Creativity is 99% Craft, 1% Art
Hone your craft, not your art
Here's something to make you a better creative. It's an epiphany I had after struggling with my creative output for years. I can't believe how such a simple shift in focus has helped me. I'll share it with you here and now to save you the time I wasted.
All creative work is 99% craft and 1% art. The main technique to improving your creative output is to hone your craft.
99% Craft 1% Art.
That's all you have to remember.
If you approach creative work as an art, an ethereal, personal expression of your soul, you get lost in the weeds. This is the truth, don't fight it.
It doesn't feel nice to admit, I know. It's like saying to someone "stick to the rules". No creative wants to stick to the rules. And you don't have to. You just need to know the rules first, and then break them.
You can't write an engaging story without sticking to the rules of the craft. You need to hit certain beats, evoke certain emotions. There's a formula. There's a reason why the hero's journey s the template for all great tales.
Story-telling is a craft. Once understood, you can then add your flavours and colours, then you can break the rules, but first, you must know them.
"Prose is architecture. It's not interior design." – Ernest Hemingway
Comedy is the same. All jokes have rules and structure. The element of surprise, the pullback and reveal, the pun, the wordplay, the clever twist. Even surreal and meta-comedy sticks to these rules, it's knowingly breaking the rules and that's the joke.
Everything creative is a craft.
Van Gogh's paintings might be expressive swirls of madness, but he painted them using his craft. Picasso played with Cubism to subvert expectations of his craft. Rothko's monolithic canvases of colour, like meta-comedy, knowingly broke the rules.
Whatever you see as art is 99% craft.
A carpenter cannot build a bench without knowing his craft. He can make it ornate and beautiful, or perhaps give it three legs, but 99% of that bench will be the result of the expertise in his craft.
Why This Is Important and How It Will Help You
Instant gratification is the epidemic of our times. Trying to create pure art is jumping past the frustrating learning curves of the craft and skipping straight to gratification.
It's self-indulgent and it won't improve your creative output. It may, in fact, hinder it.
Prune your artistic expression, don't worry about selling out, being generic, looking boring, honing your craft will eventually mean you can excel past the masses and become a real artist.
Everyone wants to be an artist. No one wants to be a graphic designer. Everyone wants to be Robin Williams, no one wants to be a club comic. As the Navy Seals say, "Everyone wants to go to Heaven, no one wants to die."
Before artistic flair comes into it, you must grab the consumer of your art with your ability to showcase your craft. It was clear Van Gogh, Picasso and Rothko were great artists. It's why they could subvert their art form so much and people appreciated it.
People appreciate craft over art.
Anyone can be wildly expressive. A child can paint a canvas a single colour. An amateur writer can pen a crazy, surreal story that makes no sense. People won't care. Only a few can be experts in their craft and leap to artist.
Honing your craft is the only way to become a true artist.
Learn how the brain organises ideas. Your craft is your foundation for creativity. You want to spend your mental energy being artistic, not working out how to do something.
I read somewhere all creativity is just the copy-paste errors of our mind. Most of the time, we're artistic when trying to replicate the art we already love.
Your flair, the way you write, paint, draw, tell jokes, it all comes from honing your craft. You develop a style along the way.
You cannot skip to art.
All art comes through craft.
Focusing on your craft, understanding that whatever creative work you're trying to do is a craft, not an art, will emancipate you from the all-consuming need to be different and show everyone how clever you are.
Honing your craft will make you a better artist because 99% of art is craft.
That's it. You just learned how to become a better creative. You're welcome.