Creative impulses and bloody knuckles


This is an email I wrote to my brother Bryan. But the ideas were broad enough to share.

Godin on the lizard brain
Elizabeth Gilbert on Creativity

So Bryan…if we are exchanging inspirational media from the internet, here’s some¬† more.

Let me give the context here too.

You told me you were interested in writing, and you wished you would write more. I said you don’t have the bug to write, you don’t HAVE to write on your blog like I do. But you said you did, that you thought about it all the time and had ideas but didn’t get them down.

But Bryan, you DO program. You cannot STOP programming. I cannot program, though I often wish I could. You make money programming, and I envy that you have a creative outlet that you can monetize. I have never made money on my writing. I’ve gotten a couple free meals and a tank top once. But that’s it.

You however, pay your mortgage with your creativity. I admire that a lot. Don’t roll your eyes! Don’t denigrate what you do. it is, I firmly believe, a necessary thing for the world to become a better place. You do your small part.

Godin mentions that at the end of his lecture. What you do with your programming is art. And you should congratulate yourself, give yourself credit for it. The world NEEDS you.

The world may need what I write, but very very very few people appreciate it yet. I need to find a way to package it so that it can be digested and used by the human race.

But like Godin says, it’s not the creativity that is the problem, it’s the shipping. Getting the creative idea from birth to delivery is the rare thing.

The part about this creative endeavor that’s so confusing is that the arrival of the idea is so different than the implementation–the shipping–of it. The idea arrives like an angel on the tips of our fingers. The implementation is bloody knuckles.

How on earth does one person capture the ethereal and then turn around to sweat and bleed over the physical reality of it? And yet we are a hybrid race, spirit and flesh.

I talked to my friend Jay about this. He’s Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, tenured Stanford professor of Health Economics. Isn’t that exactly exactly what our country and THE WORLD needs right now? Someone who understands this mess of health and money on the level of the whole population? Every time I see him I tell him that he’s got what we need. I say the world needs his throbby brain.

Not because it’s a brain that is so superior to everyone else’s. It might be, but that’s not the point. He took the time, read all the books. He got his medical degree and then went on to learn economics. There are very very very few people on the planet who took that time. Stanford let him in and entrusted him with this training and education, and made this supergenius to come out and save the world.

or at least save our healthcare system.

Thing is, Jay mastered the art of packing his brain full of the knowledge. He got his doctorate after all. But the art of unpacking his brain is different. Going in front of the press and Congress (they could use his throbby brain) to let them know what’s really going on is way different than staying up late in the library.

The first part is very different from the second. Just like with all vital creative production.¬† I don’t mean to trash Jay, he’s doing a good job and striving to do better. He just did a thing for Huffpost on the Health care Meeting. He’s also working on a book about what health care can do for obesity, very timely. He’s not phoning it in after he got tenure, no way.

But my point is that it’s HARD. It takes more than one hand to get from start to delivery. The thing is being open to change and dedicated to completion. It takes willingness to face failure and move beyond it.

And to get back to the bloody knuckle part. It takes sitting down and doing it. Even if you are tired and think you deserve to relax after all the other work you just did.

To bring it around to your desire to write. I encourage you to start. Leave some deposits on your blog. They will probably stink and not be what you want them to be at first, but if you want to get better you have to start. Your coding used to stink, but now it is sweet-smelling. Feed the part of you that wants to do this creative thing, and the effort will bear fruit. Not only in the product but in your character too.

Write on!