We all forget things often and risk losing good ideas. As soon as a brilliant idea comes to you, there are two things you can do to preserve it. First, you can record it – in writing, picture, drawing or video – and put it in a place where you will never lose it. The alternative, I’m afraid, is to let the idea linger in mental space and see if it can stand the test of time. The best ideas are not easily forgotten and won’t leave you alone. If you truly want to test the relative strength your idea, see whether you forget it after a while. If you fail to write it down and never forget it, chances are pretty good that your idea counts for something and isn’t going to run away from you.
When you finally stop moving or take a break, your mind tends to press on and fill the work void with busy thoughts. Far too often, my vacations ripen with creative or intellectual juices. More momentum from busy days than anything else, I spend all of my free time theorizing, planning or creating the next big thing. Unfortunately, a busy mind is hardly restful. If you want a true break, you need to let go and stop thinking for a while. Zone out to some chill music. Go for a jog. Float down a river. Whatever helps your mind find a small measure of peace. With a completely rested mind, you will be surprised how many of your anxieties from before will disappear.
Plan things to look forward to.
Live in the moment, not just the past.
Celebrate often. Don’t complain.
Find something creative to do.
Get up, dress up and show up.
Get outside everyday.
Take care of your body.
Accept that doctors are not perfect.
Do not seek sympathy for being old.
Love and forgive everyone.
Valve, the company famous for the Half Life, Portal and Left for Dead game series, is a rare gem indeed. From top to bottom, Valve prides itself on not having managers. Financed personally, the founders never had anyone else to answer to (except, of course, their customers). Within the organization, employees live and breathe a “flat” mantra – everyone is equal and autonomous. Teams form organically without assignments, no one serves anyone else, peers measure performance and everyone ranks each other for salary bumps. While somewhat anarchistic and inefficient, this chaotic and creative environment continues to birth instant classics. Valve releases nothing until it’s perfect. While this may sound idyllic and utopian, it’s actually working for them. I encourage you to read Valve’s Handbook for New Employees to learn more. Can this model apply to other organizations and industries?
I know amazing writers, musicians, filmmakers and artists who have no public voice because they are afraid of what the world might think of their work. You procrastinate posting videos to Vimeo, starting a blog or putting your neck out into the unknown abyss of consumers who might judge you for it. The notion of criticism is debilitating and you wait for “the right time” to develop your public voice.
This fear is absolute nonsense. Unless you already have an established smash-hit brand (at which point, you should have overcome your fear of public speaking), the likelihood that anyone will notice you exist from the beginning is negligible at best. If you’re lucky, your closest friends and family will read you – and they tend to be your most generous and forgiving critics. It takes a lot of effort to scale an audience who might give you crap for your work. By then, you’ll know what you’re doing and have the experience to respond to criticism.
On the flip side, you might fear putting yourself out there because it’s possible no one will connect with your work. The fear of failure. I’ve got news for you: no one can connect with your work if you don’t put it out there in the first place. You’re already failing by holding back. If you put yourself out there and no one connects after a reasonable amount of effort to share with the world, move on. Try something else. Whatever you do, don’t sit still.
Christopher Nolan, one of the greatest filmmakers of our time, does not have a cell phone. In an effort to live a focused and productive life, he is vigilant about keeping his personal bubble distraction-free. I’ve advocated for periods of digital silence before, but Mr. Nolan’s approach to creative sanctuary is something else entirely. No outside forces may enter the gates of his life while he is working. That’s a special thing.
We consume so much information every single day: emails, articles, status updates, pictures and video. Since the beginning of the year, I have consumed approximately 2,000 emails, 6,400 tweets, 12,500 articles and god knows how many status updates. Let’s conservatively estimate that I spend an average of 20 seconds per item (an overestimate for tweets; a radical underestimate for email and news). By that average, I spend around 58 hours per month or 12% of my time awake consuming emails, tweets and articles alone. Realistically, I think that number is closer to 35% or 40%. Needless to say, that’s a lot.
