On Making Things Happen

I spent some time thinking about the basic building blocks for business for a talk to the film students at the Academy of Art in San Francisco. I wanted to teach these aspiring artists about business in a way that empowered them to take control of the entire creative process - which at one time or another will inevitably include money and other people, two areas that have often clouded and stunted art (and many other creation processes). 

So, how do people create things? Works of art, delicious meals, stable relationships, booming businesses. Going from an idea into physical reality is not a trivial task: this is the essence of being human. The ability to make something not only helps us feel alive, it is literally all there is to do these days, now that we aren’t exactly fighting for survival any more. At this point, there is actually quite a bit of pressure to be making things. For me, that has introduced complication to what should simply be my natural activity.

A big part of the problem is that the practice of creation has been segmented for specialists. My hope is that with a clarification of the process people can better understand which parts of creation are right for them and why we get stuck on others.

We will start with a linear process, for simplicity:

Yes, I draw with a pencil on paper then take a picture with my phone. Is it pretty? No. Is it fast? Yes. Does it work? You tell me!

Yes, I draw with a pencil on paper then take a picture with my phone. Is it pretty? No. Is it fast? Yes. Does it work? You tell me!

Although it gets much more interesting when you take that line and connect it into a circle:

This one is a little better, right?

This one is a little better, right?

This is not only useful for illustrating my purpose, but in reality very few things are ‘done’, it is much more likely that once you start a creation you will continue to iterate on it for a very long time.

Now on top of this cycle, I will superimpose three sections:

Ok, maybe I need to redo this one:)

Ok, maybe I need to redo this one:)

These are groupings by the skills necessary to complete the contained steps and you will notice they encompass three different types of professions. Here is where the complications lie – these days most people specialize in one part or another and not only lack the skills for the others, but also feel like they should be left to specialists. I would like to dispel that myth immediately – everyone can do all parts of this process if they so desire. There are some skills that may need to be picked up if you received a typical Western education (such as financial literacy or basic PR), or if you have some money you can also very easily outsource these parts. Making smart decisions about doing it yourself or hiring others is often one of the most important parts in seeing a vision through to reality.

Walk yourself through a past project that you are especially proud of – even something simple like a dinner party or selling an old book on eBay. Think about which parts you really enjoyed, which you struggled through or could have done better. Then focus on something you want to achieve in the future – which stage are you at? And most importantly, what do you need to do to move on to the next?