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Category: Creatives

Finish with 40 Enemies

A special effects friend and I have had many conversations about Creatives and the creative process, but upon shifting the conversation to the idea of how Creatives finish, this comment stood out as an effect of successfully finishing: “You create 40 enemies.” In a reasonably tight knit community, your success pointed out to those forty people their failure to complete. It became a mirror that said every time they looked: “You didn’t finish it.” The big caution here is that so many people talk about their creative projects, to the point where that’s the most creative part of it. The story becomes the impediment because it becomes so perfect that no rational person could fulfill it.

Like the crabs in the bucket notion, do you sometimes stay back with friends, preferring to talk about the things you say you’re going to do rather than face the real loneliness that’s often necessary in both the production phase as well as in the after effects? It’s been said that “Success leaves clues” and I suppose that it’s also true that “Success loses friends.”

Like many of the Creatives I’ve been talking with, he also used deadlines – and in a specific case, he did it by announcing it to the Internet. He posted what they were about to release and made the rest of the team mad, because all of their reputations were now on the line. By external expectations, they had to get it done or the pain was going to be big.

So much of creative work is not finished as much as abandoned. Yet, it’s emerged from the conversation that there’s an awful lot of projects that aren’t so much abandoned as they are set aside. If kept, they serve as signposts, inspirations and sometimes a parts supply for subsequent projects.

Finally, he said that successful creation involves a bit of self-talk: ”You belong here.” He’s doing cool stuff and sometimes he finds a fair amount of intimidation because of the people who are also in the room. Like most of us, he can recall the line from the Radiohead song Creep: “What the hell am I doing here?” His self-talk is that he does belong here. He thinks back to his various and wide successes – and he has to recall those in the context of sitting in that room.

I’ve found that many creatives have a bit of a self-esteem problem, but really I think that’s a misnomer. Because of the successes that many of these people have, the issue isn’t low self-esteem, it’s humility – and that’s should never be a problem in it’s proper context. As G. K. Chesterton has offered, people wrongly doubt their plans when in fact they should doubt themselves. When there’s no self-doubt, there’s often madness. The purpose of humility is to know your place in the universe. Your place in the universe is to use your talents to create things. When you combine ambition with a measure of humility you can create great things – and that’s a bit of heaven.



Growing Up Almost Creative

I’ve always been fascinated by Creatives. When I was seven, my dad hired architect Edmund Howe, who had been a student of Frank Lloyd Wright. The home Howe designed for Mom and Dad was just outside of Monroe, WI and was a bit prairie-style, with a lot of lannon stone and beautiful. Dad took me to some of the meetings where he and the Architect worked over the plans.

I have never wanted to be an Architect, but I have always been fascinated with how they can take conversations and turn them into a home.

Dad was always fascinated with the creative process. He grew up poor but learned from his Mom that he didn’t have to stay that way. He was a paperboy and by the time he was 12 years old, he had taken over all of the paper routes in his town hiring other boys to deliver. He learned from his mother the foundations of the creative process – that is, entrepreneurism. The act of undertaking something to create something that didn’t exist before. Maybe not creativity as seen by some, but they don’t know how to look.

While my four brothers and I were growing up, he needed something to distract us, so he put us to work. In the late 1950s, he created Medical Jewelry Company, carving into clear squares of lucite such things as broken bones, GI tracts, tumors, and even his best selling item, two sperm chasing an egg. He called this one Fertile Mrytle. That was also his mother-in-law’s name, but that was probably just a coincidence.

With a flair for publicity, it got dubbed “the World’s Sickest Looking Jewelry” and that got him into Time, Newsweek and even Escapade – a competitor to Playboy. So in amongst the nudes and the sexy stories, was a story about my Dad and his sick-looking creative efforts. Why yes, Mom was quite proud, thanks for asking.  #adamsfamily

Because Monroe is the Swiss Cheese Capital of the United States, Dad also created Swiss Cheese Jewelry. Small wedges and squares of yellow plexiglass that we’d use a dentist drill to make look like cheese. We sold these at Cheese Days and other local festival and at cheese stores which were quite the road side feature of the 1960s in Wisconsin.

During the 1960s, he was making over $10,000 a year selling jewelry, in addition to being a full time Radiologist. That money was used to pay for our college educations and our pay at the time was minimal but often with the message of saving for the long term. A big goal was to teach his kids discipline, a certain measure of creativity – and very importantly, that the creativity didn’t have to high creativity. What he did have a good measure of creativity with was organizing the creativity of others. I never quite learned creativity from my father, but I very much learned to appreciate it in others.