The Practice: Shipping Creative Work

The Practice: Shipping Creative Work

by Seth Godin

The Practice will encourage creatives, writers, and business people to push themselves and commit to sharing their best work with the world. By reading this, you'll discover how to dance with your fear, take calculated risks, and embrace the empathy needed to produce an authentic work joyful in its contribution. 

Summary Notes

Trust Your Self

“It is better to follow your own path, however imperfectly, than to follow someone else’s perfectly.”

Being a creator is not easy. You have to be creative and be able to ship your work to others. Most importantly, you have to do the work. This is what “the practice” is all about.

Even though you might not be paid for it now, you must still approach it professionally. Excuses are avoided; the work is the reason you are here.

The practice is the act of accepting the creative process for the purpose of improvement. This is the only thing we have direct control over, and it serves as both the output and the means to that output.

While the world sets constraints for us to follow, we can choose our path independently. When you decide to do creative work, you are resolving a problem for those who will come in contact with what you've created, not just for you.

When doing creative work, we must remember that we don’t need to come up with everything on our own. Rather, we can take inspiration from the methods used by the successful artists who came before us. 

We can embark on a journey with our eyes wide open, trusting the process, and we will produce our best work. Remember that art is the work we do when there is no clear-cut solution.

Creativity is an action, not a feeling or a state. If you want to change the curve of your life, change your actions first. After all, we become what we do.

Actions to take

Generous

“[...] you’re allowed to sound like you. Everyone else is taken.”

It's simple to excuse our silence if we don't believe in our voice or haven't discovered it yet. We believe that holding back is preferable to being rejected. Culture exists because we interact with one another, and art exists in our culture.

The goal of art is not to provide comfort but rather change, and tension is necessary for it. Thus, the practice must be to embrace your discomfort as you foray into uncharted territory. You also need to accept that you will temporarily cause discomfort for those whom you lead, serve and teach along the creative process. 

Remember that people are fascinated by discomfort. It keeps them alert, and it piques their curiosity. We all experience discomfort just before a change takes place.

The easiest way to find the practice is through generosity. By placing the responsibility on someone else, generosity subverts resistance. With generosity, we can focus on helping others rather than looking for validation for ourselves. Hence, the practice remains, regardless of the outcome.

When we become overly preoccupied with how other people perceive our work, we lose sight of the task and start worrying about how we can influence the result, which isn’t possible anyway.

Actions to take

The Professional

“If the problem can be solved, why worry? And if the problem can’t be solved, then worrying will do you no good.”—Shantideva

Our skills and talent are two different things. Talent is what we are born with. Skill, on the other hand, is acquired. It requires hard work, practice, and learning. Anyone motivated enough to care can learn a skill. 

Simply put, the practice requires you to perform something more than once and frequently enough for it to become your second nature, which the professionals do. 

To become a professional in your field, you must embrace growth and learning, combined with the practice of generosity. 

Being generous does not require us to remove obstacles by offering them for free. We must bring courage, passion, and empathy to the people we want to help. Because our work is to effect change rather than to render ourselves invisible and free, the act of charging for the work produces a generous outcome.

We have the opportunity to gain respect and attention when we are generous with our work, and if we're lucky, we'll meet people who are eager to join us on our journey. Because of how rare and valuable we offer them, those people will pay eagerly.

By becoming this kind of professional, you will attract better clients. It's a challenging and isolating job. Juggling is what it is—throw after throw, and the catching will eventually take care of itself.

Actions to take

Intent

“[...] if you care enough to make a change, it helps to be clear about the change you seek to make.”

We aim to bring change to the people we assist. To do that on purpose is the most efficient course of action. But since we can’t reach everyone, it’s best to focus only on ten people. These people should be interested enough in our work to sign up for the journey and invite others.

It's simpler to accept that we have the power and duty to help these people experience positive change once we understand who it's for. Our work is for our tribe—and our tribe can’t include everyone.

Thus, we need to stop creating things for ourselves and start trusting the process. This will enable us to bring about change through our creative works. Realizing that others don't always see things the same way we do and have the same desires as we do is a necessary component of practical empathy. We need to know our goal before coming up with a good reason.

Actions to take

No Such Thing As Writer’s Block

“[...] if a reason doesn’t stop everyone, it’s an excuse, not an actual roadblock.”

The notion that no one can produce useful work without a certificate has given rise to the education-industrial complex. But if you want to bring change through your creative work, you must be courageous enough to work on it throughout the two years you are supposed to be working on your master's.

The institutions don't possess any mystical abilities, as they are frequently shown to be ineffective at identifying, developing, and strengthening individuals with the motivation to effect change.

One problem that may stop creatives from pursuing doing the work is uncertainty. Every artist participating in the practice has experienced a protracted, nearly endless string of failures. These failures serve as the cornerstone of their work. They make mistakes, edit them, and try again. To be successful, you also have to embrace uncertainty and start doing the work. 

Once you are already moving, it will be hard to let a roadblock stop you. Isaac Asimov, for example, typed even when he wasn’t inspired. The typing eventually turned into writing, and the inspiration suddenly sparked. 

Contrary to popular belief, creatives don't just write because they want to. They feel like working on it because they write first. Flow is the result of our efforts. When we put in the effort, the muse appears.

To push ourselves to start working on our creative projects despite not ‘feeling’ it or other excuses are hindering us, we have to remember: 

There isn't a perfect idea; there is only the next thing you haven't released.

Nobody is stopping you from posting your video.

Nobody is stopping you from blogging every day.

Nobody is stopping you from hanging your artwork.

Actions to take

Earn Your Skills

“Skills are more easily available than ever before. Not only the easily tested ones but the real skills that drive our contributions and our reputation. You can learn to learn.”

Two key differences distinguish great competitors from good ones.

  1. Skill—they work hard to master different skills. This takes time and effort, which is why only a few people do it.

  2. Attitude—they choose to find delight in parts where others suffer.

Because they've learned how to trust the process and trust themselves to work with it, creators have a better attitude. Since attitude is a skill, we can cultivate it if we are motivated enough to learn how. 

When choosing the skills to master, keep in mind that none of us can be Superman. This means we can’t have all superpowers; thus, we must choose and start with one first. Over time, we may acquire a few more. 

So, select the skill you will project to others even if it means putting off some of the work you used to do—that was ultimately just a distraction.

Actions to take

Seek Out Constraints

“Trust yourself to find a way forward, but seek out the resilience you’ll need to persist as the practice continues.”

Since all creativity is based on using preexisting constraints to find novel solutions, all creative work has constraints.

The graphic designer Susan Kare, for example, was given 1,024 squares. That’s it: 32 × 32, a simple grid. She knew that boundaries create a platform for important work, but she still made the best out of it.

We can make art because of limitations. Problems are always constrained, and art finds new ways to solve them.

Changing the world doesn’t mean changing everything. Even though the change we aim to bring about may seem small, it all has an impact. One interaction, one person, or one record could be sufficient.

Actions to take

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