When you’re motivated by creativity and the desire to produce great work, if you’re lucky, others might describe you using words like thoughtful, genius, innovator, visionary, or artist.
But what about stubborn?
It’s true. You should take that as a compliment.
Creative individuals simply expect better of their work, their company, and their industry. And that starting block for one’s career is where more individuals need to take their marks.
Personally, I like to use the phrase “craft-driven” to describe people who care so deeply about their creativity that the process is more important than the outcome. (Of course, they usually see better outcomes as a result.) But I’d just as soon swap out “stubborn” for craft-driven and still say it with the same amount of admiration.
Content creators are often stubborn about the ideas, processes, environments, and above all else, craftsmanship behind their work. While someone who doesn’t think about writing, design, audio, video, photography, code, etc. all day might dismiss this as some kind of brooding, idealistic crap, it’s precisely that willingness to be stubborn about creativity and quality that makes craft-driven individuals so vital to companies everywhere.
So, yes, most companies will hire us because of our ability as creators to produce the work, but along with that output comes some beautiful stubbornness to put out anything less than good. Said another way:
Creative people expect better.
On my show Unthinkable, we tell the stories of people who grow meaningful projects, companies, and careers through craft and creativity, rather than shortcuts and cheap tricks. In this episode, we hear stories about the NBA’s Golden State Warriors and an entrepreneur from Alabama named John Marsh who fought back from a near suicide and has spent the years since looking for projects that he says possess “beauty in the broken.”
These stories resonate deeply with many of us who, upon encountering a project, a team, a company, an industry, or any situation that feels less than ideal for creative success, still try to find the potential to make something great. We’ll try to “save” a bad draft, for instance, or stand up for our creative intuition when some kind of lazy best practice dictates doing something another way — add that logo, write that listicle, ship that bland podcast interview, etc.
Many of us go to seemingly crazy lengths to make something even 2% better, not because we’re brooding or don’t want to ship the work, but because we refuse to settle.
We expect better.
But shouldn’t everyone?
If you’re a company or team leader, doesn’t the internet’s obsession with the latest trend or tactic, as well as their propensity to automate or pay bottom dollar for things, signal a competitive area of the market? Doesn’t that also create an opportunity to play a different game entirely? Those who give many, many damns about the craft and quality behind their content might just stand out not simply because they hold some internal belief but because it’s the smarter investment than running head-on against the noise.
As individual content creators, when you spend countless hours reading headlines that promise you “secrets” — headlines written by the very same people trying to sell you something — aren’t you really just looking for a formula to repeat? Isn’t the job supposed to be about standing out and creating more and better work? And doesn’t following some listicle somewhere breed copycat thinking? This all creates massive job and career opportunity for those who re-invest that wasted time back into tinkering and shipping more. (Want to learn how to write? Write. Podcast? Podcast. Use social? Use social.)
In the end, regardless of who we are or where we work, if we focused on the craft behind our work just a little bit more in the first place, we might get better results.
Because it really is about the first place. It’s about our mental starting point.
Consider that popular quote by Hemingway, which perhaps you’ve heard.
He says, “There’s nothing to writing: All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
When you feel like THAT about your work, do you think you settle for just okay?
Sure, you might notice an ugly reality, but you’ll envision something better. You’ll picture what could be. All because you care. You have pride.
All you do is sit down at your laptop and bleed.
Take my show for example: Every episode is me ripping my heart out and slamming it on the table for all to see, like I’m trying to say, “THIS! This is why we do creative work! The craft! The creativity! THIS IS WHAT MATTERS! Enough with the shortcut crap, the tips and tricks, the over-optimization and commodification of content!”
Every week, I feel like I sit down in front of a microphone and bleed. That’s just how I feel.
Hell, I feel that way right now, writing this piece.
What the heck is wrong with me? Why am I like that?
Why are lots of us like that? There’s a certain defiance to being creative. Why?
I think it’s because, among all that terribleness — the corporate red tape, the industry jargon, the factory thinking forced onto a creative’s work — we refuse to settle. We still hope for and we still SEE the potential for something to be better.
It’s not about pointing to resources or ROI or efficiencies or precedent to justify bad behavior. It’s about the willingness to put in the extra work, to do the hard thing, to bet on creativity and intuition, despite all those things.
Being stubborn means defending your beliefs. It means taking your mark at the right starting block. It means refusing to settle for more sameness, more commodity work, more noise.
So we expect better.
And so should you.