When many creatives are getting started, one of their biggest obstacles is not the business side, but instead the creative side.
They meander along putting out average work and thus they get average clients paying average rates.
They become frustrated because they know their work isn’t as good as their desires.
But how do you fix that?
How do you get better without investing 10,000 hours?
My goal with this post is to share with you some methods on how to improve the quality of your work extremely fast.
One of the most overlooked methods for learning any creative craft is to simply become observant.
If you are designer, start looking at design in everything around you.
If you are a writer, start reading and analyzing all of the writing you come across.
If you are a videographer, start watching more videos and analyzing what makes them good.
The first step to becoming good at any creative craft is to acquire good taste.
Make it a habit of regularly researching and analyzing the creative work in your industry.
Don’t just watch as a consumer, watch as a producer.
Pay attention to technique, pay attention to flow, try and figure out what it is that makes the piece so good.
The first step to becoming a great creative is to acquire good taste.
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Steal like an artist
Once you begin studying the work of others, the next step is to Steal like an artist.
In Austin Kleon’s book Steal Like an Artist he argues that no great artists ever come up with something completely original.
Instead, great artists pull inspiration from multiple other artists and combine their inspirations into a new and original creation.
This is not a new idea. Even Picasso once said “Good artists copy. Great artists steal.”
It is the same with your creative work.
Before you start any new project, make it a habit of creating a swipe file. A swipe file consists of a handful of pieces which can act as inspiration for the new work you are about to create.
Keep these references on hand and steal small components of each of them.
Maybe you steal the structure from one reference, the technique from another, and the style from another.
The end result is a new piece that is not a copy, but instead is completely new and original.
A great thief never gets caught.
Practice, Practice, Practice
At first when you start producing creative work, it can be frustrating.
You look at the work of others and it can be completely discouraging.
At times it feels like no matter how hard you try you could never produce the quality of work you desire.
This feeling can bring you down and make you frustrated with yourself.
But the truth is every single creative, even the people who’s work you admire, were once in your shoes.
They once looked around and felt hopeless in comparison to the other artists of their time.
But they got over it and they practiced.
Closing The Gap
There is a famous passage by Ira Glass where he talks about ‘The Gap’.
It is the gap between your taste and the output of your work.
Ira argues that all creatives have great taste when they get started. They know what good work is.
But they get frustrated because their output isn’t as good as their taste.
While many people give up at this stage, Ira encourages you to instead push onward.
Ira says that the only way to close ‘The Gap’ is to produce a large volume of work, to produce at least one piece of work every single week.
By going through a large volume of work, your aspirations will soon be as good as your ambitions.
This passage from Ira has driven me to continue to create in life, it has continued my quest for constant improvement.
There is a reason I publish blogs once per week.
I am creating volume, and I am getting better in the process.
If you want to produce great work, then I encourage you to set yourself on a deadline and do the same.
The bottom line
Producing great work doesn’t happen overnight although there are techniques to get there faster.
First, you must become more observant of the creative work around you.
Second, you must learn how to steal like an artist.
Third, you must practice and close the gap.
Being great at your craft isn’t easy, but if you put in the time your output will soon be as good as your ambitions.