What No One Told YOU About Creating Grrreat Work

When I see the work I did only a year ago, I feel the urge to punch myself in the face.
Not only punch my face, but also rip it off my head and piss on it.
Yep, I think it’s that bad. But that’s ok, because I’m making progress.

I have made TREMENDOUS improvements over my biz and (art)work over the
last 12 months, because I radically changed my mindset.

In this post, I want to reveal the top three tips that I incorporated into my style,
allowing me to drastically improve every part of my work and career.

They are all based on an incredible concept made famous by radio host
Ira Glass :

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer.”

So the problem is you get the vision but not the skills.


The gap from where you see yourself and where you are right now is miles apart.
And your whole mission in life is to close that gap – until the day your actual work matches
your grandiose vision.

Well, with those tips I told you about, we can close that gap much faster, allowing YOU to
create much grrrreater work soon, advancing both your life and your career.

Let’s reveal them right now.

First…

1) Be 100% honest about your work.

It seems like a no-no-no brainer, but it’s frightening to see how many smart people do
no-braining things.

The problem is that most creatives share a distorted vision of how good their work really is. They think they crank out good work, when in fact it’s flat and forgettable. Now I know that taste is in the eye of the beholder, but skill isn’t. You can actually see if someone possesses skill or not, no matter which style they use.
But most “creators”, either through laziness or lack of attention, simply don’t get how their work
compares to their competition. They think their work is pretty good, when it really isn’t.
It’s a DANGEROUS place to be, as you wonder why your biz NEVER really takes off, even though you work your face off. More often than not, your work is average shit and you can’t see (or accept) that.

You have to compare your work with the best one in your market, and then be absolutely honest with yourself.

Am I really good, or is it fairly average and not remarkable in the least ???

The more critical you are of your work (it will hurt), the BETTER. Because when you see what’s
wrong with your work, you know how to fix it.

I’m getting better and better at my drawing / designing, but compared to my role models, I’m still useless. I can SEE the difference between my skillset and theirs – my anatomy looks like it got raped by aliens with laser dicks, and some of my “form creation” lacks the punch it needs.
But I’m working hard to close that gap.

Be honest about your current state of work. GO HARD ON YOURSELF.
Compare it with the best in your field, and then find out what’s not right yet and fix it.

2) Get interested in what you’re not interested in

There’s a virus flying around, and it’s causing you to create average work, despite having high standards. I dub it “Incest Inspiration”, a concept that I always warn people about, because I want to burrrn it into your membrane till your synapses pop out !
You want to create kick-ass work and products, and no matter how hard you try to make it
stand out from everybody elses, it always looks pretty similar to what the top peeps in your fields are creating.

You know why ?

The problem why your work looks sooo similar to everyone else in the market is because you mainly check out what your peers and competitors are doing. You are committing incest inspiration, consuming only ideas from your market.

“Hey, I want to create a marketing blog. Let’s check out all the other popular marketing blogs to
get an idea about what I can write.”

WRONG.

You’re imprisoning yourself into the echo chamber and write about the same stuff like everyone else. A mindless copy machine that adds more noise. Irrghs.

BTW – this sickness hits every kind of creative – whether you are a designer, writer, drawer, maker, builder or online biz creator. You unconsciously copy the best / most trending in your market and create look-alike work.

Here’s the cure :

Instead of consuming ideas from your peers, check out something completely different – how about a YA novel about a crystal meth addicted girl that creates a messed up alter ego ?
( This is not made up – the book’s called CRANK and I enjoyed it very much )

I nowadays FORCE myself to extract ideas from areas that I’m not the least interested in -
be it from DIY crafting, girly YA novels, cooking shows, space engineering etc.

I don’t give a rat’s ass about these topics, but I try to find interesting things about them so that my mind gets flushed with NEW ideas, which will then help me create better & more original work.

That’s the only way to get FRESH ideas into your thought pool and create remarkable work that people want to talk about (and pay for).

You create what you consume. So if you consume the same sources like your peers…
you get it.

Force yourself to get (work) inspiration from places you are NOT interested. You can extract a helpful idea from almost everything – a designer can find a brilliant design idea from a Wantan soup even if he’s not interested in food.

The goal is to get new ideas, so that your synapses build NEW connections, allowing YOU to think differently and thus create better, more original work.

3) Be a perfectionist long-term and an im-perfectionist in the short-term

We all know the urge to keep refining our work UNTIL it’s ready, because our work is never ready and we have to work longer on it before we can ship it.

That’s your BS !

BS meaning belief system.

In reality we are afraid that we’re about to yellow our pants like the sun, because shipping something publicly always means attracting (negative) feedback, and we don’t want that.

