David Burkus wrote a great book last year called The Myths of Creativity. This topic is ever fascinating to me. What we assume to be the core traits of creative people — the loner/genius, driven by tidal waves of inspiration, mysteriously working outside the norm — tend to be totally wrong. Being a “creative genius” takes good ideas, yes — but even beyond that it takes guts and hard work.
Lately I’ve been really interested in how creative geniuses (a sorely lacking term, but stay with me) remain on the path. One of my shortcomings (or strengths?) is that I constantly get excited about new and shiny ideas and then slowly my interest fades and I’m on to the next. How do others do it? It takes discipline and consistency to build something of substance, not to mention a body of work or a legacy.
I recently read an interview with Walter De Maria, an artist I admire. He’s probably most well-known for his “land art” — huge installations in nature, like Lightning Field, a series of tall metal poles set up in a grid out in the desert of New Mexico. When a thunder storm passes through, well, you know what happens.
Walter De Maria is a key figure in 20th century art, but he could have been a key figure in 20th century music. He was an original member of The Velvet Underground. He played with Lou Reed and John Cale in 1966. My question is: how exactly does one quit the Velvet Underground?!? De Maria knew what he was doing:
[The conflict] was really going on because I was playing with this good band, with these great musicians, and records were coming, contracts, great hi fi sound, tape, everything you could do. Music was in a great renaissance, but I went back to the art.
[Music] wasn’t enough. And also the logistics of touring with a band means that your life is part of that band and, like most artists, I just was too much of an individualist.
This recognition, to me, is such a personal moment. That moment where you make the decision that supports your dreams and ambitions and in the process reject a different kind of life. De Maria knew himself and knew his purpose as a fine artist. He had that vision and that conviction so the decision made itself. I think this is a great way to frame the process of decision-making – in service to a purpose.
Are you making decisions in service to a purpose?
What do you think?
(BTW, I wrote more about Walter De Maria and The Velvet Underground here.)
Anyway, speaking of David Burkus and his book, David organized a FREE virtual conference from June 2-6called The Truth About Creativity and he kindly asked me to be a part of it. It features some great writers/thinkers on creativity like Daniel Pink, Scott Belsky, Todd Henry, Jocelyn Glei, etc. etc. Just go check out the experts involved, kind of an amazing line-up! And by all means, please sign up and spread the word!
P.S. – Did I mention it’s free?