Illustration: Matias Corea

Don't Just Create "On Demand," Create For You

Most of us operate in what could best be described as a “create on demand” world. We have to go to work each day and deliver consistently brilliant work, on demand, in order to keep our jobs. And though we relish getting to do what we love and earning a living at it, over time our passion and energy can wane if we’re only creating to earn a paycheck.

In her classic book The Artist’s Way, creativity expert Julia Cameron shares a practice she stumbled upon while living in New Mexico and recovering from yet another in a series of career disasters. Every morning, she writes out three pages, longhand, of pure stream of consciousness.

In describing her method for “Morning Pages,” Cameron says there is no need for editing or structuring the content. The entire purpose of the exercise is to get the brain moving and to circumvent any potential barriers to creative breakthroughs. “When people ask, ‘Why do we write morning pages?’ I joke, ‘To get to the other side,’” she explains. “They think I am kidding, but I’m not. Morning pages do get us to the other side: the other side of our fear, of our negativity, of our moods. Above all they get us beyond our Censor.”

What Cameron is advocating through the practice of Morning Pages is the act of “Unnecessary Creating.” That is, creating for ourselves rather than for others.

A few key qualities of Unnecessary Creation:

  • You set your own agenda.
  • You have permission to try new things and develop new skills.
  • You can take as much or as little time as you need to get it right.
  • You can stretch yourself, explore fringe ideas that intimidate you, and make things that no one but you will ever see.
  • If you fail, it’s no big deal.

Why Is Unnecessary Creation So Important?

When we spend all of our time and energy creating on-demand, it’s easy to lose touch with the passions that fuel our best work. We grow used to leveraging our abilities for the sole purpose of meeting others’ expectations rather than exploring new possibilities and taking risks. We may even experience a backup of ideas and thoughts, or feel like we’re subverting our own life and passions for the sake of everyone else. By integrating Unnecessary Creating into your routine, you open a channel for that pent-up creative energy to be released.

When we spend all of our time and energy creating on-demand, it’s easy to lose touch with the passions that fuel our best work.

But what if you’re thinking: “I barely have the time and energy to do what’s required of me for my job, and now you want me to take up a hobby?” It is tempting to resist Unnecessary Creating because you think it will add stress to your life—yet another thing you have to cram into your schedule.In fact, the experience of those who regularly practice Unnecessary Creating is quite different. They find that it actually clarifies their thoughts, makes them more effective, and reintroduces a level of passion to their dayjob. What’s more, Unnecessary Creating is frequently the best source of new insights for our on-demand creative work.

What’s Your Take?

Do you do any “Unnecessary Creating”?

How has it helped you?

Todd Henry

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Todd Henry is the author of Die Empty: Unleash Your Best Work Every Day, and The Accidental Creative. You can find him at ToddHenry.com or @toddhenry on Twitter.
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