Reading books and recently writing a book is my profession but it’s more than a profession, It’s also my great lifelong love and fascination.
I blog everyday, blogging a drug I have learned to embrace. After each blog post, its as if I have released some form of weight off my shoulders and now I can move on to the next blog, or drug.
And I don’t expect that this is ever going to change. But, that said, a very interesting question that always arises, this is the question which has caused me to have to recalibrate my whole relationship with this work. And the peculiar question is if your creative work succeeds “Are you not afraid that you are never going to be able to top your best work? Are not you afraid you are going to keep writing for your whole life and you are never again going to create a book, a sculpture, your art and innovation that anybody in the world cares about at all, ever again?”
When Steve Jobs passed on, the question that was quietly asked is will Apple be able to as innovative as it was when Jobs was alive.
But the other side of this is the question I encountered before I released The Startup Revolution, and that question is “Are you not afraid you are never going to have any success? Are you not afraid that your book will fail and the humiliation of rejection will kill you? Are you not afraid that you are going to work your whole life at this craft and nothing’s ever going to come of it and you are going to die on a scrap heap of broken dreams with your mouth filled with bitter ash of failure?.”
The short answer to all those questions is, “Yes.” Yes, I’m afraid of all those things. And I always have been. Creating something new is scary, its scary before you release your creative work, but its also scary after you released it and succeeds. But I’m afraid of many, many more things besides that people can’t even guess, like I’m afraid of heights, snakes and other things that are scary.
But, when it comes to writing, the thing that I have been thinking about lately, and wondering about lately, is why? Is it rational to be scared? Is it logical that anybody should be expected to be afraid of the work that they feel they were put on this Earth to do. And what is it specifically about creative ventures that seems to make us really nervous about each other’s mental health in a way that other careers kind of don’t do?
My father, for example, was a management training consultant and I don’t recall once in his 40 years of training anybody asking him if he was afraid to be a trainer? “That management training mental block, Peter, how’s it going?”
It just didn’t come up like that. But to be fair, trainers, accountants, chemical engineers as a group have not really earned a reputation over the centuries for being alcoholic manic-depressives. There professions have not earned the reputation of people who smoke weed to be efficient.
Writers kind of have that reputation, and not just writers, but creative people across all genres. It seems, this group has this reputation for being enormously mentally unstable or of being self-destructive. And all you have to do is look at the very grim death count in the 20th century alone, of really magnificent creative minds who died young and often at their own hands. And even the ones who didn’t literally commit suicide seem to be really undone by their gifts.
Norman Mailer, just before he died, last interview, he said: “Every one of my books has killed me a little more.” An extraordinary statement to make about your life’s work. Steve Jobs even spoke about “the crazy ones.” Jobs even refused to take treatment for his illness until it was too late. There is a universal acceptance that creative people are crazy, that creative people needs to be high to be highly creative.
We don’t even blink when we hear somebody say this, because we have heard that kind of stuff for so long and somehow we have completely internalised and accepted collectively this notion that creativity and suffering are somehow inherently linked and that artistry, in the end, will always ultimately lead to anguish.
I’m not at all comfortable with this assumption. I think it’s odious. And I also think it’s dangerous, and I don’t want to see it perpetuated into the next century.
I think it’s better if we encourage our great creative minds to live, our creative minds to be seen to be normal people who just love what they do.
I don’t thing creative people are crazy, I think creativity and innovation are God’s ways of saying He is around. I think I have a right to collaborate with creativity, because I myself am a product and consequence of creation.
Everyone is creative, and its normal. When what you love, loves you back, you become the most creative person in the world. Its a gift not some craziness.