Marcus Romer shared a tweet which, in one day, got retweeted over 7000 times.
I think it struck a chord.
It goes like this:
The Creative Process:
1. This is awesome
2. This is tricky
3. This is shit
4. I am shit
5. This might be ok
6. This is awesome.
This cycle is so familiar to me that I go through it several times a week, a month, a year. This week, I’ve looped the loop of shittiness to awesome (and back again) twenty seven times. So believe me when I tell you that I understand. We all understand. It’s a universal problem, faced by just about anybody over six who ever made anything.
So, what’s the tricky bit?
Why do we go from ‘this is a great idea’ to ‘this is tricky’ so deftly?
Because, to be blunt, we often realise how full of actual shit our initial ideas are.
Why this is a good thing.
Of course our initial ideas are full of shit. People who have brainwaves and then act on them with zero editing, simplification or reflection? They’re either geniuses or just a smidgin lazy.
Going from ‘this is tricky’ to ‘this is shit’ is exactly how we weed out the weakest bits of the idea. Usually, fully formed ideas don’t just flop out and present themselves. There will be an element of shit.
The next bit is scary.
Breaking out of flabby, safe, repetitive thinking.
Actually challenging your beliefs, dogmas and influences.
People won’t agree with you.
People will misunderstand you, misquote you, criticise your stuff, even troll you. You will feel about as big as this:
This is where the ‘I am shit’ bit kicks in.
But then, the haters: they’re not really the ones you care about, are they?
Because people—the right, sweet, beloved souls who actually get you—can only see you if you’re brave enough and determined enough to keep going. Keep asking yourself uncomfortable questions.
THE UNCOMFORTABLE QUESTIONS TO GET YOU OUT OF ‘I AM SHIT’:
1. This is awesome.
Why? What’s so awesome about it? About you? Define it. Describe it.
2. This is tricky.
Yup. What’s hard about it? Do you need to challenge an assumption to make progress? Do you actually disagree with others in your field? What information are you missing? What are you going to do to get it?
3. This is shit.
Why? Because you’ve realised you, like everyone, are in resistance? Or it’s hard work to actually do the work. You have to think, act, measure, rethink, act, be tough on your opinions. Or is it actually a shit idea, in which case you need to move on?
4. I am shit.
Shit enough to give up? Or just shit enough to get better? Can feeling shit actually be a challenge? What would it take to get out of this? What’s your exact next step?
5. This might be OK.
Great. Find out what makes it start feeling OK and do more of it. Hone your point of view, your technique. Be ruthless at discarding the fluff. Seek out those who will support and probe you. Give yourself permission to make this an experiment, and keep a move on.
6. This is awesome.
Good. Awesome doesn’t come in freeze-dried form, usually. And when you’re at the stage of finally feeling you might be venturing into awesome, others will look on and wonder why you have it so easy when they’re in ‘this is tricky.’ Be awesome. Be generous with your material. Be loving and kind and patient and respectful. Honour your point of view, and accept that others will not always agree. Then be prepared to rock your own boat, to continually return to the start. Back to tricky. It’s a spiral, not a circle.
Recognising where you are, and some responsibilities of the visible:
You don’t need everyone to agree, but, if you’re banking on capturing a swathe of the public’s attention and love, you need to be a responsible custodian of that. Getting into the tricky bog of ‘what do I think’ and out the other side is so hard that not many of us ever have the guts to do it. (And I’m counting myself as one of those in the bog, by the way. It’s an admirably sticky bog, and there’s nothing wrong with being in it, as long as you keep moving.)
So many artists, business owners, bloggers, entertainers and journalists never get past ‘I am shit.’ Sometimes, they don’t even get past ‘this is tricky.’ Instead, they fall back on a kind naively sinister doublethink, on repetition, dissatisfaction, undermining and damagingly lazy banter.
It’s hard to explore all the corners of the field you’re in. And it’s a mistake to believe that anybody can ever know it all, have all of the information, never fuck up, never put a foot wrong. But to stay chained to the corner post of the field, head down, bum up, mulish and blinkered when there are cornflowers and red poppies and yarrow and horsetail and strangely fragrant grasses to explore in all their subtle and nuanced beauty. That would be a shame. Let yourself off your chain. Taste the flavours, feel the textures, examine the fodder, spit out what’s wrong and embrace what you love.
Accept that you are a volatile marriage of you at your best and you at your worst. Don’t turn your back on your sucky bits, your darkness, your failures. Use them as fuel for deep compassion, for laughter, for perspective, for truth.
Challenge your viewpoint, play with it, explore it. Just don’t keep your head down and bum up, hoping to capture awesome like a fly in a turd. It’s not going to happen that way. Or if it does, you won’t recognise it for what it is. You’ll just think it’s a fly in shit.
When you move into ‘This might be OK,’ keep going. Keep whittling away the fluff. Keep sounding out your melody. Keep experimenting, and if you only have a very few people willing to listen, to love, to understand, don’t turn away from them. Play with them, like an intimate chamber music recital. You were hoping for an orchestra, for a full house, but while you’ve got an audience of two, of five, of twenty, give them the whole of you in all your sucky, shaky, mad, brilliant, awesome, sad, gleeful glory.
It’ll get easier.