To create is to remove

Photo by Xavi Cabrera on Unsplash

The problem in starting any creative endeavour is not that you have nothing to say. Rather, it’s that you start with too many options.

So if you’re a writer, ‘What should I write about?’ is the wrong question. The real question is: how do you extract what you want to say from the million other possibilities swarming inside your head?

Because if you have been alive for a few decades, you can’t really be lacking for ideas on what to create. So if you can’t decide, the problem is probably the filters you’ve imposed on yourself.

Maybe you have a vague notion of what the finished product should look like and you’re frustrated because your initial efforts don’t look anything like it. Maybe you’re being too critical even before you start. That is the real problem.

The thing about how creativity works is that it’s easy to get it completely backwards. The root word ‘create’ might be the reason why, because it gives rise to visions of building something from nothing. And it’s this nothing that is unnerving.

But if you actually think about it, creating can never start from a completely blank canvas because You are not a blank canvas. The raw material is already inside you, albeit misshapen and buried under layers of other stuff.

Creating is about freeing this valuable source material from the debris holding it down. It is less an act of birthing, and more an act of liberation. As Michelangelo said:

‘Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.’

Remove, hack, slice, cut, sort.

Make these your go-to words if you want to profusely create. Let the ugly, crazy source material come onto the white page first, and then get busy cleaning up. That is the job of the creator.

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