I’m reading Todd Henry’s newest book Die Empty: Unleash Your Best Work Every Day. I’m about a quarter of the way through and loving everything about it. Todd writes very well to people who make stuff for a living like you and me. The title of the book itself immediately reminds us of the fact of our mortality. Because as we all know, and as Todd points out, we have a finite amount of time on this earth. “Don’t go to your grave with your best work left inside you.” Keeping that in mind should give a sense of urgency to your work today 🙂
The section that captured my thoughts this morning was about “Creative Inversion.” Creative Inversion is what Todd defines as having “more work coming out than you have inspiration coming in.” It’s when you’re stretched thin but you can’t stop because your work is what puts food on your table. It’s working without any creative fuel left in the tank. A quote from the book:
“This struggle plays out daily for designers, writers, and others who have to continuously turn their thoughts into tangible value [side note: if you’re wondering if “others” means you? it does.]. Because of the never-ending outflow of new work, it’s a struggle to stay ahead of the insatiable need for ideas, and in truth many succumb to cranking out work that fits the bill but is nothing to write home about.”
– Todd Henry, Die Empty: Unleash Your Best Work Everyday
If there’s anything that I don’t want to be said about my work, it’s that “it fits the bill.” Who would want that one their gravestone? I want mine to read “Holy sh*t this dude made awesome, kick-ass work and he didn’t hold back.” Because work that simply fits the bill is not the work we were meant to do. Your job is not to make work simply because it’s what you do. Your job is to make work that is real, that matters, because you’re doing all of this for a reason. Fight for that reason.
Fitting the bill will always be unseen, unremembered, and unremarkable. Don’t make work that simply “fits the bill.” Make work that shreds the bill. Fight like hell to escape the cycle of “Creative Inversion.” Build strategies to make sure you’re being fed creatively. I highly recommend this book and Todd’s first book The Accidental Creative, which I have reference many many times, for more help with these strategies. You can also, check out his podcast (and impressive 10 year back catalog) here.