We should all be creating more — and talking less

  • 1022 words
  • Nathan Mah

“A thought on creativity, productivity, and making things that last.”

Creativity is something I think a lot about, and I try to read anything to stimulate more of it.

And admittedly, I’m aware that there could be few things more frustrating to read than an article about one’s creative process. What could be more self-indulgent?

It just so happens that books from this category of productivity are not only my favourite, but have produced many classic titles. Some of these books include Stephen King’s “On Writing”, Steven Pressfield’s “The War of Art”, Cal Newport’s “Deep Work”, and the newly released, “It Doesn’t Have to be Crazy at Work” by David Heinemeier-Hansson and Jason Fried of Basecamp. It’s a topic that deserves to be revisited over and over again due to how important it is, and the popularity of these books shows that others agree.

I believe that no matter your profession, we are all creators, makers, and doers. From software developers to bankers and consultants, inside each of us is a need to create products, value, experiences, emotions, and happiness. The manifestation of work is different, but every one of us should bring our creative energy to work each day to bring our unique ideas to life.

“If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), “Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?” chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.” — Stephen Pressfield, The War of Art

Sometimes, we need to reflect to find what it is we are best at creating, but once we know, every day should revolve around that creation process. This component of self-awareness is a difficult process in itself, but is infinitely rewarding once begun.

Fostering our creative ability is what ultimately gives us purpose. During our lifetime, we are each destined to at least one great project, and at the conclusion, the world is the beneficiary of our work.

This is what sparked the ideas for creativity engines like Dropbox ($8.2B valuation), Behance (65M+ designs shared on its network), and Shopify (home to over $30B of commerce every year, and growing). The financial output is nice, but the real reason these businesses were founded was to make it easier to spark a little piece of creativity in its users each day.

For entrepreneurs, the day to day activity of a startup can feel like the end all be all of our work. Meetings, calls, sales decks, and marketing plans all occupy our calendars and time until we have none of it left, and if we do, we just need to close the fucking door and have some silence so we can rest. We let technology run our lives until we forget that we build technology to free up resources so we have more time to be creative.

If you’re a founder, it’s easy to forget the reason we got into this line of work in the first place was to create. Indeed, we need to get outside of the office sometimes to make progress, but it’s when we’re inside the office where the real work gets done. Whether you build software, hardware, or relationships, or you produce writing, video, or audio, take some focused time and create, today.

Creating is starting with nothing except a desired outcome, and producing. That production could impact millions, it could never see the light of day, or it could only affect one person. It really doesn’t matter. What matters is the process.

That’s the beauty of creation: by satisfying our need to produce, we take a step forward. If we’re lucky, we can eventually release it into the world.

Basecamp and Re-Defining the Way We Work

This concept is why I’m a fan of DHH and Fried’s book: “It Doesn’t Have to be Crazy at Work”. Even as founders of a large, profitable technology business, they never forgot the reason that brought them to success in the first place was the act of creating.

Make something worth using, find users for that product, and delight them every day. The recipe is very simple.

I’m guilty of the “fake-work” trap too. I spent the past 16 of 20 days traveling, shaking hands and making connections. While this is valuable, nearly every day I was gone I felt an overwhelming need to open my laptop and get real work done. It wasn’t until I had some time alone on a 15-hour flight that I was able to press some keys, where I found my moment of clarity. Maybe it’s the way I’m wired, but I suspect this is a commonly found trait.

We all have the freedom to create if we just give ourselves time. Make space in your day to fulfill your own desire to build something amazing. You’ll thank yourself when that time comes to reflect on the work you did, and you can point to a body of work that has some substance. Creating filled calendars doesn’t count.

I’m aware that I routinely allow little pieces of my calendar to slip away to others, until I’m exhausted and any room for creativity is lost. As Stephen Pressfield puts it, I give in the “The Resistance.” And that’s not to my detriment — I don’t have the luxury of writing for a living. If I want any financially relevant action to get done I need to keep my business running first, and write second.

But every time I make something worth enjoying, I feel a sense of satisfaction that feels like a deep breath of fresh air. It’s easy to become addicted to. It simply feels good to produce something.

That sense in itself is worth coming back to every day, even if I have to be a little more demanding of my time.

You can purchase the book, “It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy At Work” on Amazon here. I recommend it.

If you like what I write about, come check us out at the Mero blog, where I put my thoughts down whenever I get time. No promises on regularity, but rest assured I’m trying.