There is a common fallacy regarding creativity, mostly to be found among those who fancy themselves creative but never seem to complete any work. It goes back all the way to Plato, who said, and I'm really paraphrasing here, that unless you were a little touched in the head, you had no hope of real artistic genius. The idea that one must have a little madness in their soul to be truly creative is, in a sense, true, but if it's not bulwarked and protected by an effective process, routine, and work ethic, your work is unlikely to live up to its potential. Check out this video, where filmmaker and Webby Awards founder Tiffany Shlain shares her 10 steps to creativity, and learn how routine can make you more creative.
Filmmaking: an expensive, complicated, extremely pressured and quasi-industrial (and on a Hollywood level, nakedly industrial) undertaking, wherein a group of people work in concert to fabricate a reality that will have an emotional impact on a group of other people. No other business except the arts has a final product and aim so evanescent as aesthetic enjoyment. But while, say, a screenwriter or painter goes through the majority of their creative ordeals in private, a filmmaker is by definition a collaborative animal, and a film set is, you know, crowded.
Which raises the question, how does one maintain their creativity, their connection to whatever it was that made them want to make the project in the first place, and whatever it is that will hopefully move people, while at the same time running a small business? Well, they have a process, and in this video, director Tiffany Shlain, who is, among other things, founder of the Webby Awards, shares her recipe for success:
The first step, as with anything, is jumping. Everyone has hunches and ideas every day, but most people are too busy with their jobs and lives to pursue these, and it's only creatives who are in the business of following these weird ideas, and Shlain makes the excellent point, which is, roughly, that if you don't start, you'll never even begin to finish. Things can be even more difficult for the indie filmmaker, who oftentimes isn't afforded the luxury of a group of people to take care of the thousand details, from paperwork to who can't have sesame seeds in the morning.
The rest of her process is not particularly exotic or unique, but she does make a point to acknowledge, from the beginning of any project, that any creative endeavour is going to be a wild ride, and you had better count on some failure and disappointment on any project, and you had also better be sure to combat that with as much positivity as you can. Roughly midway through any project, she advises a breather and then a premature celebration of what you've accomplished thus far. Take a look at what you've accomplished (if only for a minute, because the clock is ticking), and never forget the flicker of an idea that you are working night and day to bring to life. Not to mention, if you have a routine and process that works for you in place, you have room to get in touch with the muse, to get messy and creative and actually focus on what you want to say, instead of losing that focus on countless trifles.
And, step 10: know when you're done. Eventually, you've got to move on, and accept that you did your best, because hopefully you did. And as noted chicken impresario Kenny Rogers observed, it is a good thing to know when to walk away from a situation, and also when to run from that same situation, which is sound advice for the rest of the creative process. Sometimes movies, like love, aren't meant to be. Scripts fail. Movies fall through. But we keep trying, because you know, what else is there to do?
Feel free to share your own processes, superstitions, and systems in the comments, and always remember that you can't do anything unless you start. As much as you should know when to walkaway, you should know when to runafter an idea (see what I did there? Because of the song? Yeah. Okay. Good talk.)