The Builders And The Finders

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2020-01-24 22:00:00 No comments

The more I think about my encounters with other creators just starting their own journey, the more I notice how some of them begin with one notion about the process and -- if they're lucky -- evolve to another one.

Early on, they tend to have this notion of the creative work as being something that exists intact in some other realm, and all they have to do is discover it, like unearthing something from the bottom of a closet, or getting good reception on a radio station by twisting a coathanger around the antenna.

Later on, again if they're lucky, this view is replaced by the notion that they have to actually build the work -- that it doesn't exist at all in any form, that they can't just blunder across it, and that it actually has to be created by them. No Shortcuts™.

There's actually nothing wrong with the creation-as-discovery model. I just see it as a painful but needed phase one has to traverse in order to get to a better understanding of the work. Sort of like that unskippable FBI warning at the beginning of a DVD.

Some discovery's needed. The "magpie mind", as Alfred Bester called his propensity for collating bits of found this and that, is always on the lookout for things that take on a life of their own, or latch onto an existing idea and accelerate its maturity into a full-blown work. But the kind of discovery I talked about at the top of this piece is more like the wandering longing someone has for The Perfect Soulmate or The Ultimate Hamburger. Such things exist only as unapproachable ideals, not as actual incarnates.

One of the hurdles beginners have to, well, hurdle over is the idea that creative work is work -- that it's enjoyable and transcendent, but still requires effort and discipline. They have this fear, maybe not entirely unfounded, that if they think of what they do as work rather than fun, the magic will go out of it -- or, worse, the fun along with the magic. Even at its most tedious and tiresome, this stuff never stops being fun, as long as you can take moments here and there to step back and let the truth of what you're doing sink in. Look at that -- you're making something! Something that never existed before!

At bottom I don't think there's any dichotomy between the builders and the finders. They're doing what amounts to the same things in different ways; they're just entering the same closet through different doors. The builders are finding things, just seeing that as part of the larger process; the finders are still building, just seeing finding as taking primacy over building.

Tags: creativity creators