A visionary and innovator, Steve Jobs (1955-2011), revolutionised the world of personal computers, animated films, phones, music, tablet computing and that of digital publishing.
It's well known that Jobs was neither an engineer nor designer, but what made him so special was the ability to see a company from the outside in. He was a user first, a producer second.
Plagued by his ruthless perfectionism that could often hurt those who worked for him as well as himself, he not only transformed the way in which we use technology but in the very fundamental way that we live.
“That’s been one of my mantras — focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex; you have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.”
“I think if you do something and it turns out pretty good, then you should go do something else wonderful, not dwell on it for too long. Just figure out what’s next.”
“When you’re a carpenter making a beautiful chest of drawers, you’re not going to use a piece of plywood on the back, even though it faces the wall and nobody will see it. You’ll know it’s there, so you’re going to use a beautiful piece of wood on the back. For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, has to be carried all the way through.”
"For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something."
“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”
“Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.”
"My favorite things in life don't cost any money. It's really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time."
"I'm convinced that about half of what separates successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance."
“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully.”
"Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me. Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful... that’s what matters to me."
“In dealing with those who are undergoing great suffering, if you feel “burnout” setting in, if you feel demoralized and exhausted, it is best, for the sake of everyone, to withdraw and restore yourself. The point is to have a long-term perspective.” - Dalai Lama
WHAT IS BURNOUT?
Burnout is a state of chronic stress that can lead to exhaustion (both the mental and physical kind), affect your work performance and cause feelings of ineffectiveness.
At its worst, it can lead to depression and physical illness.
Any creative act, no matter how big or small, involves an emotional, physical and mental effort.
Burnout can be caused by a lack of control over your work, by a lack of planning and preparation, by extremes of activity, by monotony and an by an upset in your work-life balance, among others.
“A little nonsense now and then, is cherished by the wisest men.” - Anonymous
If you feel you’re burning out, you may need to cut down the amount of time you spend on your work, cut aspects out of it altogether, reschedule it to a later date, or outsource tasks to someone else.
Creativity doesn't need to be rushed - it will wait for you, and usually with more open arms when you return to it.
Wanting to create more and more comes with the territory of being creative. Creativity can become addictive.
As with all addictions though, it can become destructive.
DON'T SET GOALS
As much as I advocate goal-setting, sometimes it's advisable not to have any. Creativity often requires us to work towards goals, so try and work without a set goal in mind.
Don't get suffocated by your self-imposed deadline.
Take your time, see what happens. Do it for your own pleasure and not for the approval of others.
You don't always have to be striving for more in your creativity.
Making things happen can take a lot of energy, so give yourself time now and again to deliberately slow down.
THE FOUR R'S
“Nothing of me is original. I am the combined effort of everyone I’ve ever known.”
- from Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk
DON’T WORRY ABOUT BEING ORIGINAL
Don’t try to be original!
We often tend to think of the most innovative works of art, businesses, products, as being entirely original. Look closely enough though and you’ll find that they mostly consist of elements that already existed.
Nothing comes from nowhere.
No creative ever set out to create something original. Originality and innovation came as result of them adding to or taking away elements of previous works and design.
STANDING ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS
Orson Welles’ 1941 film Citizen Kane is frequently regarded as the greatest ever made. Often cited is its technical brilliance that shines through every scene. What Welles did though, is combine as many film techniques as he could into Citizen Kane, making perhaps the most technically accomplished film ever made. There is nothing necessarily new in the film in itself, but the combination of elements makes it so.
Creative work builds upon and deconstructs the works of others:
Beethoven’s early works were imitations of Mozart’s.
Dali was influenced by the work of Raphael and Vermeer.
Steve Jobs was influenced by the blending of art and science by Edwin Land (co-founder of the Polaroid Corporation).
The great Soviet film maker Andrei Tarkovsky has had an enormous influence on the Danish Lars von Trier. One only needs to watch the following video (in which the scenes by Tarkovsky are played side-by-side with scenes by von Trier to see the influence…
YOU ARE ALEADY ORIGINAL
“Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery — celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from — it’s where you take them to.” — Jim Jarmusch
What is it you love about the things you love and how could you make something even better?
What is it you dislike about the things you dislike and how could you make something even better?
Think of a film you’ve seen or a book you’ve read or a product you’ve used and ask yourself what you liked about it. Also, what didn’t you like about it? What can you take from that? How can you improve upon it?
You don’t need to be unique in your creative endeavours, you only need to add to the chain.
You are original because only you are you.
COMMIT EVERY DAY
I've lost count of the number of times of I've started a creative project and not seen it through to completion or had ideas for one and not gone further than there.
These days though, this rarely happens. When I think back to why this happened so much it's usually because of the following reason:
I didn't commit every day!
DON'T MAKE GIVING UP A HABIT
How often have you began reading a book, got to around page 75 and then stopped reading for a day or two?
If you've ever done this (and you're like me), you'll probably find that you didn't pick it up for a long time or simply quit at it all together. Even though it was only for a short amount of time, you lost the daily habit and getting back to it can seem like an arduous task.
In your creativity, remember to work at something EVERY DAY, no matter how long for.
Does this mean you can't take a break from your creativity? Of course not. But, make sure that any time you take off is scheduled time. Deciding on a whim to not do something because of laziness or a "can't be bothered to" attitude is destructive - it will lead to bad habits.
Giving up will become a habit.
A small amount of time is better than no time at all.
"Creativity is just connecting things." - Steve Jobs
“Where do I start?”
“Where do I start?” That’s the question a lot of people ask themselves when they try and begin a creative project (usually for the first time).
Unfortunately, a lot of people who begin a creative project soon give up because they don’t know where to start, hitting a creative and productivity plateau before they’ve taken more than a few steps.
The creative person knows a secret though — start anywhere and wherever you can!
“I begin with an idea, and then it becomes something else.” — Pablo Picasso
Say (for example), you want to start making greeting cards but you don’t have the materials. Don’t wait until you are able to get your hands on the correct paper, cutting implements, glue, etc. — just start with what you have.
In essence, make a prototype. Find bits of paper and card around your house and put them to the test; which are the easiest to fold or cut, which are suitable for writing on, etc?
Then, when you’ve tested your ideas, move on to the next step - the starting proper.
You'll already have a good idea about the materials and resources you'll need before you begin. Nobody ever went to battle without first testing their weapons!
Often, when I write music, I start off with an improvisation which my computer transcribes into notational form. Depending on the music, the result on the screen can often be an unintelligible mess (due to slight limitations in technology). What happens then though, is I break it apart, split it up and rearrange it, editing and reworking the ideas and putting them together in a logical order.
If you have an idea for story but are stuck on how to begin it, start elsewhere. Write the last chapter first.
If you don't have the means or time to travel somewhere in order to take sprawling landscape photos, start by photographing that which is around you.
If you feel unable to write an epic poem in the scale of Dante's Inferno, write a haiku.
A creative project is rarely just begun and completed in one polished first draft. Even a genius will have to rework his work. But then, that’s what makes him so.
“Rome wasn’t built in a day.”
Use Anything You Can Find
Use whatever you can find and use any ideas at all that you may have. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle; you start with one piece (the idea or a germ of an idea), and you gradually add pieces that fit to complete the picture. Sometimes you’ll make a mistake and have to start elsewhere or again.
Remember, creativity is a process.
It a series of actions that result in an end.
Or a middle or a beginning.
Adapted from ‘You Can Create! 24 Ways to Unlock Your Creative Potential' by Richard P John. Available at Amazon, iBooks, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, and Scribd.