In the course of a year, quite a few people ask me for advice about how to DO what they dream of doing. Many, not all, are writers. The question is not about how to achieve success, but simply how to start and keep going. It is a central question of the creative process.
Seth Godin‘s succinct quote applies to all creatives as far as I’m concerned, not just writers; it is what most of my counsel ultimately boils down to.
It’s often helpful to see how other people work, and even try out their methods, which is why ‘improvised life’ posts a lot about artist and writers processes, what they’ve figured out to make their creative life move forward. Ultimately though, you just have to discover what works for you: what are the various tools and tricks that will actually get you doing what you want to be doing?
Is it a deadline or a consequence? (I once made a deal with a friend that everyday she did not work on her new photography project, she had to pay me $50.)
Is it rolling out of bed and writing or painting, not allowing yourself to talk to anyone first?
Is it doing everything BUT until the end of the day when you finally get going on the real task at hand? (Which is why were were so amazed and happy to see the great writer John McPhee’s “resemblance to the sand of Gibralter” so heartening.)
Is it making a mess?
Is it keeping things neat?
Invariably, what’s ultimately gets done is due to a series of many small steps (and misteps).
But no matter how messy or zig-zagging the process may be, whatever it is, if it works for you, IT WORKS FINE.
Here are some reminders of the very different ways creative people do what they do:
Photo of Alexander Calder’s studio from 1963 book Calder At Home: The Joyous Environment of Alexander Calder by Pedro E. Guerrero.