It is wise to direct your anger towards problems – not people; to focus your energies on answers – not excuses. – William Arthur Ward

William Ward was right. When our energy is not focused on solutions, excuses – regardless of how valid – will overtake our ability to be productive. As creative people, we are always fighting the invisible force that is on a mission to keep us from doing our best work. “The resistance” lives inside of excuses and the minute we give in is the minute we stop being effective.

In order to create amazing stuff, we have to learn to live a little counter-culturally. Doing so requires us to look at things differently. One would think that would be easy for people who fancy themselves as creative. Sadly enough, some of the best artists in the world succumb to the beat down of excuses and resistance every single day. So here’s how we can start living counter-culturally.

  • Be Comfortable with Messy – Refuse the habit of editing. Messy minds often create the best art. Throughout life, we’re always collecting; we’re gathering ideas, experiences, feelings, and emotions – all of which become tools for our creative work. When we edit or attempt to remove or replace the mess, we actually start to throw away the paint that our canvases will need to create our next masterpiece.
  • Embrace Constraints – Constraints instantly get pinned as negative. The truth is identifying what we “can’t do” helps us clearly identify what we should do! Constraints also help us understand where the canvas ends. Masterpieces never get painted if we don’t know the limits of the canvas.
  • Welcome criticism – Criticism, when processed correctly, is an amazing teacher and can become our best friend. Learning through our mistakes, or even just the opinion of others, helps us be better. It’s very dangerous when creative people stop embracing criticism because the minute we do we start to limit our ability to grow. Welcoming criticism isn’t easy. It’s scary and will hurt but, when we do it, we position ourselves to become amazing.
  • Understand the fable of margin – There is no margin. Ever. Deal with it. There will never be enough time. We will never have enough money, staff, or resource. If there was enough margin, we wouldn’t feel the pressure necessary to ship our art. Early in my creative career, I learned that “the song is never done.” Well neither is the design, the edit, the screenplay or the novel. Margin is a cheap excuse to keep us from doing what we know needs to be done.

I know these four points to be true because I’ve failed in all of these areas. When we learn to live counter-culturally, we position ourselves to be part of some amazing things. Are you ready to be amazing?

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