On a recent trip to Florence I took 27 photos I felt were worth publishing. The friends I was with were very complimentary about my skills as a photographer, yet these 27 pictures had been filtered out from over 600 I took…
I rebuffed the compliments, thinking someone who is good at photography couldn’t produce 573 rubbish pictures. I just shared the photos I felt had come out well, as I felt this was a serendipitous event worth celebrating. I think the taking of each photograph probably was, but what got me thinking was perhaps much of the skill of creativity actually lies in the process of selection, of filtering down the mass of output into what appears to be a polished end product.
Such an approach would mirror what I found working in music. As someone who wasn’t classically trained, I always felt I just bumbled along coming up with lots of ‘stuff’, and then filtering it down into what was actually good. However, my experience with musicians from a more traditional background suggests that many of them do the same; always playing, producing masses of mediocre content, but filtering it down to the few killer ideas.
Sometimes it is hard to start with creativity; you inevitably produce a lot of dross that doesn’t measure up to what inspired you to begin. However, I wonder if to a certain extent what makes those seen to have ‘talent’ stand out is not just their skills at production, but their skills at filtering.
Increasingly my approach to creativity follows this; produce as much as possible, then get filtering. Try not to worry about the quality too much when creating, experiment as much as possible and then ruthlessly reduce it down to the best examples. In my experience creating anything good often requires creating a lot of rubbish; it’s the filtering that’s important.
Photo: (cc) Steven Depolo