The importance of building your own creative workshed


“Do not compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.” – New York Times Bestselling author Jon Acuff

The internet allows us to watch the masters ply their trades, to watch new stars being born daily before our eyes. Unfortunately this access can distort the expectations we have of our own work and capabilities.

It’s easy to become jealous of others’ success or impatient for our own, especially since we are not privy to the hours they’ve spent honing their craft or the struggles they had to overcome to reach where they are today.

The internet’s noise camouflages the real price of creative success. The notion of an “overnight success” is a myth. Biz Stone, founder of Twitter, once wrote: “timing, perseverance, and ten years of trying will eventually make you look like an overnight success.”

Rather than waste your time focusing on others, focus on yourself and your own skills.

There are no shortcuts. Your skills must be at the level where you can take advantage of any opportunity that arises. This is your only chance of success.

The best way to do this is to create a place where you can focus on yourself and your own work, without distraction. Paul Jarvis, in an interview with designer and author Brett Henley, describes this as the Woodshed: a sanctuary away from the public eye to hone and push the boundaries of your craft. The Woodshed can be a physical space or a calender entry where the notifications are silenced and time is spent in practice of the craft.

To do your best work, find your mental Woodshed.

Deliberately setting aside time to work on your fundamentals in a quiet place enables you to focus on doing the work, rather than pursuing the bi-products of the work (fame, money, or some other end-goal). A Woodshed allows you to practice without the pressure to deliver a completed project to a paying client. A safe space granting you permission to experimenting with new ideas and combinations of ideas, to confront fears, and push boundaries. Your 10,000 hours are earned in the Woodshed.

Real success isn’t earned without mastery of the fundamentals, and those skills are learned in the Woodshed. Find (or build) your Woodshed.


Creating isn’t easy, try not to forget

Remember that where you work shapes your work

The fallacy of creative success


This article was written by pinhole photographer, Jon Wilkening. To see more adventures in the wonderful world of film photography, art, and creativity, follow him on Twitter.