The numbers make me sick. I could be spending time creating for and giving back to the world. I can only imagine how much more I could get done if I extinguished those distractions from my life. After adopting the Galaxy Nexus, I am now more connected than ever. I’m starting to feel the water rising to my ears – and I don’t like it. Tonight, I vow to wean myself off consumption as much as possible. I will keep this blog up to date with any tips I discover along the way.
Practice brainstorming. Sit down for a dedicated period of time. Challenge yourself to come up with a specific number of ideas, preferably addressing a problem you want to solve. Set a timer and feel the pressure. Write every idea down. Do not judge them. Do not cross them out. Never read the list until the brainstorming session concludes. Free your mind from the type of critical thought that restricts creativity. Dream big and ignore consequences. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. You will surprise yourself by your own creativity.
There is a general cynicism lately about human progress in the cultural, commercial, physical, and spiritual realm. This week’s South Park had a brilliant (albeit gruesome and disgusting) commentary on contracting the disease, “cynicism,” where everything starts looking and sounding like “shit.” Many individuals (not just me) watch in angst as large companies roll out recycled shlock and menial improvements. A lot of the criticism directed at all companies showcasing video games at the E3 gaming conference this week sang to the beat of “It seemed more like a catch-up game than something completely different.” Nintendo and Playstation announced entirely new gaming consoles, and yet they came off as incremental and uninspired updates in struggle to catch up to the aggressively expanding mobile games market. Only sequels gained traction at the conference, no original game-changing titles. I hold the same criticism of Apple’s latest products: iPad 2, iCloud, OS X Lion, and iOS 5 boast only minor improvements to the user experience that update on and catch up to some superior features of competitors in the computing space. We live in a world farming updates, too distracted by the noise around us to make meaningful, poignant change.
Our world is evolving quickly, but do not mistake evolution for revolution. Evolution is a slow, gradual, step-by-step process that takes time and energy. Revolution is a leap, a blindside, a change that catches us all by surprise. Evolution is differentiation. Revolution is different. Evolution is a hybrid transition between new and old. Revolution does not look back. Evolution is missing the letter ‘R’ at the front, and that letter ‘R’ means business. I have not seen a revolution in the cultural, commercial, physical, and spiritual realm for some time.
Revolution is a modern virtue. How can you build something revolutionary? Use the Reference Test: can you or anyone else compare your creation directly to another creation already existing?
Hollywood pitch culture is a perfect example. Somewhere in the early nineties, producers made the habit of pitching movies as “this” meets “that.” “Terminator” meets “Home Alone.” “Cool Runnings” meets “Blade Runner.” “Veggie Tales” meets “Godzilla.” The problem? Mixing old shit together does not make it new. It simply makes it old shit mixed together. Can anyone compare your movie idea directly to other films already in existence?
If your work comes off as a hybrid between this and that, or an update to something already in existence, then you have not pushed the button hard enough. Push harder. Twist your perspective. See the light. Open your mind. Forget the world around you. Look deep inside. Be true to yourself. Be human. Be real. You are capable of inventing something the world has never seen.
Stop at nothing to change the world. Start a revolution.
I talk to a lot of filmmakers, artists and business people who dissuade themselves from a venture or project simply because they lack the resources necessary to create a product with “high production value.” I cannot tell you how many films have not been made because producers and directors could not secure the equipment or style they wanted. “It wouldn’t be professional enough!” “It wouldn’t look like a real movie!”
Well, let me tell you something – who gives a damn? Do you think YouTube has become the entertainment monstrosity it has because of high Hollywood-class production value? Hell no. YouTube has exploded because it highlights genuine, human entertainment. Raw, real, honest. Not polished, impersonal shlock.
Pick up a camera (any camera, your cell phone counts) and go tell a personal human story. If you can’t do that, it doesn’t matter how much money or production value you have because NO ONE WILL CARE. Production value is just a cover-up for fear or undeserved elitism. Sure, quality can be important. But story is more important. Get off your ass and go tell your story.
Do not let production value get in the way of your creative expression.