Hold nothing back

When you’re doing something creative, there’s a tendency to want to hold back. You get these great ideas, and there’s this little voice in the back of your head that goes whoa, hold on, wait up a minute. What if we never get an idea this good again? Better save it for later. Better go with something else for now.

Don’t listen to it. If you have a good idea, use it immediately. You will get another one. The next idea might not be as good as the last, but as long as you keep trying and and keep creating, the one after that is liable to be even better than before.

Louis C.K. said it best in the HBO special Talking Funny (which I highly recommend, by the way – him, Ricky Gervais, Chris Rock, and Jerry Seinfeld talking about comedy. What could be better?). There, he said he likes to take his best material, the real good shit you’re supposed to end the show with, and put it at the beginning. He does that to fuck himself over, because he doesn’t want to get complacent, and because it forces him to rise to the occasion.

Yes, Louis C.K. is a very good comedian, but he’s very good because he does things like that. Because he forced himself to rise to the occasion over and over again. Shouldn’t you do the same?

The bottom line is that your creativity is not limited unless you believe it is. It is not a stagnant pool that will run dry, but a river that is constantly being replenished.  Or, in the nerdy terms I prefer, it’s like mana in an RPG – when you run out, it will regenerate in short order.

So spend it. Spend it making great art now, because the only reason the ideas will run dry is if you stop using them.

6 thoughts on “Hold nothing back

  1. Saving good ideas for later? Well I mostly agree with you; if you’re doing so out of some fear of never having a great idea ever again then it is probably inadvisable. But there are times when it can be an excellent tactical calculation to save a good idea for later. For example, if you’re a comedian who comes up with the joke of the century, obviously you would be better served by saving it for that big Vegas one-time show three months later rather than using it at some little university charity dinner within the next week…

    • False! Why would you want to save it? Different people, different shows. Besides, a comedian needs to practice their bit before the HBO special, to tweak it and polish it and make it become the joke of the century.

      That’s not to say you’re not right. There’s something to be said for saving a good bit for later in the show (or the book), but I don’t really count that as holding back – you’re using it soon, you’re just choosing its placement tactically.

      Likewise, there are good reasons for holding back. I have a short story I’d like to write, but it requires another character who won’t be introduced until later. As soon as she’s introduced though, you’d better believe I’m going to write that one ASAP!

  2. Besides, a comedian needs to practice their bit before the HBO special, to tweak it and polish it and make it become the joke of the century.

    Well, let’s assume that you have it down perfectly and the only factor remaining is to decide where to unveil it- in this scenario then it’s very much like your “save is for the book’s climax” example because then maximizing the joke’s first impact is all that matters. Assuming a clinical experimental setting free of external influences of course. I dunno, I suck at analogies…XP

  3. One of those guys – Stilts Out Loud

  4. How you know it’s a good idea – Stilts Out Loud

  5. Go fast – Stilts Out Loud

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