Creating can be anything, building a company, creating legal policies, executing a campaign for office, but I like to look to artists and creatives for inspiration when it comes to creation. I’m going to use two well-known examples here, and the lesser known stories of their work. The two are Pablo Picasso and Ernest Hemingway.
Picasso was one of the most famous living artists ever (most artists become famous after death). He has several pieces that have gone on to sell for tens of millions of dollars (That’s 8 figures!) but people who know him without studying art history mistakenly think he woke up one day and decided, “I’m going to make a masterpiece.” That never happened. Instead, he made art daily. For 70+ years!
As a result, some of that work was chosen by customers and society as his masterpieces. The consumers, not the artist, chooses the masterpiece.
To put in perspective Picasso’s effort, It’s estimated that he produced 20,000 pieces of art in his lifetime between paintings, drawings, rugs, tapestries and sculptures. That’s 285 per year. Most people only work 5 days a week with a couple weeks off a year. That’s more that 1 piece per day on that working schedule. Slightly less that 1 piece a day if creating everyday. With all that effort, over 7 decades, only a handful of those pieces turned into the world shattering successes that most dream of, and he didn’t pick them. He just created daily and the world chose what they liked.
That should be comforting!
You don’t have to agonize over your work. Put it out there, and if you’re wrong re-calibrate and try again tomorrow. If you continue to dedicate time daily, you’ll eventually build a body of work, and in time that body of work will grow to contain some masterpieces, but it probably won’t be the pieces you think.
At this point, you may be asking something like, “But what if the work I do can’t be done in day?” It’s fine. It’s to be expected. The work that matters takes time, but that makes the daily effort more valuable. If your work has to be created over multiple sessions, you might as well chip away at it everyday.
I’ll give you another creative on the other end of the spectrum. A man that wrote books. Full-length books can’t be written in one sitting. I’m sure wrote daily, but he didn’t publish daily.
Starting in 1926, until his death in 1961, Ernest Hemingway, wrote nine books, two were published postmortem. In total, Hemingway’s books add up to 2,570 pages of literature. Keeping in mind the period of time, that’s an average one published page every six days. A little over a page a week!
As a man who said, “I write one page of masterpiece to ninety-one pages of shit,” I’m sure Hemingway wrote far more pages that were restarted, edited, or turned into short stories, but the point is Hemingway didn’t rush the process. Writing ten to twenty pages in a day is a task I’m sure most college graduates can relate to doing at some point, however, a prolific writer like Hemingway only published an equivalent of five pages a month as far as his books go. In between, he reviewed, tinkered, experienced life, revised and edited his work until it was worth sharing. In the end, his persistence was rewarded.
Hemingway’s story is the real story of success, small increments of work maintained for extended periods of time while learning and editing. Other stories about overnight success are for marketing, media, or Hollywood.
Hopefully, I’ve made it clear, whatever you want to do, spending some time daily creating is important, even if publishing or releasing isn’t. Most people don’t commit in this way, so even though it doesn’t seem like enough, it compounds into big things over months, years and decades. And that is the hardest part, the commitment and the patience.
There will always be doubt in your mind that your work is a waste. That no one will care. The supply vs. demand curve for reassurance is as skewed as it comes to demand overwhelming supply. Get comfortable with the lack of it. Don’t create because you think it will work. Create because it’s the time of day for your creation. It’s your habit. Something in your life is bound to work if you stick with it long enough. Days and weeks are nothing to measure commitment by, ask a married couple. Measuring in months is starting to be good. Measuring in years is great. And committing for decades is awesome.
Don’t waste today, make sure you still create something today in as many minutes as you can spare. Do it again tomorrow. And the day after. And everyday for the foreseeable future. Eventually, those baby steps will have taken you on an entire journey.
None of this is Right is about seeing opportunities to apply creativity, patience, courage and generosity to improve your life and the lives of those around you. The great part is that it doesn’t require and specialized knowledge or experience. If you can’t see those opportunities, or if a reminder is useful from time to time, subscribing below is valuable. I generally send 1 email a month, so it’s low effort on the inbox management.