Maria Popova, who curates Brain Pickings, came across a letter that Tchaikovsky wrote to his benefactress, Nadezhda von Meck (aside: that might be the coolest name ever, for the record.) about the correlation between work ethic and creativity. She parallels it with a video from Jack White of pop music fame. It’s certainly not a new thought, the slogging through when the Muse blows off your invitation and you’re left with a blank piece of paper, an empty mind, possible even a white text box on a blogging program…
I would, however draw some additional parallels between creativity and work ethic and leadership. There’s a great article in Forbes by August Turak, that makes the argument that great leaders also need to be great followers.
In both cases, whether you’re wrestling an idea onto the page or climbing up the corporate ladder, you need to:
- Show up. You have to do the work, or at least be ready and willing to do the work, even if nothing comes. (There’s the Woody Allen quote about 80% of success is just showing up. There are days when that first step is indeed the most difficult – I totally get that. Show up anyway.)
- Be aware. Surroundings. Language. Subtext. In both situations that additional information can only help to clarify/troubleshoot/inspire.
- Stay flexible. The path down which you need to walk may not be something you had planned to tackle… but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the wrong path.
I find that #2 can be the trickiest…we can get bogged down enough in our own to-do lists, with our own inner judges that it can be difficult to really watch, listen, perceive. When we take that time, though, don’t all manner of things get easier?
I have thirteen days left in the summer festival season. My plans are to take my own advice (well, to try to anyway) for the next two weeks and apply it to my job. After that I’ll be making an early run at this, as a way to discipline my inner writer. (I got about halfway through – about 25,000 words – last year, before the fall audition travel schedule made the daily quotas impossible. Without that distraction maybe I’ll make it to 30,000!)
Today, if you do nothing else? Just show up.