I’ve seen a lot of blogs posts lately on how ‘creatives’ simply can’t be punctual, pay attention to practical details or meet deadlines. Because their creativity makes it impossible to show consideration for the needs of the people they are working with. (It’s not their fault. Creatives apparently feel things more than those dull, numb ordinary people.)
The thing is, I know a lot of people doing well in creative fields – including writers, film-makers, actors, and comedians. And they don’t behave the way those blog posts describe ‘creatives’ behaving.
There are exceptions, but here these five things I find separate the professionals from the hobbyists.
- They don’t think they’re better than other people.
They don’t claim to be more sensitive than those in ‘non-creative’ jobs. They know nurses, fire-fighters and daycare staff experience emotion just as deeply as they do. Universality of feeling is what makes art work. Successful creative people don’t think they are special snowflakes. In fact, they tend to be humble.
- They’re quite organized.
A lot of talented people want to be writers, artists, comedians and film-makers. So you have to be more than just talented to stand out. You have to juggle commitments, work to schedules, be nice, punctual and show respect for other people’s time and needs. This means learning good organizational habits. And yes, that can be hard. But there are a thousand gifted, hard-working people all around you, and if you are inconsiderate, late, and don’t meet commitments, people won’t want to work with you.
- They’re always looking to improve.
Most award-winning writers I know continue to read books and attend seminars on writing. They try out new structures and approaches and don’t complain that they stifle ‘organic creativity’. They never accept advice wholesale, but normally find something they can use. In writing, it tends to be the amateurs who think there is nothing to learn from someone else’s system.
- They work. Even when they don’t feel inspired.
Day-in, day-out. They put the time in. It’s their job. They don’t wait for the ‘muse’ to move them. Sometimes what they produce is crap. Comedians know 90% of what they write won’t be funny enough. Writers know they have to edit. Film-makers know time is against them. So they get down to it.
- They finish things.
And move on. They do the next thing better. They don’t keep starting new projects while giving up on others halfway through. They do the best they can with their current work, seeking out and taking advice and improving it for years. But eventually they finish, and use the lessons they learned in their next challenge.
Lots of people want to work in creative fields. But talent will only take them so far. Being humble, well-organized, always learning, working hard and finishing projects are (among my friends, at least) the best predictors of success.