Creativity isn’t a linear experience, it’s an associative one.
If we want to become prolific, we have to make peace with piecemeal.
The problem is, to satisfy our basic human need for unity, order
and completeness, we demand that everything have a beginning, middle and end.
Human life, after all, is punctuated by a definite beginning, middle and end.
And so, it’s no surprise that we require everything we deal
with in life to follow the same structure. Our rational capacities crave a
certain amount of story. We depend on dramatic structure. It’s hardwired into
us. Aristotle was accurate when he said, a
whole is that which has a beginning and middle and end.
I’m reminded of the book The
Literary Mind, in which professor of cognitive science Mark Turner explains
how story is the fundamental instrument of human thought:
story, is our chief means of looking into, predicting, planning and explaining
the future. It is a capacity indispensable to human cognition generally, and is
the first way in which the mind is essentially literary.”
Looks like there’s no stopping that story train.
Unfortunately, this particular human tendency is at odds with
the creative process. And if we’re not careful, our biological craving for
resolution, our cultural need to perfectly compartmentalize everything into a
neat little package with a beginning, middle and end, can stand in the way of
effectively collecting, creating and communicating our ideas.
When you read the autobiography Last Words, it’s clear why George Carlin was the undisputed
heavyweight champion of standup. Not just because of his years in comedy, but because of his files of comedy. Carlin actually attests that the reason few
writers have ever achieved his level of prolificacy is because they refuse to
keep a record of their reactions to issues. At the end of the book, he tells
the story of an journalist who once asked him if he ever thought he might run
out of ideas. If he ever worried about not having anything to say anymore.
Carlin put the creative process into perspective with the
does flash through my mind, because it’s a natural human impulse to think in
terms of beginnings and endings. But the truth is, I can’t run out of ideas,
not as long as I keep getting new information and I can keep processing it. And
as long as I have observations to make, as long as I can see things and let
them register against my template, as long as I’m able to take impressions and
compare them with old ones, I will always have material.”
And so, each one of us needs the freedom to express
ourselves in a nonlinear fashion. The permission to work with ideas without
strict chronological terms. The space to create without corresponding to the illusions
of sequence and rational order. And the detachment from our natural human
impulse to think in terms of beginnings and endings.
We need to make peace with piecemeal.
How do we accomplish that?
By recording our
incomplete, fragmentary associative process.
Creativity, after all, is nothing but acoalescence of fragments.It’s alchemy. It’s associative, not linear.
Meaning, our duty as creators of ideas is to populate our content management
systems, our personal creative inventories, with any snippet that crosses our
cognitive path. Even if the story doesn’t have a beginning, middle or an end.
recorded his thoughts, observations, visualizations, imaginative patterns, experiments,
flashes of inspiration and ideas for new inventions in a series notebooks. By
the time of his death, he had accumulated over three thousand notebooks over
his lifetime, each of which contained more than two hundred pages.
But what’s most important
to remember is, the majority of his documentation was done in a raw,
fragmentary, clumsy and incomplete fashion. Edison’s creative inventory, all half
million pages of it, didn’t have a definite beginning, middle and end. And yet,
he still became the most prolific inventor in history.
Because he trusted
the creative process.
And that’s the challenge of the input phase of creation.Setting
aside our biological need for unity, order and completeness, and trusting our
raw materials into the system.
Keith Kennif has made peace with piecemeal. He’s a composer,
multi instrumentalist and music producer who releases ambient electronic
music under several monikers, all of which fall under his independent record
label, Unseen Music. He’s best known
for his music’s wide use in film, television, dance, advertising and
performance art. Facebook famously commissioned one of his songs for their
tenth anniversary video, which received hundreds of
millions of views and shares.
But in addition to being a daily listener of his music, I’m
also a diehard fan of his approach to organizing it.
Keith’s website has an astounding music library. It contains
hundreds of tracks––not full songs, just tracks,
just fragmentary associations of music––in various styles for the purposes of
commercial licensing. Each track is labeled in relation to its general mood
and tone, some of which are even available as alternate versions and lengths. That way, when clients submit their licensing requests, they can include all
the details about their project, including media type, industry, intent of use
and the like.
Keith’s piecemeal approach to creating music is brilliant.
In a recent interview with public radio, he
explained it as follows:
“I write distilled,
powerful tiny pieces of music, like mini film scores, telling so much story in
so few notes. They’re very simple melodies, often very simple chord changes
that everybody can kind of pick up and play. That’s the point and function of
these songs. Everybody be able to relate to them.”
