

Today there's more noise than sound when it comes to advice on how to get anywhere as a creative. You don’t need to look much further than the surface level of Twitter, Facebook, or Google, to find a surplus of people who know what they’re talking about or at least pretend to.

For new and budding creatives this creates a bit of a dilemma: who do you listen to and who do you ignore? Where is the right place to look for answers or insights? How do you gauge whether or not someone knows what they’re talking about? Where should you even start looking for a path to creative success? The best answer to all of these questions is going to depend.

If you aren’t yet sure of who you want to be, you’ll need to find out for yourself. Your only job in the beginning is to pursue as many different possible options as possible until something sticks. To quote author Rebecca Solnit: “Wandering is your real work."

And even when you find something that really feels good and promising you have to be willing to change course. If you do your job well—if you give yourself time and space to wander—you'll avoid the impact trap: working hard in a single direction only to discover there were bigger or better opportunities you could have been working toward all along.

When you put so much time into the work of one path you're much more likely to lock yourself into it. When you make progress in one direction it can be really frightening—and hard—to change course at any point. Put in the time up-front to get a feel for what options are out there, what potential ideas might flourish or pull at you, where you might be able to tinker and explore the most as an individual.

As Andrew Bosworth, Facebook VP of Advertising, puts it in his article The Impact Trap:

"If we aren’t willing to take risks then we are relying entirely on having picked the right hill to begin with. That is a tall order given that we pick our starting position when we have the least information about the landscape."

When you're just starting out (or re-starting) your journey, your entire job is first to wander, to feel out the landscape. Only once you've done a reasonable job at exploring should you start hiking in any particular direction.

As they say: when you don't know which road to take, any road will get you where you need to go.