“Genius is eternal patience.” – Michelangelo
A while back I mentioned the “An Evening With Kevin Smith”-series I’d started watching. Something that he said bothered me. Whenever something bugs me I know that I need to dig deeper into it!
A woman asked Kevin about the inspiration for his movie “Jersey Girl” and here’s the statement:
I had a kid, so of course I became a little mushy about it. Generally I’m not a very creative person, not very inventive. I just kinda crib from my own life, so each movie winds up a little snapshot of what’s goin’ on in my life at that time. Like during Dogma, I spent time running away from a rubber poop monster.
Can you guess the statement that bothered me? Yup! “Generally I’m not a very creative person”. Yeah, not true Kev, not true.
There’s a lot of connotations and associations that go into the word “creativity”. What Kevin lacks isn’t creativity itself as much as it is a component of creativity. What he lacks is patience.
In these talks he also admitted to being a “lazy” worker. That’s not necessarily a bad thing but he gave an example that if you leave him with a deadline of 3 months he won’t start serious work until the deadline is right around the corner.
Might be good, IF you work well under pressure. I don’t recommend it since it’s usually a recipe for disaster. Especially when working with clients who want regular updates on the project. However, i’ve seen people who thrive under these circumstances but we all have to experiment and find our own balance. Also, be clear with people that this is the way you work and it’ll save everyone a lot of time and minimize the levels of frustration.
Back to Kev! It’s apparent that his modus operandi works pretty well for him. But that statement is too general to get to the heart of the issue. In his case it’s probably patience. Based on what he’s told us so far he probably just hasn’t developed the patience to sit and work on issues for any longer period of time. Patience is a skill and it can be developed.
There are upsides to this though! It usually leads to the person learning a bit faster what works and what doesn’t since their time is spent more on getting stuff done rather than working out the kinks of each project. The other? We restrict time. Creativity is often working within restrictions. We might not know what restrictions to put in so we choose one that we know for sure and that one is time!
Of course, I would say that wouldn’t I? I’m kind of the same. In some rare cases I can actually focus and just hammer things out for months on end. In general though I like to go in, do as much and as well as I can at the moment and then move on to the next thing. After a while I look back at what worked and what didn’t, learn my lessons and take it along for the next project.
What’s the sacrifice for doing it this way? Depending on your craft it’s that the work isn’t as well crafted, beautiful, structured, thorough etc. It doesn’t mean it’s bad, it just means… Well… I think a reprise of a Venn diagram could illustrate what I mean better.
I don’t think there’s any right or wrong way here, it’s all about what you value most in your work and life.
Creativity at its core is solving a problem. Whether it is writing a book, drawing a picture, making a videogame or whatever! If we want to have a more creative solutions we need to stick with it longer.
The first idea we get might solve the problem we’re facing. If we look back at it later we might come up with a better solution. Great! We’ve learned something!
But what if we want it to be that great now? Well, then we’ll just have to put in more time. That’s why it’s a constant juggling between time, beauty and creativity.
I heard Stefan Mumaw say that we can measure creativity by two criteria: “Relevance and Novelty”. Relevance meaning whether or not it solves the problem. Novelty meaning if it’s what one might call “unique” or “different”. The first ideas we get are usually relevant but not very novel. The later ideas are usually more novel but not as relevant. Now, I don’t think that’s the whole truth, but it is a good place to start!
Sure, you could use a car to get from point a to b, you could use a pogo stick, you could even use a rubber duck. The first one is practical but not very novel, the second novel but not as practical and the third one is novel but not practical in the least. Unless it involves traversing a bathtub. This is usually the iteration we go through.
Then there are those crazy bastards, and god do we love them, who just spit out the most ridiculous ideas first. I’d like you to try this the next time you’re working on some problem. Come up with the most insane answer you can and pull it back from there.
You just might find this way of working easier than trying to go from something practical to something unique.
I’ll leave you with some quotes on patience and an interesting video on the neuroscience behind improvisation and creativity!
“The one thing about the business of entertainment is that you have to learn patience.” – Kevin Hart
“I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.” – Lao Tzu
“The best thing Jay-Z ever taught me was patience.” – Rita Ora
“Learning patience was not an easy lesson.” – Michael Douglas
“The writer’s secret is not inspiration – for it is never clear where it comes from – it is his stubbornness, his patience.” – Orhan Pamuk
Charles Limb – TEDxMidAtlantic