Artists

Amateurs Add, Professionals Edit

Some would argue that creativity is best when there are no constraints and the artist or business is free to do whatever they like. I disagree – constraints are what make creativity valuable.

It's easy to be creative if your client has a multi-million dollar budget. It's much less so if that budget is only a few thousand dollars. A professional can hone their creativity and deliver something beautiful regardless of the financial constraints.

Amateurs add, professionals edit. The best restaurants have fewer menu options, not more. The best magazines and blogs are the ones that curate their content and don't settle for information (or inspiration) overload. The best photographers are the ones who can capture myriad emotions in a single image. The best designers are the ones who keep deleting ideas until the product is so simple you think you could have created it yourself.

Constraints and editing require clarity of thought and vision. Constraints require someone to truly know their craft. These things make a business more valuable, not less.
 


Originally published November 2010

Playing For The Stage

There's a saying in improv: "play for the stage, not for the seats."

As it relates to what you do as an artist and visionary, it means taking what people think they want and delivering what they really want instead. In the wedding industry, Calder Clark, Debbie Geller, and Marcy Blum are all geniuses at this.

You're the expert. If you want to produce a unique wedding or product, you don't start with images from Instagram, Pinterest, blogs, or magazines. By definition, if an image of the idea exists, it's already been done. If you want to be known as an artist with a perspective then you have to play for the stage. This means not doing what others have done or what's already been published. This means not taking what your audience or clients say they want exactly at face value, but instead digging deeper.

Make no mistake: there's money to be made in playing for the seats, in creating work that pulls its inspiration from what's been done before. More importantly, there is nothing inherently wrong with this. If creating work that is on trend rather than being the one who is setting trends is how you want to pay your kids' tuition, then more power to you. There are literally hundreds of thousands of couples who simply want a pretty wedding and an awesome experience for their guests. This is a completely legitimate choice. Target makes zillions of dollars selling products that are on trend, but they are not the ones setting the trends. It is not their business model and it doesn't have to be yours.

Here's the thing though: you can't have it both ways. You can't play for the stage and for the seats. You can't be known as the most creative company in the history of ever and simultaneously be copying ideas from other artists.

The fact of the matter is that playing for the stage is hard. The work is hard, pushing yourself to be creative after you feel you've spent all your creativity is hard, attracting the right clients is hard. Playing for the stage requires a level of grit and moxie and thick skin and tough conversations that playing for the seats does not. Playing for the stage means you will be judged more harshly and that you will have to forgive and forget more generously.

If your goal is to be unique though, then playing for the stage is really the only option.


Originally published September 2013

Better Than You Found It

If you create something – anything – you will be judged for it. People will love it and people will hate it. Some people will love you and some will decide they hate you (both this love and hate of you personally will be, of course, largely based on assumptions and a story they invent, not on who you actually are).

Your ideas don't have to drastically change the world in order to impact it. If you create something that makes life more enjoyable for someone, or easier to navigate, or allows them to grow their business in a meaningful way or spend more time with the people they love, you will have helped make the world a better place than it was before.

If you allow the fear of what others think of you to win out, all you're left with is a life of solely consuming what others have created and squandering your own potential.

Delight in what others have created, but take the leap to create something of your own. You – and the world – will be better for it.


Originally published July 2014