Licence to create


A concise blog post from Seth Godin set me thinking this morning. Let me ask you a question: who are you waiting for permission from before you act creatively?

Are you waiting for permission from your boss, your best friend, Simon Cowell, God, your art teacher, the mums at the school gate, your parents (living or dead), your horoscope, Aunt Lilian, Mozart, those guys in the finance department, your in-laws or a blue moon?

Who has the power to act? You, or this other party? And what happens if they never give their permission?

These people, whose opinion you respect so much, may not be helpful. In fact, they may not matter a jot in the big scheme of things. They are, after all, just other human beings with subjective opinions. They may not always be right. Critics have been known to be wrong. Plenty of creatives went unappreciated in their own lifetimes. Van Gogh, Bizet, Stravinsky for example. (At the first performance of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, there were violent riots and the police had to be called in to break up the fighting.) Some creatives are just way ahead of their time. And as Jonah Lehrer explains, “[what counts as] music is made by the mind, and the mind can learn to listen to almost anything.”

Music, art, innovation of any kind, is by its nature, new and different from what has gone before. The brain takes time to adapt. (When I worked at IBM early in my career, there were near riots when it was announced that managers would be expected to type their own documents, rather than drop off a handwritten version to the typing pool to collect later. I suspect most managers have come round to the idea …)

Honest feedback is sometimes useful. Ideas can be misguided. But ensure the feedback is from someone who understands what you are trying to do, understands the field you are working in, and whose judgement you respect.

So rather than focusing on pleasing your particular critic(s) and waiting for their go-ahead, why not give yourself permission to be creative in your work? It might be more productive and you might learn a lot more by doing than by waiting for a green light which never comes on.

As Zig Ziglar said: “There has never been a statue erected to honor a critic.”


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