Not full songs, tracks. Hundreds of incomplete, jigsaw
puzzle pieces of music. With no beginning, no middle and no end. The
accumulation of which makes Kennif one of the most successful and prolific
commercial musicians working today.
One man’s fragment is
another man’s fortune.
Are you treating creativity as a linear experience, or an associative
want to become more prolific, we have to create a more visceral and spontaneous
contact with our work.
to invite nature as our creative collaborator.
Pollack famously laid his canvas on the floor of a converted barn instead of
using the traditional easel. Back in the forties, he did an interview with an limited
edition art publication called Possibilities, in which he made the following
“My painting does not come from
the easel. I hardly ever stretch my canvas before painting. I prefer to tack
the unstretched canvas to the hard wall or the floor. I need the resistance of
a hard surface. On the floor, I am more at ease. I feel nearer, more a part of
the painting, since this way I can walk around it, work from the four sides and
literally be in the painting, allowing the creation to take on a life of its
changing the way he approached his work, he put himself in a position, quite
literally, to listen for what wanted to be created. By changing the perspective
of the canvas in front of him, he changed the perspective of the ideas inside
of him. By relieving his body of the necessity of gravity, he freed up his
brain to float wherever its fancy led it. And by grounding himself physically,
he grounded himself psychologically, engaging a posture of humility,
appreciation and respect for his creative environment.
what’s really interesting about his process is the science behind it.
published a fascinating article that analyzed the application of fluid dynamics
in Pollock’s art. Their hypothesis was, to the degree that he let science take
a role in the painting process, he invited physics to be a coauthor of his art
pieces. And by creatively ceding some of the responsibility for the appearance
of his work to a natural phenomena, he used fluid dynamics to contribute to the
creation of an art object.
of course, was no physicist. Had he been asked to explain the application of
scientific concepts like hydrodynamic instability, surface tension,
gravitational acceleration, axial velocity, inertial force, flow rate, liquid
density, fluid stream, kinematic viscosity and coiling oscillations, Pollock’s
head probably would have exploded. Instead, through trial and error, through
pure chance and guided inquiry, he intuitively assimilated the implications of
those scientific relationships into his work. And thanks to this process, he
became a major figure in the abstract expressionist movement, inspiring an
entire generation of painters.
lesson, then, is to operate at the intersection of what is aesthetically viable and what is physically possible. To invite the collaboration of natural
phenomena, forcing ourselves to think about art from a more scientific
I had my first experience with this practice a few
years ago, when I started busking on the weekends under the historic Meadowport
Arch, which is located at the entrance to Prospect Park. Over one hundred years
old and one hundred feet long, this limestone tunnel has a unique double
entrance onto the park’s great lawn, giving the traveler a choice of which way
to go in their journey.
It’s quite breathtaking. The tunnel has benches
built on both sides, a restored cedar sheathed ceiling and with paneling
covering the entire surface, making it an iconic destination for daily joggers,
curious tourists and frolicking children alike.
It also happens to have the best natural acoustics
I’ve ever heard in my life.
And I’ve played everywhere.
Since I started performing music as a kid, I’ve been
obsessed with singing songs in obscure venues, including apartment stairwells,
old churches, long hallways, hotel bathrooms, even post office vestibules.
These are the magical spaces where voices carry like bells and footsteps echo
like gunshots, and frankly, it just seems wrong not to make music there. The spaces
are aching for it. Like a match waiting for a spark.
on most weekends, I play a concert in that tunnel by the park. My shows usually
last about two hours, I sing all original songs, it’s just me and the guitar,
and I perform for anybody and everybody who walks past. By the time the show is
over, I’ll earn anywhere between ten and twenty dollars in change.
revelation was, since I started playing these shows, the tunnel helped me create
a more visceral and spontaneous contact with my work. Turns out, the physical
act of performing music in a naturally reverberated environment changes the
biology of the songs. Notes, riffs, rhythms, melodies and lyrics, ones that
might not have worked when I was just singing in my bedroom, magically started
to make sense under the arch. By collaborating with the tunnel’s scientific
principles, I was able to do things I never thought I could do as a songwriter.
It’s like I finally let out a deep breath I had no idea I was holding.
tunnel didn’t just give me access to the park, it gave me access to myself.
then, is for each of us to cede some
of the artistic responsibility to an environmental phenomena. To invite nature,
in any of its infinite forms, as the creative collaborator against which our
work is hurled.
