Seinfeld, when asked about the inception of his groundbreaking sitcom about nothing, explained it in a beautiful way. The show spiraled off into this whole other entity that I knew I had to serve because it had its own desire to be something. Creativity is like that sometimes. Every project comes with its own energy signature, and so, a critical part of our job is listening to what wants to be made. It’s less about creating and more about discovering. What’s challenging about this process is the humility. Learning be of service to something other than our ego is a threat to our sense of control, which is a type of letting go that most artists struggle with. After all, we are the creative geniuses here. We are the ones who decide what to make, how to make it, who it’s for, and how it should be distributed. Right? Right? Not necessarily. Sometimes our ideas are bigger than we are.
WORKING MODULAR -- Treating each idea as an uncategorized chunk of creative material, an objective, portable piece content that accumulates and categorizes into its own structure.
Instead of forcing our expectations upon the work, we allow patterns to emerge and open our work to growing into whatever form it needs to thrive. One strategic question that startup teams often ask is, where should this live? Whether it’s a piece of intellectual property, a branded image on a website, a new feature on an app, or a seasonal marketing campaign to earn new customers, where should this live? What should the final expression, form and iteration of this idea be? The secret with this question is not asking it too early. Because in the nascent stages of the creative process, it’s essential to work medium agnostic. To give your imagination free rein to come up with as many possibilities as possible without judgment. Order comes later. For now, be as creatively optimistic and open as possible. That way, when the time to execute finally draws closer, you can start narrowing your vision according to what wants to be made. Another piece of language that’s helped me immensely is a concept from the design world. Modularity. Ask any builder, and their approach will be to do their work in chunks that are independently created, and then use them in different systems. Same goes for writers. The words are put down paper, but then functionally partitioned into discrete, scalable, reusable models. It might become something short and simple like an essay, something long form like a book, something with a lot of moving parts like a full day training seminar or a film, something more emotionally encapsulated like a song, or some other complex medium that hasn’t even occurred to the creator yet. Whatever wants to be written, everything is possible when you think modular. And the best part is, there’s no distinct lifetime. Modules exhibit flexibility in multiple dimensions, and can swapped out in the future if a new solution comes to light.
Seinfeld is famous for writing jokes by hand on yellow legal pads. But each one of those was just a module. A component that was functionally partitioned into standup bits, thematic standup shows, comedy books, sitcom scenes and shows, and other creative projects.
What modules are you creating? How are you giving yourself permission to remake the work as you grow and as the world changes, keeping the final output in permanent beta, aligning yourself with the flow of the process? If you instill the proper humility and learn to be of service to something other than your ego, you might just make something that changes everything. Whatever it is that you’re working on, don’t dress it up. Let it be what it is. Instead of putting an artificial lid on it, try not to overcomplicate it. Let the thing have a life of its own, and it will tell you where it should live. Are you creating modules that are medium agnostic?
Do great work from self, not from ego
Discover your work more than create it
Give yourself permission to build without limits
Simplify and generecize your creative practice