Monday, October 17, 2011

WtMoM: Making as a Way to Know Yourself

What to Make of Making

Are creative people born or made?

Do you need a certain degree of talent and aptitude or can you answer any creative calling if you're willing to work hard enough?

Beyond proficiency, there's a deeper question: given that creative work almost always involves an expressive medium, do you have anything to express? Once you've mastered the techniques and the craft, what are you going to do with that mastery?

The following statement was attributed to, "the guy who plays Dwight on The Office:"
"If you don't know who you are or what you're about or what you believe in it's really pretty impossible to be creative."
So, do you have to know yourself before you can make?

Clearly, study and practice are necessary if you want to do anything non-trivial. The question is really aimed at whether you can produce something worthy of an audience's attention if you don't know who you are or what you're about.

As you may have guessed if you've been following along, I believe the Laws of Making point the way to understanding this question.

Just like the best stories test the the limits of the protagonist's strength and resolve, true making is a way to know yourself. The fundamental dramatic question in a novel is often, "What is the protagonist willing to sacrifice to solve the story problem?"

The first Law of Making, "Love is the foundation of true making," establishes the baseline: if you love the project enough to undertake it (as opposed to dabbling or dithering with it), you've just discovered one part of what you're about.

Beauty and Truth, the second and third laws, are really about the essence of what you believe in.

Hope, Faith, and Charity (laws four, five, and six) are the natural result of learning that you're about something other than you.

Vision, Devotion, and Completion speak volumes about who you are.

In an absolute sense, none of us may really know who we are. But like the stories where the protagonist's actions reveal their character, the way you make reveals a great deal about who you are. The zen-like irony of the situation is that it is only through the selflessness--and by extension the lack of self-consciousness--cultivated by the Laws of Making that we can get a glimpse of our true selves. And that's what your audience really wants to see.

Image: Bill Longshaw /