The more I keep listening to world-class creators, from podcasts to Twitter threads (hello new blog), the more I keep noticing the same themes.
It’s usually something like this:
Doing creative work is incredibly hard and painful.
Talent (whatever that is, if that even exists) is nice, but without a disciplined process for creating and shipping creative work, it doesn’t mean much.
We creatives tend to do everything we can to avoid the hard work. To solve this we must create structures that make it hard for us to hide, like making time every single day in which the only thing we can do is create. Scheduled time to write down that shoot concept, or do that still-life shoot.
Then we must remember to be forgiving to ourselves when making, but tough and decisive when editing, refining and releasing.
It’s usually not fun. But if we are to do our best work, we have to grind out the work every day, no matter how we only feel like having bottomless brunch and tweeting about Drake’s upcoming album half of those days.
I don’t think those principles only apply to creatives, and you’d be crazy to think that doing exceptional and meaningful work would be easy. But I also happen to think that creatives tend to be the perfectly distilled version of doing work that means something and has a good reason to exist.
Now if those insights apply to almost all of us, it’s a few questions that come up and we have to be brutally honest answering:
- Do I deeply care, at a personal level, about my work?
- Do I want to take the personal and emotional risk to put the best of me into my creative work?
- Will committing to this kind of daily effort set me on to a discovery and growth path?
- Do I care about learning how to put in that sustained effort over time, and get used to it?
Framing it like that is fundamentally different from the good old conversation about work-life balance and the Thursday talk of “it’s almost the weekend babyyy”.
In one frame, work is something that has to be endured and minimized so that we can finally live and refresh in our free time, and work being tiring is an indication of something wrong that we need to escape from.
In the other frame, work being really hard is necessary for it to be important, because there barely is creative work worth making that doesn’t require struggle and uncertainty and often both emotional and physical stress.
I’m not arguing that all hard work is good work, I’m arguing that we simply can’t use work being “hard” as a measuring system for something being wrong. We have to find what discipline means for us personally.
And discipline is rarely fun. For me, it goes against all of my instincts. But there’s delayed gratification in knowing what it feels like doing and putting out great work.
At the same time, most of us struggle with figuring out exactly what our art is or what our exact place in a particular creative space is.
The good news is we don’t need the full answer right away. But we do need to decide to start doing meaningful persistent work today. And we shouldn’t start with pretending that our city is totally holding us back, or waiting for the “inspiration to strike”, or other methods to hide.
We start with building our discipline into our weekly routine, our year, our lives. We make small things daily that we are proud of.
That way we can take our work personally and watch it improve on the macro scale. We show up like professionals and figure it out in the (often confusing) process, then notice the fruits of our labor.
Not caring much and not taking any risk are great ways to feel safe, and even better at guaranteeing that we’ll stay right where we are, personally, professionally, and artistically.
Shifting our perspective towards our work and managing to practise that discipline, we set ourselves for the much harder but exponentially more rewarding path of putting out work that matters to us and our tribe.
George Kroustallis // Minorstep
P.S. Writing this as it’s mega sunny outside, London is so pretty and I’m getting FOMO. Better ship that newsletter then head out. See ya soon.