How to be a productive creator? ft Pawan Rochwani
In this week's episode of When We Met Podcast by Platform For Artists, we talk to Pawan Rochwani about how he has been committed to his craft of podcasting and newsletter writing even during this pandemic when everything around us was so chaotic.
You can find his newsletter Relatively Correct on Substack where he talks about art, culture, technology and everything intersecting these topics.
The below piece is written by Deepannita Kundu about When We Met Podcast.
Have you heard about the age-old dilemma of quality vs quantity? This is the same dichotomy presented to us today re-packaged as creativity vs productivity. This dichotomy is an unnecessary imposition on the way we perceive our work. Like most things in this world, this is not so black and white, not so identically opposite of mutually exclusive.
As artists we need to realise this very early in our careers that we will dwell in the gray area, creating pieces which will sometimes be the creative equivalent of a masterpiece and other times not so. But if we keep chasing the masterpiece each time we sit down at our workstation we will end up crippled by our imagination and desire for perfection.
A good artist knows that her work is imperfect; the better one goes forward and publishes that imperfect piece of work.
“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” – Antoin de Saint Exupery
Moreover, as an artist you have no control over how people perceive your art, you can put your life and sweat into one project and that might flop and shatter all your hopes. And you can take on a project just to pay your bills and suddenly that project is the highlight of your career.
Elizabeth Gilbert says in her TED talks that she was taken back by the magnitude of the success of “Eat Pray Love”. It was totally unexpected. People warned her that now that she has delivered the masterpiece of her creative career it is all going to be downhill from here onwards. She says that she felt exactly as she did 10 years ago at the beginning of her career when she constantly faced rejection and was a complete failure.
“For most of your life, you live your existence in the middle, where everything is normal and reassuring and regular. But failure catapults you abruptly way out into the blinding darkness of disappointment. Success catapults you just as abruptly but just as far way out into the equally blinding glare of fame and recognition and praise. One of these states is objectively seen by the World as bad and the other one as good. But your subconscious is completely incapable of discerning the difference between bad and good. The only thing it is capable of producing is the absolute value of this emotion, the exact distance that you have been flung from yourself.”
Simply put, the glories are as great as the burdens, the amplitude of the crest equal to that of the trough, but the vast majority in between is where you are sane, where life and art happens.
I recently read about the ‘spotlight effect’, according to it, humans are very self-conscious and self-critical. Due to our genetic disposition, we think of ourselves as the center of the world, we equate a lot of value with our existence and hence we end up believing that others too are paying close attention to our every move.
So as artists we put our work under the strictest lens of scrutiny and we believe that the audience too will be able to see right through the flaws, which is hardly the case. Because we see the flaws from a bird’s eye vision taking into account all our thoughts and ideas and then judging that piece of work against everything else we have done or are capable of doing. This self-doubt is the biggest nemesis of a creator.
I can’t help but recall this verse by Walt Whitman
“For song, issuing from its birthplace, after fulfilment, wandering
Reck’d or unreck’d, duly with love returns.”
This basically means that a song which stands to be a metaphor for all works of art will forever remain precious for the creator, no matter the response it receives from the outside world. This seems like a stark contrast from what I just discussed but that's the the beauty of art and questions relating to it, the answers can only be found in paradoxes. You might be the most critical person when it comes to your work but to you are also its biggest admirer.
Another major barrier to both creativity and productivity is procrastination. We often fail to realise that procrastination itself is rooted in things that I just mentioned, i.e., desire for perfection, fear, self-doubt and it has very little to do with laziness.
A lie that we tell ourselves as artists is that we are not procrastinating rather we are “waiting for inspiration to hit us”.
As Niklas Goke mentions, “The amateur tries to sync his art with inspiration. The pro knows that inspiration will sync with him once he sits down to write.”
“Inspiration exists but it has to find you working”- Pablo Picasso.
I can vouch for this from personal experience, there have been days when I only have the blog title in my mind and some loose string of thoughts, but once I convince myself to start typing, I can feel words clicking and sentences making more and more sense. But this is also something that comes from practice and consistency.
As Pawan repeatedly says, “creativity is not a gift, it’s a muscle”. When you start treating creativity like bodybuilding, something which you have to work upon every day to develop and get results instead of “inherent talent”, you automatically start seeing productive manifestations of creativity.
When we start looking at creativity as a skill, we are also able to become more confident in our craft and persist in it. And when we hit that rough patch, the “creative block”, we don’t just put up our hands in the air and say “I have lost my creative instincts, I am no longer an artist” but we stay put and exercise our creativity in different ways to get back on track.
It is important to remember that creativity is not like rain; erratic and out of your control. It is like a pond; the deeper you dig, the more water you are likely to find.
Having said that, let us also not forget that creativity is not only confined to its capitalist definition. It is absolutely fine to derive value from the mere act of creation and not its market potential. The dictionary definition of creation is – the action or process of bringing something into existence. We are creating every moment, every breath that we take, every memory that we make, every thought that arises in our brain is an act of creation. Give yourself the room to “not create” and merely exist on some days and forgive yourself for “failing to create” on others.
The most important piece of advice I have come across which has completely changed my outlook towards my creative process is that “The World is made of funnels”
Jack Conte says that when you are working with the publisher mindset, your whole mentality shifts, it is more results-oriented, it is about getting shit done rather than obsessing over small details.
Thus, we can start looking at the whole productivity vs creativity debate from a completely different outlook, where it ceases to be a struggle and rather becomes a loop, enabling each other and ultimately helping you to get better both in terms of numbers and quality.
I and Shubhangi were in conversation with Pawan Rochwani, the Founder of Platform For Artists on the topic of 'How to be a productive creator?', where he talks about how he manages his work as the CEO of a content company and a content creator himself. To listen to the full conversation, tune into When We Met Podcast by Platform For Artists.