I’m reminded of
famous study conducted by the Carlson School of
Management, which explored how ceiling height affected the way
people think and act.
how people processed information in different environments, and they found that
a twenty food ceiling helped them feel more free, enabling them to brainstorm
more creatively and process more abstract connections between objects.
Does your current
project require you to discover innovative solutions to problems through
divergent thinking? Find a room with high
ceilings. Consider collaborating with that natural phenomena.
On the other hand,
a person in a room with only an eight foot ceiling is more likely to focus on
specific tasks, details and other tactical concerns.
current project require you to bring thinking down to a more detailed and
accurate level? Find a room with low
ceilings. Consider collaborating with that natural phenomena.
Ultimately, there is no force more honest, more reliable, more
ubiquitous, and more scientifically proven than nature. It’s not supernatural,
it’s just natural. And
as creators and communicators of ideas, as people with an inherent need to
connect with something bigger than ourselves, we ought to design systems
and structures that invite nature as our collaborator.
The brain takes cues from
the body. As creators and communicators of ideas, part of our job is to activate the creative
subroutine in our head, bring up our energy and snap ourselves into the appropriate
state of mind to do our work. In the same way that the physical act of smiling
triggers the chemistry in our brain associated with happiness, the on ramp is
the cue for releasing the chemicals that stoke our work fire.
That’s why so many creators start every day of their lives
in the exact same way. They don’t want to have to wake up, drag their butts out
of bed and look for options of what to do first. That’s just another
unnecessary decision making process that’s exhaustive, stressful and wastes
valuable energy that they should be dedicating to their ideas.
To make matters worse, most people’s creative processes are solitary
endeavors. Which means the inevitability of showing up has to be created by
sheer willpower. They have to summon tremendous reserves of discipline and
energy. And so, the power of the on ramp is, it allows creators to cultivate the seeds that have already been
planted, as opposed to going out into the rocks to chip away at a brand new
There's an intriguing book called Old Type Writers, which explores the obsessive habits and quirky
techniques of great authors. Turns out, many of our most cherished creators used
methods that were just as inventive as the works they produced:
Joyce wrote in crayon.
Colette picked fleas from her pets before picking up her pen. Poe balanced a
cat on his shoulder. Hugo placed himself under strict house arrest, wearing
nothing but a long, gray, knitted shawl. Schiller filled his desk drawer with
rotten apples, relying on the pungent smell to spark his creativity. Steinbeck
always kept exactly twelve perfectly sharpened pencils on his desk. Christie
munched on apples in the bathtub while pondering murder plots.
Each of these creators, whether they relied on specific tools,
eccentric routines, strict schedules or bizarre environments, steadfastly
adhered to them. The combination and accumulation of which constructed the
creative on ramps that enabled their prolificacy.
ramp is to spend the first half hour of every day inhaling. Not just reading,
because that limits the medium, but inhaling. Breathing in. And doing so promiscuously.
The routine is, I read and browse and learn from a diverse range of websites,
blogs, pictures, comic strips, trending memes, online publications, interviews,
research studies, books, articles, songs, street art, store signs, podcasts,
eavesdroppings, conversations and other sources of inspiration.Plus, I take notes. Lots
of notes.And by the time I’m done making my
rounds, my desktop is littered with new documents and ideas and perspective and
insight. I feel engaged with what’s going on in the world. I view the news as a
source of energy, not just a source of information.
practice, this creative subroutine, ensures that the first part of my
day has a cadence and rhythm that includes movement. By giving my ritual of thinking the primacy it deserves, never forcing it to
compete for my attention with anything else, I find that I’m able to stay
your on ramp?
I have a
therapist friend who specializes in sleep hygiene. He tells his clients the key
to ensuring restful, effective sleep is to establish a soothing presleep
routine. According to the famous Harvard
Medical School Guide to a Good Night’s Sleep, this presleep ritual, an hour
of relaxation before bedtime, reduces the body’s secretion of the stress
hormone cortisol––which is associated
with increasing alertness––and helps to ease the transition from wake time to
particular subroutine focuses on sleep, but it still points to the same general
principle: The human brain craves routine
and likes to know what’s coming. And so, the goal is to establish a clear
association between different types of activities. To prime ourselves to do our
creating. To set the tone that it’s time to go to work.
reminded of the book The War of Art,
which has inspired people around the world to defeat the internal foe of resistance.
