Creating and executing

When it comes to being creative, there’s a big difference between creating and executing. In practice, the distinction is never that clear, but it is useful to think about the two concepts independently, if only as a thought exercise.

For creative people, ideas are our oxygen. Without them, we cannot be. A good idea can shake us out of a slump and have us firing on all cylinders within minutes. They occupy our minds to the point where we can ignore the urge to eat or sleep. But here’s the thing - ideas are never enough. In fact, without discipline, effort and technical prowess, they are but seeds, almost worthless in of themselves.

When you copyright a piece of music you have written, you can apply it on two levels: to the song, and to the recording thereof. In copyright law, the song - the idea - exists essentially independently of whatever recording you might have made of it. A song, the idea in this context, could be as detailed as a written score of sheet music or chorus lyrics scribbled on a napkin at a restaurant. Some people are great at the creating part. They can pick up a guitar, a paint brush or a pen and come up with something cool. If that’s you, consider me envious. That’s a tremendous ability. Get those ideas out. Go back and review them. Cherish them, but be judicious. If an idea sucks, move on to the next one. Just get them out.

Some people aren’t like that. For some of these people, what inspires them and what they are good might be turning these ideas into something tangible. Strumming an acoustic guitar into a voice recorder is well and good, but no one wants to hear a song in that form. Hearing ideas, understanding what is good and bad, and seeing how those ideas fit together is as just a profound a talent as the creating, however less revered it might be.

Both creators and executers can learn a lot from one another. Creative types can always do with a dose of reality. What is possible? How does this all come together? How can we do this? And those who make stuff happen can often take a leaf out of the creative playbook, about thinking about things esoterically, about having ideas of their own.

I sometimes feel like I’m better at executing than creating. In many areas of my life, I tend to favour processes and patterns. When I know how to do something, it’s easier to visualise doing it again, as we know. That’s great, but lazy. I am making a conscious effort to try and be more of an idea generator, because it’s clear that’s where I need to improve.

I know lots of people that are the opposite. History is littered with incredible creators who needed help turning their ideas into something tangible. Watching almost any ‘Classic Albums’ documentary will illustrate that point. Great work is almost always the result of collaboration, of partnerships, of creators and executers. That that sort of help is out there, the hard part is finding the right helper. If you are a creator, seek out feedback and opportunities for collaboration as often as possible. If you are an executer, find people with great ideas and offer to help them sharpen their work. Creative people, regardless of what type you feel they might be, are often most effective working together with others.