The Creative Process

You know Kibuishi nailed it when he said: “Creative process: 1) This is going to be awesome 2) This is hard 3) This is terrible 4) I’m terrible 5) Hey, not bad 6) That was awesome”

You know he nailed it because it received over 7,600 retweets and over 4,600 favorites. And you know he nailed it because you personally have felt the same in any creative endeavor you’ve attempted. It seems to be true for any skill in art or performance. It seems to be true for any knowledge in a domain or trade.

If you’ve ever tried then you know it’s true for learning to program.

This is going to be awesome

I’ve had countless friends and colleges come to me and ask me how I did it. They say: “It would be so cool to learn how to make iOS apps. I have to take some time to learn. I wish I was there.”

Most people never even have that inclination. They don’t ever find themselves thinking “how cool would it be if”. If you’re here, you’re already a step ahead.

This is hard

It’s hard to even take the time to sit down and attempt to learn. We all say we’re going to write more. Or design more. Or take more pictures. When you plan to learn some new skill it’s hard. It’s hard to find time and it’s hard to get it right.

It’s impressive when you finally do it because of the millions of people that chose to watch Breaking Bad while you were breaking your app.

This is terrible

Yup. You heard me: breaking your app. Because whatever you are trying to build, it sucks. It isn’t very good. We’ve all been there. And when you are pushing the boundaries of your skill something is going to break.

I have clients and co-founders ask me frequently for an app portfolio. I don’t even want to show them half of it. Why? Because it’s terrible. You remember the Ira Glass quote:

All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you.

Your work sucks for now. You know it. And I know it.

I’m terrible

There is a risk is that you’ll to start thinking it’s you that sucks instead of just your work.

You think it’s you. And then as Glass points out, “ A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit.” They quit because even a good artist can see that what he’s building is terrible and start to think of himself as terrible.

You’re not terrible. You just need to keep going. Build a ton. Write a ton. Take a ton of pictures. Eventually you’ll start to see that glimmer of hope that you don’t suck.

Hey, not bad

This time will come soon. You’re going to get to the big #5 in Kibuishi’s list. This is when the world opens up to you.

Then you get to the point that you start solving problems on your own. You start smoothing the edges of the work you’re creating. You start doing something that’s completely yours.

More importantly you start feeling proud of your work. It’s something you feel like you can share. This is where the flywheel starts working.

When you share with others you’re going to learn and grow even faster. So as you start to feel good about your code and share it with others you’ll start to get some amazing feedback and advice from people you respect.

That was awesome

I had an amazing designer pull me aside yesterday and show me something cool in an app. It was small but it was really well done. He asked me: “how did they do that? What do you need from me so that we can do that?”

You’ll get to this point. Someone is going to look at your app and say: ‘how did you do that?’ Heck, you’re going to look at your app and say: ‘how did I do that?’

Over and over

We all go through these steps every time we push ourselves to be something more. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone through all 6 as I learned to code.

In the end it’s simply about growing. I want to say “That was awesome” as many times as I can in one life.