In fact, it’s the only book I’ve read once a year, every year, for the past ten
years. And although it was written for writers, it has also been embraced by
business entrepreneurs, actors, dancers, painters, photographers, filmmakers,
military service members and thousands of others around the world.
opening paragraph of the book gives us an inside look at how the author
activates the creative subroutine in his head:
“I get up, take a
shower, have breakfast. I read the paper, brush my teeth. I’ve got my coffee
now. I put on my lucky work boots and stitch up the lucky laces that my niece gave
me. I head back to my office, crank up the computer. My lucky hooded sweatshirt
is draped over the chair, with the lucky charm I got from a gypsy for only
eight bucks. I have my lucky nametag that came from a dream I once had, and I
put it on. On my thesaurus is my lucky cannon that my friend gave me. I point
it toward my chair so it can fire inspiration into me. I say my prayer, invoke the
muse, and I sit down and plunge in.”
That’s his on ramp. The ritual that prompts the work mindset
and merges him into the creative process. What’s yours?
If you don't write it down, it never happened. When I first heard this phrase, it had a profound effect on
my creative process. It taught me to relieve my mind of the necessity of
remembering. It taught me to stop trusting my memory and start managing my
creative workflow intelligently. To train myself to become an informational
virtuoso who’s fast, responsive, proactive, organized, and never lets a single
idea get away. And to never encounter inspiration without picking its pocket.
Mitch Hedberg used to have a great joke on this:
“Sometimes in the
middle of the night, I think of something that’s funny, so I go get a pen and I
write the idea down. Unless the pen’s too far away, and then I have to convince
myself that what I thought of wasn’t funny.”
And so, before the documentation process even begins, the
creator’s obligation is to empty himself of any expectations attached to his
ideas. Rather than ignoring or evaluating or trying to get rid of the ideas he doesn’t
like, he breathes them in and writes them down. He allows his work to be
enriched by the things he would normally consider to be useless. And no matter
how strange that little germ may seem, no matter how much the idea goes against
what he intended to create, he honors it by at least hearing it out and finding
out what it has to say.
Because you never know where you might use it.
In my office, I have a songwriting station. It’s a classroom
style rolling whiteboard, chaotically collaged with lyric sheets. Most of the
ideas aren’t fully formed yet, they’re just long typed lists of words and
phrases and sentences that I’ve been collecting from a variety of inspiration
sources over the years.
And you’ll notice, my material is sorted chronologically
from left to right. Meaning, I can visualize lyric ideas from three years ago,
three months ago or three days ago, depending on where I stand in relation to
the board. And the exciting part about this process is, at any given songwriting
moment, I might end up using some old, obscure lyric from three years ago that I don’t even remember writing down.
But it doesn’t matter, because that’s what wanted to be written.
I had no way of knowing that at the moment of conception,
but because I wrote down that idea, without expectation or judgment, it
eventually found a home three years later.
And so, this approach to collecting ideas has both cognitive
and strategic implications. You have to process information quickly, but you
also have to manage your creative workflow intelligently. You have to avoid trusting
your brain, but you also have avoid editing your instincts.
Because if you don’t write it down, it never happened.
I once read a fantastic book called Realizing The Impossible, an anthology of commentaries and images on
the relationship between art and social movements. The book gathered
contributions from around the globe, both from current artists and historical creators,
curating a vibrant history and overview of political art.
with multidisciplinary artist Shaun Silfer said it best:
“The best artists have
shit on their shoes. They’re running around in the middle of everything, they
can’t settle down, they can’t shut up and they can’t quit fidgeting with
And what’s interesting is, if you study the world’s most
prolific creators, they all work the same way. They’re masters polyamorous creation,
or, working on multiple projects
The term polyamory is the hybrid of the words poly,
meaning “multiple,” and the word amor, meaning “love.” The controversial
idea first penetrated public consciousness in the seventies, but its definition
has been researched, redefined and revisited by a number of accredited
institutions over the years.
In the romantic sense, here’s the essence of the philosophy:
“Polyamory is the practice, state or ability of having
more than one intimate, loving relationship at the same time, with the full
knowledge and consent of all partners involved.”
Obviously, there’s much criticism around the topic. Issues
of relational stability and marital longevity have been widely debated, researched,
even satirized by a number of cable and reality television shows.
But that’s not the point I’m trying to make.
I’m interested in the concept of polyamory from the
perspective of a creator, not a couple. I’m interested in transferring
polyamory from the interpersonal domain to intellectual domain. In this regard,
it’s not about pursuing relationships with multiple romantic partners, it’s
about pursuing relationships with
multiple creative projects.
