Somebody actually chose that color
Understanding creativity, what good criticism looks like, and how to think about the future.
Creativity, by nature, cannot be understood. At least not in the same way that one understands something like physics or mathematics – there are no axioms, formulas, or definitions. There are no definitive answers. Creativity deals with the new, and what is new has never come before. It cannot be predicted, otherwise it would not be creative. Creativity is subconscious, or maybe even unconscious1. It is literally magic.
Creativity cannot be understood, but it can certainly be appreciated. Otherwise we would never get anywhere at all, everyone talking over each other trying to communicate in ways nobody else understands. How should we think about this? Do most people properly appreciate creativity?
Turns out this is a very useful axis with which to slice the world. It’s not the haves and the have nots, it’s the builds and the builds not. You have either tried to create before, to build and literally forge something out of nothing, or you never have2.
This is not new, but it’s everywhere. Remember the whole San Francisco extraction bit? From Mike Solana:
But I take extreme issue with the notion that industry leaders have taken something from the “community,” defined here as the “talent,” the “incubators,” and the “mentors.” This is precisely the opposite of reality. The men and women leaving are the talent, they have started the incubators, they have built the companies, they have funded the startup ecosystem, and they have mentored countless young people. This is the “network.” They are the network. Technology workers do not “extract” value from the region, they are what makes the region valuable.
Again – if you have never built, you will never understand. No vas a entender, pero tampoco te lo voy a explicar.
Ok fine, I’ll explain it to you. Consider one of the most basic creative exercises in existence: choosing a color palette. Go ahead, find a few that you like. Now try and come up with your own. You have millions of colors to choose from, it is not that difficult.
Not so easy, is it? Turns out somebody actually chose that color. And the other ones, too. All of them, actually. Everything you see around you. Critiquing is easy: it’s the creating that’s hard. Now consider this from William Bouguereau:
Forget the sheer difficulty of literally, physically painting this stroke by stroke with your hand and a paint brush. Forget everything except the fact that this wasn’t painted off of a picture that Bouguereau shot on his iPhone. He did not even have a reference – the scene was conjured up seemingly out of thin air, via rules applied from memory. Literally magic.
Katy Perry is like Mark Rothko - everyone looks at the output and says “I could do that,” but they miss the full picture of creative production that makes their work truly remarkable
Creativity is over-criticized and under-appreciated, when in reality it is a difficult and lonely affair that nobody owes anybody else. It is literally magic. You simply hope that the idea car pulls up, and if it does you’re in for one hell of a ride. Creatives understand the fickle nature of creativity while everybody else discounts it.
There is no guarantee that anybody will go out and do anything even remotely difficult if we keep this up – but it doesn’t have to be that way.
Build, or go forth and defend the new. What we need right now, and probably forever, is optimism. Society is low on optimism.
Nadia @nayafiaSide note: I have a personal rule about not criticizing crazy-seeming experiments. I'd rather too many ppl try ambitious things vs. not enough. I might disagree with team or ideas. But *doing* something already puts them above anyone who's ever critiqued academia (incl myself!)
This optimism comes from a deep, shared understanding about what it means to be creative. And creativity is literally magic that anybody can channel. You can create – the world is moldable. Nothing has to be the way it is (and, as you saw above, we heavily discount how hard it is do things on our own). Once you learn this, it changes you forever.
Go build. And when you’re not building? In some sense, you’re either building or critiquing. When you’re critiquing, do it right and defend the new. Do not critique — defend. Put your own neck on the line for creativity’s sake. Creativity is hard enough as it is.
It took a whole movie about a rat in Paris who dreams about becoming a chef, but Anton Ego finally figured it out in the end.
Thanks for reading. Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my creativity.
Those who have never created almost certainly have, at some point and in some way, but their instinct to do so was probably beaten into submission over the course of their lives. See the Job’s video above.