That’s why I challenge YOU to think like an imperfectionist short-term.
When it’s good enough, you get it out there. Not brilliant, not epic – but good enough.
This ensures you actually deliver your work and get on with the next one.

But in the long-term ? You should have an insanely high standard.
You should believe you create work epic enough to make angels wet themselves.
Something incredible that YOU can get known for – a style and idea overkill that people
will remember and talk about.

Now how do you combine these two contradicting principles ? Easy fleasy.

You ship your work when it’s “good enough” (short-term), while constantly (long-term) asking yourself  how you make the NEXT one much better !

Delivering frequently and improving every shipment after another – you’ll learn like a Jedi.

conclusion

Ira Glass I love you.
Your whole concept of having a great vision and terrible skills really opened my eyes, especially the “gap” idea.

and IF you…

  • be 100% critical of your work, seeing what’s missing
  • force yourself to get new ideas from things you’re not interested in
  • and think like a perfectionist long-term (always better) while being an im-perfectionist in the short run (good enough)

you will be able to close that fucking gap much faster.

Please share this post with your fellow creators, the message needs to get out !

  • http://twitter.com/FangirlWriter1 But im a writer

    It is a really good advice! Maybe im too perfectionist sometimes, at the point I get paralyzed instead of keep going, but recently i discovered I dont have to do a perfect work in the very beggining. So I 100% agree with your third point. The point number one is great, because is all about with trying to be the best as We can, while the point number two is something I need to do inmediatly, probably is the more difficult for me. It is funny how the things you dont care about are the things Im interested (not all the girly teen novels BTW) and I always find your advices very useful and empowering.

    • http://www.marsdorian.com/ Mars Dorian

      Yeah, the whole perfectionist thing can really paralyze us – it sure did prevent me from getting all the work out there. But I figured that

      A) getting my “good enough” work out there as fast as possible

      B) Improving my NEW work every single time with a refreshed mind set REALLY does help me create MUCH bettttter work in the long run.

      I hope this reallllly helps you publish your work – I just checked out your blog and LUV the big ass bunny, hahaha, so grand.

  • http://www.businessesGROW.com/blog Mark W Schaefer

    Great post, spectacular art!

    • http://www.marsdorian.com/ Mars Dorian

      Thanx Mark !

  • http://www.knavesmireit.co.uk/ Phil Johnson

    I love your simple thinking. Inspirational.

    It’s all solid advice, and I am only too guilty of putting off the launch of my work until it is just right. I need to have a word with myself, obviously! :]

    • http://www.marsdorian.com/ Mars Dorian

      Hah, you should go hard on yourself, Phil, especially when it comes to shipping short-term. Believe me, this kind of thinking has helped me tremendously with shipping more stuff in better quality, most of this really is psychology and very little is actually strategy.

  • http://josephratliff.com/ JosephRatliff

    As someone who has read what you’ve “shipped” back in the earlier days… I have to say, you have certainly risen to the top of the ranks Mars. :) Great stuff.

    • http://www.marsdorian.com/ Mars Dorian

      Thanx man, I want to make that true for my design and branding work as well. The next year is going to be big – thanx to that mindset and tips here. I hope they inspired you as well to kick some creative work !!

  • http://youtube.com/user/tommyisastrategist Tommy Walker

    <3 This! That's all I have to say.

    Oh, and that I used that Ira Glass Quote in one of my videos because it's so friggin awesome. Especially part that comes right after which is DO A LOT OF WORK. Do a huge volume of work, that's the only way you'll close the gap.

    Incredible stuff Mars and I'm so happy to see you dedicated to producing quality and encouraging everyone to improve their own quality.

    We need more of that!

  • http://www.SalVasquez.com/ Sal Vasquez

    Awesome post Mars! I especially love the long term perfectionist, short term im- perfectionist concept =]

    • http://www.marsdorian.com/ Mars Dorian

      Yeah, that’s my new model for now. It works out well – at least so far !

  • http://www.facebook.com/sophiagubb Sophia Gubb

    I love that. I managed to get the imperfectionist part down but I kind of divorced myself from my perfectionist side to get there. If I can get both of those sides working together, I figure it’ll be pretty awesome :)

    • http://www.marsdorian.com/ Mars Dorian

      If you do it like I described, Sophia, you’re going to have a blast. You’ll both ship more work, while getting better each and every time !

  • http://pjrvs.com/ Paul Jarvis

    you had me at “my anatomy looks like it got raped by aliens with laser dicks”… love this article, keep writing like this!

    • http://www.marsdorian.com/ Mars Dorian

      heh, that’s usually how I write – I call it Mars Dorian English ;)