Focus

A week ago, to the day, we were awake.

And we would be awake for another inhuman number of hours.

Was it going to be a success? Not sure. Was it perfect? Not traditionally. Was it worth it? Absolutely. You see the point of things in the creative world is not so much about reaching the ideal in it’s predicted version. We can only imagine things that we have seen before and so if we are able to produce what we imagine, more than likely its a knockoff of something else. It may even be the fusion of popular styles combined into something pseudo unique, but that’s not really what I might consider true innovation or creativity.

Really, you have to submit yourself to the whim of the moment, and take a BIG risk to get something that hasn’t been seen before. Things that haven’t been discovered yet are, by nature, terrifying. And so we avoid these wild lands to save our scalps and just produce moderately improved versions of the same thing over and over again. That’s a great way to improve something, and make the very best version of that one thing. But for all the design and engineering poured into a samurai sword, it was useless against a $3 piece of new thinking in the hands of a laborer. The Gun.

That’s a violent example, but it articulates perfectly the paradox of modern creative thinking. We spend so much time viewing and copying and perfecting and struggling to improve ourselves toward the set standard, but what we fail to do is steer ourselves toward uncharted waters. We believe a lot about quality, how we achieve it. And there is something to be said about that. New thinking usually looks unsophisticated and immature. Like a screaming, puking baby. But it’s new, it’s truly fresh. It’s undiscovered.

Being THAT guy, the one on the frontier, takes serious grit. People don’t really understand the “New” and so they just write it off as low quality work. But if it’s good, and you continue to explore, and you give it a dose of that improvement that we were talking about earlier, you may see it take form. A few early adopters might just have the vision for it, and will support you in your discovery. Mostly people just laugh. Like I said, it takes grit.

This internal argument was the culprit last week.

We had schemed a wonderful film, a combination of two popular styles and we were going to mash them into epic glory. Step one, figure out how to do this 2 hours before filming. Step 2, realize that the water is deep and the resources are limited. Step 3, plunge in because…why the hell not!

Time will tell, but it was probably a complete failure in the traditional sense.

We did not achieve anything close to our goal. The look was marginal, the props were limited and the light was not nearly sufficient. The background was too busy and then we got started too late. I was not well-rehearsed on my lines, and the blocking, and the hours destroyed the continuity. Fail, fail, FAIL.

But it was so worth it. I learned more than I could ever extract from reading a manual on the www. It was cold, hard, compelling Experience. You can’t waste your life copying what’s out of your reach. It’s like grabbing for a seagull when your parachute doesn’t open. Sure it can fly, but it won’t carry you. Don’t grab for cool tricks and surefire successes. That’s cowardice. Be bold and take some risks, that’s how you learn at an early stage.

What did we learn?

Focus.

Take a look around you, and see what you are good at. What thing you and your team love to do, can do and want to play with to improve. That is your puking-baby, new idea. That’s the edge of your frontier. Take that little spark of passion and give it some fuel. Setup a creative concept, some basic tools and some structure, then let it burn how it will. Just be available to let it take you where it needs to go. Don’t channel it too hard. Respond to what you are discovering and let it excite more discovery. This is new territory (to you at least) and so it’s fine to take a look around. Lewis and Clark would have had a lousy expedition if they could have flown to the west coast. You have to enjoy the journey. Sure, late nights and gear failure are setbacks, but it’s not worse than bears or warring natives. Keep moving, but take in the scenery. Creativity is self-propelled and it has a habit of showing you much more than you think you will see.

Honestly, you can’t expect to not be shocked and a little giddy by what you discover. Imagine having no concept of a Giant Redwood tree, then waking up next to one.

Yep. I think true creativity is like that. It’s scary, it makes you feel tiny, but it’s also thrilling and completely worth the journey.

I want to pledge to myself to stop making promises to “Be like this” or “Be like that”. Instead I want to commit to the risks. Enjoy a cupful of failure every-so-often and look hard to see what I can learn. I want to feel an undiscovered wind on my face, and see something come to life that no one has ever witnessed before. To do that, you have to be outside the world of refinement for a while, and just head straight into the discovery.

“Difficulties are just things to overcome, after all.”
-Sir Ernest Shackelton, principle figure in the Age of Antarctic Exploration

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