“We’re not playing to win, we’re playing to play.”
The Creative Act
We all know what it feels like to have a perfect picture of our work in our mind, or how it would be celebrated by other people. We become numbed with fear — fear that our work can never be good enough, fear that we aren’t good enough to take it to where we want it to be.
And so we might find ourselves in a rut. We might even abandon the project altogether.
In such moments, how do we get unstuck? How can we get to work with less fear?
One solution, as suggested by the renowned producer Rick Rubin, is to “lower the stakes”. Rather than seeing your work as a potential masterpiece — or the book, or the song, or the video — see it as simply a work in progress or an experiment. With that, you’re able to give yourself the much-needed permission to make mistakes and see what works and what doesn’t work.
And this way, your draft acts a stepping stone to your next draft. And your finished work acts as a stepping stone to your next idea that you want to undertake.
One band that I’ve listened to a lot in the past six months or so treats their albums each as acts of experimentation, of trying different directions. They’re a Swedish rock band called Ghost.
What I find interesting is that with almost every album, they would also release an EP of cover songs. Because by the time they wrap up the production of an album, they would be creatively fried. So by doing cover songs or reimagining songs by other artists, they are able to be playful again, and fiddle with new styles that they could use for their next album.
As frontman Tobias Forge explained their approach, “I’ve never really ended an album production, or left an album production, without feeling like there are things that I would wanna do different next time.”
If you find yourself getting stuck, tell yourself, relax. It’s just an experiment. And as with any experiment, you can’t always predict the outcome. But no matter how it might turn out, you can surely learn at least a thing or two to make your next experiment even better.
It’s worth remembering that experiments are meant to be fun, too. There’s no right or wrong — just the thrill of following your curiosity and learning how things work.
You’re just here to play for the sake of playing.
Totally agree! Experiments are like playgrounds for grown-ups where we get to unleash our curiosity and explore new ideas without the fear of failure holding us back. There’s something exhilarating about trying out new things and seeing what works and what doesn’t. And even if the outcome doesn’t turn out as expected, the process of experimenting itself can be incredibly rewarding and fulfilling. It’s all about enjoying the ride and having fun!
True! But understandably it can be hard to get over our fears that we associate with experimenting and making mistakes — which I guess has a lot to do with our years and years of schooling