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Advice on how to be creative from people who are
August 1, 2014 6:14 AM   Subscribe

Don’t just say, ‘Oh, I need to work on that.’ Say, ‘I need to work on this element of that.’ Absolutely eat dessert first. The thing that you want to do the most, do that. Fast Company interviews Joss Whedon on how to get things done, part of a round-up of creative advice from Guillermo del Toro, Ron Howard, Chris Hardwick, Josh Fox, Alex Kurtzman and Robert Orci, Robert Rodriguez, Matthew Weiner, and Ernest Greene aka Washed Out.
posted by shivohum (12 comments total) 77 users marked this as a favorite

 
[A couple of comments deleted. Yeah, no women, and that's crappy, but starting off immediately with a big derail that will take over all discussion isn't great.]
posted by taz at 6:37 AM on August 1 [3 favorites]


Also, Women in the Creative Industries: Career advice from the experts
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:41 AM on August 1 [3 favorites]


Don’t just say, ‘Oh, I need to work on that.’ Say, ‘I need to work on this element of that.’

I haven't even read anything in this post, but that advice is already gold for me at this point. I've had a project nagging at me and this made me realize I was looking at it wrong.

Thank you.
posted by davebush at 7:01 AM on August 1 [2 favorites]


Absolutely eat dessert first. The thing that you want to do the most, do that.

Interesting, I've heard the opposite advice ... especially directed toward procrastinators: do the thing you most don't want to do first. Get it out of the way and then you can work on the other stuff without the anxiety of the Dreaded Task weighing you down.

But I kinda like the advice of eating dessert first better.
posted by Asparagus at 7:08 AM on August 1 [1 favorite]


Interesting, I've heard the opposite advice...

Like all advice, the individual needs to figure what really works for them and whether that works in every situation.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:25 AM on August 1 [3 favorites]


I think I need to hogtie Guillermo del Toro and shove him in a closet somewhere so I can live in his awesome house.
posted by brundlefly at 8:10 AM on August 1


As a hardcore procrastinator, I like the "dessert first" advice because the really tough part is the initial getting off my ass. If I'm sitting there not wanting to do something, "hey, here's some unpleasant shit you don't want to do!" isn't the best motivator. Once I show up, I can do the work, so whatever moves me to show up in the first place is what works best for me.

I also agree with the other aspect of that advice, that you should work on the part of a project that you feel most passionate about. There are so many times that I'm inspired to start a project, but I feel obligated to work on it linearly rather than going directly to the point of inspiration. By the time I reach that point, more often than not the fire has long faded.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 8:39 AM on August 1 [6 favorites]


I like the "dessert first" advice because the really tough part is the initial getting off my ass.

I have that same problem, and I realized the root of it is that I'm a perfectionist. For me, the way around it is to start with ridiculously low expectations enforcing the idea that it will not be perfect. In college I started writing papers with file names like "deliberately crappy start to X" because working on it was easy; it was the starting that was hard.
posted by johnofjack at 9:35 AM on August 1 [1 favorite]


"Dessert first" absolutely works for me, although the other writers in my office think I'm crazy.

But there's really only two pieces of writing advice: do what works and don't suck.

(I hate writing advice)
posted by Bookhouse at 9:57 AM on August 1 [2 favorites]


My favourite advice comes from Maria Bamford('s mom):

"Just do what you do until that's what you've been doing and people say that's what you do."
posted by Sys Rq at 10:16 AM on August 1 [8 favorites]


John McPhee on Draft No. 4 (via the Browser today)
The way to do a piece of writing is three or four times over, never once. For me, the hardest part comes first, getting something—anything—out in front of me. Sometimes in a nervous frenzy I just fling words as if I were flinging mud at a wall. Blurt out, heave out, babble out something—anything—as a first draft. With that, you have achieved a sort of nucleus. Then, as you work it over and alter it, you begin to shape sentences that score higher with the ear and eye. Edit it again—top to bottom. The chances are that about now you’ll be seeing something that you are sort of eager for others to see. And all that takes time. What I have left out is the interstitial time. You finish that first awful blurting, and then you put the thing aside
posted by shothotbot at 11:05 AM on August 1 [1 favorite]


Two HUGE things for me that I've worked hard to implement in terms of productivity, and I haven't regretted:

1. You need a place to brain-dump your responsibilities so that they aren't always on your mind. (I believe this is a GTD suggestion.) Worry and constant rumination can create stand-still like almost nothing else. So, basically a reliable task-management something-or-other that will allow you to be reminded at the right times so that you can forget in good conscience. Ease of use and aesthetics in the user interaction can be invaluable to keeping up with it, I've found.

2. Answering the "next step" question, so that things don't stall. And when you are figuring out how in the world you are going to conquer a particular project and have no idea how it's going to get done, you know at least you can do the next thing. Sometimes this creates momentum.

So, those two things were total game-changers for me and made me into someone who could actually be halfway okay with administrative stuff.

One thing that I have naturally added to the top of all of this over the years is the "eat desert first," especially if you don't have the motivation to do anything. I did this a lot as a student. When I was stalling in neutral, I'd ask myself this one question: Is there anything in this big pile of yuck that I could stand to do, because I might enjoy it? Then I'd do that thing. That could also create some momentum. This has been more valuable to me than listing items in a to-do list based on order of importance.

So I've basically built my productivity efforts on doing these three things, and it has served me very well.

One other thing that was passed on to me that I try to do as much as possible is underschduling. We often think we can do more than we can, and it crowds the calendar. Leaving a percentage open all the time (say, 20%) allows you to be flexible with other projects and also to not be stressed if other things end up taking more time.
posted by SpacemanStix at 3:14 PM on August 1 [4 favorites]


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