Creative work is messy work. Embrace the suck.

In a post at Fast Company, Leo Babauta lists a number of ways to stop delaying and get the hard work done. Two of them apply directly to the hard work of creativity and innovation.

First, "Let go of your ideal."

If this fear were gone, you could just do the task easily. So what is causing the fear? Some ideal you have, some fantasy about life being free of discomfort, confusion, embarrassment, imperfection. That’s not reality, just fantasy, and it’s getting in your way by causing fear. So let go of the fantasy, the ideal, the expectation. And just embrace reality: this task before you, nothing else.

There's a reason why we don't call the IdeaFestival the "IdealFestival." Because creative work is new work, there will be times when fear threatens to shut done the whole creative process. Don't let it. If you're not making any mistakes, you're not trying hard enough. And if your idea is truly an original, no one can tell you NOW whether it will work or not. The key is work toward your idea by making little bets, which brings me to the second point.

"Embrace the suck."

Doing something hard sucks. It’s not easy, and often you’re confused about how to do it because you haven’t done it much before. So what? Hard things suck, but life isn’t always peaches with roses on top (and a sprinkle of cinnamon). It sucks sometimes, and that’s perfectly fine. Embrace all of life, thorns and pits and all. Life would be boring without the suck. So smile, embrace the suck, and get moving.

This is key. As Oliver Burkeman said so well last year, the idea that our default state ought to be a happy state gets in the way of actually being happy because it makes us suspicious of all the other emotions we will eventually feel. There are few things as harmful to creative work as an unwillingness to live in the moment. One can find meaning in the hard work by simply reminding oneself that if it were easy, anyone could do it.

Stay curious.


Image: AttributionShare Alike Some rights reserved by Alexandre Dulaunoy