Do I suck?

I think the answer for both of us may have to be yes. I’d even venture to guess that Darabont, Adams and Updike would also answer in the affirmative. You know why? Creativity is hard, and it is so hard that people inherently suck at it.

This picture was taken in 1930 by famous photographer Edward Weston. It’s titled Pepper no. 30 because it took him 30 tries to get it right. He settled on a tin bowl a six second exposure and a pepper that took him until his adult life to find.

Truly creative and beautiful pieces of art are really a representation of the work it took to get there. I have a coffee table book with the greatest Nat Geo pictures ever taken in it. It boasts a couple hundred pictures. National Geographic started in 1888 and has published 12 magazines a year since then. 1452 publications over 121 years all over the globe employing the best photographers of their time and even as I look through the book I must skim over 75% of the photos. There are maybe 3-4 photos in the book that are easily recognized by most people and the rest can be categorized as pretty.

And the other countless number of photos taken by that magazine in it’s 121 years? Well I guess we just forget about them. So when you tell me you’ve written a couple short stories and have a screenplay in the works, am I to assume they are good? The fact is that they are probably not good enough to belong in the category of forgotten natgeo photographs. Sorry.

It doesn’t mean they are bad. Every photo taken for the majority of magazines since their existence has been taken by a level of professional and forced that person to spend a certain amount of time learning their craft to the point where they could make a publishable photograph. Their all good, just not good enough. You spent time on your stories and your characters. You might have even spent time refining your skill before approaching that certain story, but so far it is negligible. Try again. Because you are working in a medium that does not publish 12 issues a tear with 10-20 stories an issue. If infinitely successful you may expect to write, direct, or shoot 10 films over the course of your entire career.

“I got inspired and wrote this through the night last night. I am really tired but it is my best work.” “I’ve spent a whole month researching this topic.” “This is my fourth screenplay.” All start to sound shortsighted when you take your entire career into perspective. If you are after a career instead of a break, you need to focus on sucking less than you do on getting lucky.

Truly gifted artists can look at their work with perspective – forget the last 4 hours/days/months working on it – and compare it to great works of their generation. Then they can go back and keep working on it. A month spent working on an outline may seem like a lot to the amateur, but if you want to be writing for the rest of your life and have this story be a staple in your career? How many times do you go back to the same tree sitting next to a stream before you get that great photograph worth sharing with the world?

Amateurs will continue to get a lucky break and wave it in front of your face, but if you truly want to make a lifetime out of your passion get some perspective, accept your total lack of ability to make something important and then get back to work on it!

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