I like the process of creating something almost more than the artifact that comes out of it. For me, the best part of making something from nothing is the process of exploration required to stumble upon interesting ideas, the trials-and-errors of navigating a maze of thoughts before settling into one that works or feels right. Because of this, my ideal job as a maker of things is not a string of successful inventions, but an environment where I can freely play with new ideas and learn from trying to make new things.
Regardless of whether that process of exploration is happening on the keyboard or at a terminal or through pen and paper, I need space for me to find a creative rhythm. When I can be most creative, work isn’t so much a slice of time in my days as a mental space that I can live in, all the time – a creative paradise.
A creative paradise is an environment where I can create honestly, chasing only the ideas I find worthwhile, building them the way I want to, unencumbered by circumstantial constraints like what could make money or help me grow an audience.
I think there are two parts to a healthy creative paradise.
First, I want to be able to find focus at my own pace. Focus isn’t just sitting down and making yourself work. It’s a cycle of divergent and convergent periods of exploration and concentration, and finding focus takes time. In everyday life, there are forces conspiring to chase away the time we need to find long-term focus. It’s easy to get sucked into the trap of taking the shortest paths to small wins, and never quite give yourself the space you need to explore new interests and ideas from time to time. In an ideal world, I want the freedom to explore when I feel so compelled, and double down to focus on a particular project or topic when I want to.
Second, I want to be able to choose what I create without being beholden to what I need to make or what other people want me to make. A part of this is escaping the financial constraints that tell me that I should make what creates the most value for other people. But there are also pressures that direct me to make things that other people like to see. What I want to make might not be what other people necessarily think are the most interesting, and in a world defined by algorithmic and curated online feeds where attention is currency, there’s a lot of pressure for creative people to make what everyone else wants most to see. I don’t want my creativity to be directed by the whims of other people, or worse, mediators and aggregators of attention in between other people and my work. In an ideal world, I want to make things that I think are worthwhile, and I want other people who also find it valuable to find me and my work.
I think the road to get to this creative paradise is challenging, but simple: consistently create what feels right, as much as my life circumstances allow, and build a community of people who share my enthusiasm for the things I find myself compelled to create. I’ve sort of accidentally stumbled onto this path today. In the process, I’ve also learned that what I really enjoy about the creative process whether with software or writing or music isn’t so much what comes out of it, but what I take away from it.
As we approach the precipice of another year, I want to be more intentional about trying to build this space for myself – this creative paradise – where, as much as possible, I make things foremost for myself, and then for anyone else who might enjoy following along in my creative escapades.
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