What Seinfeld taught me about creating


You know how I am on the look out for inspiration from all sorts of places, right? I don't even have to focus on it or make it a "to do". This ain't a resolution, baby - it's just who I am. I read this, I see that, I watch something over there and I'm absorbing. Always absorbing. Just curious about how we create. How we do what we do. How to do it better.

And I LOVE the peek behind the wizard's curtain when I can hear an artist speak about their craft. What can I say? I'm all about going with the flow and intuition AND I'm also analytical about the creative process. It's my own personal apprenticeship learning from the masters. And yours too.

A favourite was  hearing Viggo Mortensen talk about art making at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) last September. And when I read the Seinfeld interview in the Sunday New York Times before the winter break, I knew that I HAD to share it with you.

Here are my fave bits.

Some of it's nature and some of it's nurture.

"Being a comedian is two basic skills. One, being funny, which is a soft skill. Two, performing a comedy bit, which is a hard skill."

You need the talent (the funny) AND you need to develop the execution skills, whatever your art form. Being the class clown will only take you so far. Being the kid who can draw anything will also only take you so far. We all need to work hard at our craft.

A healthy dose of perfectionism.

"I wanna see your best work. I'm not interested in seeing your new work."

What's your best work right.now? Today. What is the absolute best blog post that you can write today? Or photograph that you can take? Or graphic that you can design? What is YOUR best work?

Not the best work of anyone ever, just YOUR best work.

But get regular feedback too.

It's remarkable how Seinfeld won't content himself with a big laugh that he thinks could be bigger, and how much time and energy he'll devote to getting it to where he thinks it could be.

When I first read this I thought of him in his office working alone on his jokes, editing and fine-tuning hour after hour. There is some of that. A lot of that. But when I thought about the art of comedy, I realised that what he is really talking about is getting feedback from the audience. The laughs. Or silence.

The one-on-one work we do only gets us so far. We need to see the response from our own audience, our own community to our work. Ask for feedback. Honest feedback.

Keep up your skills.

When he can't tinker, he grows anxious. "If I don't do a set in two weeks, I feel it," he said. "I read an article a few years ago that said when you practice a sport a lot, you literally become a broadband: the nerve pathway in your brain contains a lot more information. As soon as you stop practicing, the pathway begins shrinking back down. Reading that changed my life. I used to wonder, Why am I doing these sets, getting on a stage? Don't I know how to do this already? The answer is no. You must keep doing it. The broadband starts to narrow the moment you stop."

Schmutzie spoke about growing what you love as a daily practice over here. This takes it further. When you HAVE grown what you love, when you HAVE developed those skills at a high level, you must keep at it. Let's call it "keeping what you have grown as a daily practice."

Thoughts? Do you have your own feedback loop for your work? What is it? And what have you learned from it?