Creative work might look easy (to the people not doing it). It could be tempting for some to judge the creative process in terms of hours, or numbers, or how serious (or silly) the creative person or team looks while working. If we look like we’re having too much fun, it’s dangerous; the conclusion could easily be drawn that we aren’t really working if we enjoy the creation process TOO much.
One crazy thing about creative work is… often the best work I turn out couldn’t have been judged by the process at all. For instance, I’ve spent hours and hours pouring my everything into writing pieces that I finally decided were utterly unusable. And on other rare-but-wonderful occasions, words have poured out effortlessly in record time to create work that I’m still pleased with today.
Usually, the process falls somewhere in-between the two extremes. But the fact remains, it is very difficult to judge the creative process quantitatively.. and because of that fact, it’s difficult to know exactly when a creation is finished. (At least for me.)
While adequate time must be invested into thoughtfully and thoroughly communicating whatever it is we want to say, there comes a time when we have to let go. Maybe the proverbial thumb in our back makes us let go, like a deadline, or our own timeline for a goal to be met, or maybe we’ve just maxed out an idea and it’s time to put it to rest. Whatever the reason, it can be very difficult to reach the point when we are truly ready to let go of the creation process and move on to the point where we move on to the next phase, the time when others are able to see and enjoy the fruits of our careful deliberation!
At some point in this process, most creative people – writers, artists, graphic designers, musicians, etc. – will face a situation when our time is up and the project we’ve been pouring over simply isn’t the best we know it could be. It hasn’t been developed well enough or for whatever reason is not as good as we want it to be. Yet, this world we live in doesn’t always run on the ‘artist’s timetable’ (and that might be a good thing or we might never finish anything). This is difficult, but a fact of life for most anyone who does creative work for a living. What happens then?
To create anything artistic is to communicate something that is larger than one person, or one team. So the results, while largely intangible, depend on our ability to hold on to it tightly and make it great, but also to let go and make it fly. It’s a constant balance. If you love the actual creation process, it’s even harder. It’s hard to end the part of the process you most enjoy to begin the part that is out of your hands (or perhaps requires different skills).
I’ve pulled many late-nighters – and all-nighters – when I probably didn’t have to because I was too engrossed in the minutia to see the project objectively and let it go. Yet, the little things are what separate “good” from “great”. So when do you decide when it’s time to let go of your new ‘baby’ and make it fly? How do you know when it’s ready – or when you’re ready?! And what do you do when you simply have to turn it over and you aren’t happy with it?