I’ve been taking Gordon Ramsay’s Masterclass on cooking this past week and been loving it. The passion this guy exudes about his craft is incredibly inspiring.
The warmth, the passion and the exuberance he shows for cooking is a far cry from his TV persona:
Throughout the class, he acts more like this guy:
When one of the students in the class asked him to recommend five fundamental skills for the amateur chef to master, he mentioned these:
- Good ingredients
- Being adventurous
- When to stop
Now if that’s not a perfect analogy for creativity, I don’t know what is!
You need vision before you start any creative project because you should have an idea of what you’re going for. Visualize the end, then work backwards toward the beginning so you know exactly what you need to do to get there.
You need to know what “good” feels like when you create it so you can recognize it when your work gets to an adequate level.
However, it doesn’t have to be Award-Winning Wonderful. If you’re starting out, it just needs to be good enough to the best of your abilities.
You’ll improve as time goes on and your perception of “good” will grow. Your work will slowly edge closer to the taste you have, and the quality of work you have in mind in your head.
Having good ingredients is incredibly important when you’re cooking, and it’s just as important in any other aspect of creativity.
You need good musicians when performing music. You need a proper understanding of the fundamentals of writing if you want to become a writer. You need good materials to be an artist.
Being adventurous is an important trait to keep in mind for any aspect of creativity. It’s scary because you often doubt yourself if you’re thinking even slightly outside the box.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with experimenting and being adventurous. For instance, when I’m doing a mix for a client I don’t think there’s any risk in seeing how far I can take the project creatively. The worst case scenario is that it’ll sound bad, at which point I’ll just revert back to the basic session we started with.
Just yesterday I got this email from Dale, a longtime reader of Audio Issues, thanking me for this perspective:
“…stuff you put out to all of us every day was SO helpful! I mean seriously helpful! Your tips are fabulous and great reminders of common wisdom. PLUS, you are so freaking fun to read! Thank you so much…I do tell all my friends about you. I hope one (or all) buy buy buy! I have no doubt your guides are stellar, technically correct and fun at the same time. Anyway, thank you! You really made my mix better, as in a LOT better. Mostly you convinced me to stop following dumb rules. I used instinct, experience and some very good guidelines from you. The result was really pleasing for me. THANK YOU”
Knowing When to Stop
This last one is incredibly important.
One of the significant challenges with creativity is knowing when things are done. The biggest fear about“finishing” is the anxiety you feel when you’re done because you know you should “publish.” And publishing is making things permanent. They’re not “works-in-progress” you can keep doodling with. They’re final products released for the world to see. It’s possibly the most terrifying thing for an artist to deal with because your inner critic can riddle your creativity with self doubt.
There’s a saying in music production that goes like this:
“A mix is never finished. It is abandoned.”
You can keep “working” on your mix, tweaking the drums, bass, and vocals until your CPU breaks down and starts crying in the corner but if it’s not making your mix any better, why bother?
And the same thing applies to whatever creative endeavor you embark upon.
Don’t get stuck on all the minor details that don’t contribute anything to the final product. But also don’t ignore things that need to be fixed.
Sooner or later you’ll find that you don’t have to overanalyze and obsess over every little detail. You’re the closest person to your project and you notice all of its flaws because you put them there yourself. I guarantee that other people will not have the same ADD attention to detail. Or they simply won’t care that it’s slightly flawed. There’s beauty in that and things don’t have to be perfect.
“Perfect is the enemy of good.” -Voltaire
So remember to know when to stop, review, reflect, and then finally, publish.
Look! It’s easy. I just did it right now with this article. What are you going to do?
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