Our artistic endeavors, after all, are living, breathing
things, with which we have intimate relationships. Ask any artist in the world,
and they’ll agree there is a profound connection between the creator and the
But as the definition
of polyamory suggests, there is a full knowledge and consent of all partners
involved. Meaning, the act of dividing your love and attention among
several creative works doesn’t automatically lessen it. Just because you’re
juggling multiple projects simultaneously, doesn’t mean you love either of them
any less because of the existence of the other.
I have a writer friend who’s incapable of polyamorous
creation. It drives me crazy. Whenever his latest book enters into the editing
and design phase, he refuses to work on his next project in limbo. As if doing
so would be the equivalent of cheating on his current project.
But I always tell him, look, just because you switch gears
midstream and dive into another creative endeavor, doesn’t make you any less
focused, efficient or loyal to your current pursuit.
In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
Albert Bandura is one of the most frequently cited and
influential psychologists of all time. He originated the theoretical construct
of self-efficacy, which is the belief in your own
ability to succeed and achieve the goals you set for yourself.
In his research on the cognitive
functioning of creative thinkers, here’s what he found:
efforts are more productively deployed when they pursue multiple projects
simultaneously, at varying stages of completion, shifting among them as
circumstances dictate. In doing so, they’re less likely to succumb to the
impediments, false starts, inevitable delays and distractions of the creative
process, and more likely to experience greater productivity and goal
How many creative irons do you have in the fire?
When you practice polyamorous creation,
it also produces positive interactions between projects. In my current workload,
I’m building a course curriculum, writing a book, producing a documentary and a
composing musical album. And initially, each project was mutually exclusive.
Unique in its own right. Four different mediums, audiences and messages. But
over time, the projects began to bump into each other. And I couldn’t help but
notice thought bridges, cross fertilizations, subconscious connections, natural
relationships and unexpected integrations between them.
As a result, that unconscious
integration allowed me to quickly, easily and effectively transition from one
project to another on a daily basis. And that contributed to a greater
consistency in my body of work and overall artistic vision. Proving,
that our creations may be multiple, but the creator is singular.
Are your ideas talking to each other?
Of course, the question of polyamorous
creation is, how do you know when it’s
time to switch gears between projects?
That all depends on your schedule,
rhythms, natural energy cycles, creative preferences and environments. As I’ve mentioned before, the great creative
discipline is simply knowing what season it is. Developing an exquisite
understanding of your own timing. Listening for what wants to be
Scott Adams, cartoonist and
entrepreneur, says one of the most important tricks for maximizing
productivity is matching your mental state to the task.
“When I first wake up,
my brain is relaxed and creative. The thought of writing a comic is fun, and
it’s relatively easy because my brain is in exactly the right mode for that
task. But I also know from experience that trying to be creative in the
midafternoon is a waste of time. At six in the morning I’m a creator, and by
two in the afternoon, I’m a copier.”
How does your physical body dictate
your creative body of work?
And keep in mind, just because you’re working on multiple projects,
doesn’t mean you’re not focused. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. You’re more
focused than ever. Focus, after all, isn’t about activity, it’s about identity.
Keeping all your passions in play, while still staying true you dominant
reality. Not hammering one nail all your life, but hammering lots of nails, one way, all your life. And believing that
doesn’t matter how many different things you do, it matters that you’re the
same person when you do them.
Polygamous creation, then, is not about spreading yourself too thin.
It’s not about procrastination. It’s not about chasing too many rabbits. It’s
not about becoming a jack of all trades. It’s not about accumulating a bunch of
unfinished projects. And it’s not about placing too many cumbersome demands on
It’s about hedging your creative bets.
It’s about insuring yourself against the daily discouragements, delays,
distractions, depressions, derailments and disappointments of the creative
process. And in many cases, that means giving yourself permission to go work on
New project receive an unflattering review? Go work on something else.
Editor move the final deadline back two weeks? Go work on something else.
Meaning starting to drain from your current endeavor? Go work on something else.
Computer freeze at an inopportune time? Go work on something else.
Client go on vacation and forget about your website? Go work on something else.
Receive a rejection letter from a publisher? Go work on something else.
Stuck on a song lyric that just won’t rhyme? Go work on something else.
Spirit won’t move the way you want it to? Go work on something else. That’s how you use polyamory to buttress your creative practice.
fact, I read interviews everyday with artists, songwriters, painters, designers
and other creative professionals, and they all echo the
same sentiment. Prolific creators know resistance will eventually rear its ugly
head, and so they always have something waiting in the wings, ready to be
With only one iron in the fire, you wouldn’t have the
freedom to do that.
