The Only Formula You Need to Succeed

Okay, are you ready? I’m going to give it to you. The formula for creative thinking, the steps to success, the blueprint or plan to launch your creativity. I’m going to provide you with a system or a practice or a method you can follow to be your best creative self. You want answers, I know. You want to fill in the blanks.

Except I’m not actually going to do that, because steps and systems and methods don’t work. Or maybe they do until they don’t. Why? Because every person is unique, and how we create is unique. And if you want a form to fill out, maybe what you really want is busywork, something else to do besides the actual work of trial and error. And if you want steps to follow, maybe it’s because you don’t trust your own instincts. And if you want a system that guarantees success, maybe it’s just because you’re scared. Aren’t we all?

But the best way to create is to just do it however you do it. You be you. And when something works, do it again. And when it doesn’t, try something else. You don’t need some expert to tell you how you work. You are the only expert on you.

Say you’re the type of person who toils away for months on a project trying to get it right. Then some creativity expert tells you to learn to let things go once in a while. “My God, she’s right,” you say. “She must be. She’s the expert.” And you go home and write, “Let things go,” on a sticky note and put it on your computer and you stick to it for a month. But then you find yourself thinking about that project again. Why? Because that’s who you are. You’re someone who doesn’t like to give up on something once you start it. You’re someone who will pick away at a project for years if that’s what it takes to get it right! Good for you.

So, let’s say you’re the type of person who starts and stops many projects, finishing very few. And the expert tells you to see things through once in a while. And you go home and write that on a sticky note, “Finish What You Start,” and you do that for a month. You force yourself to work on a project for which you’ve lost all passion because she told you to. And then one day, in a fit of anger, you throw it in the trash, and then you feel guilty because you didn’t do what the expert told you to do in order to succeed.

Where does this get us? Looking for the answers outside ourselves? Who cares if it takes you years to finish a project, as long as you’re happy with the project when it’s finally done or at least feel fulfilled while you’re creating it? And who cares if you start and stop 100 projects as long as they are filling you with energy, energy you take out into the world and do some good with.

If your office/studio is organized in neat and tidy boxes so anyone could find anything. Good for you! If your office/studio is such a mess only you know where anything is, good for you too. You be you.

I know plenty of artists and creative people who’ve found the formula for their own success. They produce and sell their work on a regular basis because they’ve figured out what works for them and they’ve committed to it. And I know plenty of artists and creative people who’ve found the formula to their own happiness in just working on their art, whether they put it out there in the world or not.

So, the next time someone offers you a recipe for success, remember that we all have different tastes, and a recipe is not set in stone. Pick out the ingredients you don’t like, add in something new, mess with it until it’s just the way you want it, and if it’s good, share it. But encourage the person you share it with to take and leave what they want or throw it out altogether if they’d rather. Because that’s what any good expert should do. The best ones never say, “Do this or you’ll never succeed.” The best ones say, “Try this. It worked for me; it might work for you.”

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