How can we be more creative? Does it matter?
Creative Calling: Establish a Daily Practice, Infuse Your World with Meaning, and Succeed in Work + Life, By Chase Jarvis. 2019
Four of five stars ****
The creative life can be a lonely and difficult one. For many of us, it seems much safer to stay inside the lines and follow the tried and true steps to success while stifling our own urges for creativity.
For those brave enough to pursue creativity there lies ahead years of rejection, dead ends, and difficulty in selling their craft to make a living. But yet creativity is one of the things that makes us uniquely human, something even artificial intelligence can't replace. Art, music, and literature are the spaces in which we find meaning and identity in our very lives.
Chase Jarvis is a photographer and social influencer that I had not heard of before, but he has built his brand into a popular educational website, Creative Live, where artists of all types can learn their craft and business. He has produced multitudes of videos, from free ones on You-Tube to in-depth courses on his website for pay. Jarvis defines creativity as combining or rearranging two or more things in new or useful ways.
Jarvis lays out easy to remember systems to help guide your creativity. The IDEA system is how this book is organized as each section follows the four steps to creativity:
Imagine what you want to create
Design a strategy
Execute the strategy
Amplify your vision for maximum impact.
Mixed in with all of the creative coaching are stories taken from the author's own life. He is a self-taught photographer who stumbled into the world of sports and used his skills to meet the right people and produce the best products. Jarvis tells of almost dying in an avalanche and how that motivated him to take more risks and find new ways to contribute. It's helpful to see the author's own journey and how he became one of the nation's foremost authorities on creativity. He tells of his successes with Creative Live and also his big failure with an app called Best Camera that was eclipsed by Instagram at the worst possible time.
One idea I found fascinating is called the central relationship paradox. Most of us try so hard to hide the bad or embarrassing parts of ourselves in order to connect better with our peers. But in hiding those flaws we come off as phony and people are repulsed. Only by embracing your good and bad and being authentic can you achieve real intimacy with people you want to reach.
In being a creator, Jarvis says that quantity is more important than quality in the beginning. Artists who create more, and learn from their mistakes, eventually end up with the best products, while those who create little but obsess over every detail never reach the levels they need to achieve to break out. As a writer, I know that getting the shitty first draft done is super-important. First outputs often suck, and that's to be expected. But then you go to work editing out the bad stuff and improving the good stuff and before you know it you've got something good.
Jarvis lays out strategies on how to do your best work, and they are things that I've heard before but still make so much sense. Set goals. Tackle the important but not urgent quadrant of stuff, have a schedule, and have a space set aside that is distraction-free. Creators have to work on their mindset constantly- visualize a world that is limitless and full of creative possibilities. Avoid negative people and creativity zappers. And take good care of your body with proper sleep, exercise and diet.
The final chapters are dedicated to the Amplify step. Jarvis encourages creators to find communities that match their interests and passions. But don't join just to sell your work. Join and support others in their quests so that you can build up some human capital when you need help later on.
We live in an age where everybody wants us to follow them. For those creators who want to amplify their message, there are no easy steps. It takes putting yourself out there, learning from mistakes, and truly believing in yourself and what you have to say. I find it hard to fathom why people like the Kardashians, Beyonce, Justin Bieber, and Christiano Ronaldo are among the most followed content creators on the planet, but other creators should take notice. If you truly want to amplify your message, you somehow need to merge your authentic self with the changing needs of the people out there you wish to be in your audience. Not everyone will like what we produce, but if we keep trying and produce beauty, music, and meaning, some will be drawn to us and that should be enough.
This is an interesting book from someone who creates for a living and is willing to share his journey. I encourage anyone who aspires to create photographs, artwork, or music to check out his Creative Live website, and I encourage the rest of us to not be afraid to share our weird, wonderful creative ideas from time to time.