Ultimately, polyamorous creation, the practice of pursuing relationships with multiple creative
projects, is a proven strategy that allows you to be both prolific with, and
protective of, your artistic work.
I met a
travel photographer who had an interesting philosophy.
natural lighting was the only way he worked.
because of the image quality, which was often stronger than staged lighting, but
mainly because he didn’t want to schlep all his heavy equipment through foreign
countries for weeks at a time. Imagine marching through a rainforest carrying flashes,
umbrellas, light boxes, reflectors, backdrops, accessories, optical slaves,
power supplies and metal stands.
because of his decision to only use natural lighting, he never committed to one
particular photographic aesthetic. He never stylized himself into a corner. Which
meant he was able to experiment with a variety of different approaches. And as
a result, that freed him to evolve his visual voice as he saw fit, solidifying
his reputation as an interesting, versatile and unique photographer.
didn’t run from his limitations, he leveraged them.
remember thinking to myself, I wonder if
this happens in other fields?
whose early records were limited to three minutes on a side. That put pressure
on him to the keep the pieces short, but helped him become a master at creating
short, concise musical statements that were close to perfect.
the commercial artist,
whose day job gave him a steady income that allowed him to delve into each
chosen project without having to worry about a deadline or a panic to sell.
That allowed his pieces to become complete on their own schedule.
whose antique photograph paper had a chemistry that was overly sensitive to
ultraviolet light. This allows his white and featureless skies to become strong
graphic elements in his pictures that echoed the shape of the land.
whose vision dimmed due to macular degeneration. But since he couldn’t see the
details of the canvas anyway, his conditioned enhanced his impressionistic
comedian, whose incurable perfectionism forced him to develop jokes
glacially. But since he waited sometimes years for punchlines to full ripen, that
allowed for breakthroughs he wouldn’t reach otherwise.
whose client had a severe slope in her land, which inspired him to add
terraces, stonework, waterfalls, and extensive landscaping. As a result, he created
an unexpected feeling of calm and contentment for the residents.
There’s the choreographer,
whose principal dancer was struck by a motor scooter and couldn’t perform the
traditionally powerful moves. But he exploited her stillness to powerfully
evoke the feeling of loss and separation between her and the other dancer.
band, whose nominal music skill and crappy equipment forced them
create unconventional performances with props, staging, masks and costumes.
These elements later became a crucial component to their mysterious brand
these artists leveraged their limitations.
you leveraging yours?
I remember when I first transitioned from being a full time
artist to being a full time employee. Initially, I was concerned. Because now
that I had a new day job, I also had a serious time limitation. And I wondered
how that might affect my output.
But because my creative work had became a supplementary
source of income, I began making art independent of my need to make money and
keep the lights on. That freed my ideas from the burden of having to support
myself. And I found that creativity wasn’t as claustrophobic anymore, now that
I wasn’t worrying about money as much. Ultimately, by removing the acute
business pressure that previously hung over my head, I experienced a newfound artistic
sovereignty that allowed me to experiment with new mediums and genres and
I leveraged my limitations.
It’s a form of optimism, really.
Which doesn’t increase your success, but what it does increase is your field of vision, and
that allows you to better notice the opportunities that lead to success.
I’m reminded of this fascinating interview I heard between a
physician and a cancer survivor. Recounting his diagnosis experience, the
“If you have a bad
attitude about your disease, odds are, you won’t get better, because you
won’t do the necessary research on the resources that will make you better.
You’ll never find the solution that leads to the solution. That’s the physical
and procedural manifestation of a bad attitude. Mindset may not affect the
outcome, but it does affect the experience.”
In this way, leveraging your limitations becomes part of your
expanded field of vision. It’s not about mind over matter, it’s about using
your mind to allow more things to matter, so you can expose yourself to the
Think of it as a filter.
In the production
management world, factories and organizations call this the theory of constraints, in which they identify
the limitation, decide how to exploit it, and then restructure everything in
the system around it.
sound like dry, dense corporate speak––and it is––but it’s also a useful filter
for approaching your creative work. The artist’s journey, after all, is
a journey of revealing to yourself what you love, who you are and who you aren’t.
And so, the goal of the
filter is to embrace the entirety of your
personality, not just your strengths. To creatively channel your
liabilities, play the ball where it lies and make the most of what you’ve got.