@rands wrote an enlightening article on what makes creators tick. Builders and creators aim to take the abstract to the concrete. Through the creative process, we build relentlessly throughout our lives — we’re constantly honing and perfecting our craft. The high is at the end of the story. The untold part is a roller coaster, one that many creators aren’t prepared for.
Fast, but no faster
This past month I decided to take up drawing on a whim and kicked it off with a “do it in 30 days!” book. The first few days went as well as I’d hoped. I was finishing each lesson in a half hour and doodling for the next hour. Then I hit a brick wall. Each day was taking longer and longer. Shading, perspective, contour lines — was it not in me to be an artist? The frustration began to get to me. The end product was there in the book and it just needed to get on this paper on my desk. I scribbled faster and more recklessly as I tried to sprint to the finish line. Some days I’d just close the book. Enough of that.
Software developers and artists share the builder’s drive. We’re motivated by being able to create and realize our ideas. This epiphany made me take a step back and think, “Wow, does it take this long for others to pick up programming as it does for me to pick up drawing?” But then again, was this the right thought to be thinking? Today we are inundated with success stories of how quickly things are created and built. The stories of applications that are “built in one weekend” and drawings on Dribbble that are a “quick thought from this morning” are upvoted to the front pages. This pushes the rest of us to finish faster and move on to the next thing. Nevertheless, there’s no reason to fret and rush, don’t risk losing control at the builder’s low.
The Builder’s Low
The creative process is a delicate balance between control over the work and our emotions. This tweet from @MarusRomer nails it:
The Creative Process
- This is awesome
- This is tricky
- This is shit
- I am shit
- This might be ok
- This is awesome
The Builder’s High is #6. This is the moment we live for. This is achievable only after overcoming the trough, the Builder’s Low at #4. We all experience the moments of creative despair, the doubt and trepidation that sinks into our hearts. This is the time when giving up may sound like a better option. You think, “Will this even work? Even if it does, it will take way longer than I thought.” And when the artificial deadlines settle in, the little voice in your head chirps about how quickly the glorious builders you read about earlier in the morning finished their projects.
The creative process in a picture looks something like the diagram below. The Builder’s Low always has the potential of never rebounding. Maybe it’s closing the metaphorical drawing book and calling it a day, or taking the plan B that we know is a quick road out until next time. As builders we must be cognizant of the treacherous seas ahead, and as we know — there’s a golden coast on the other side of those waves.
It Takes Time
Today when you sit down in front of your terminal, canvas, or workbench remember the lows and highs that are ahead. The builder knows it won’t be easy — there will be things to learn and obstacles to overcome. The next time you build and it’s something you haven’t done before, remember: it takes time.