Constantly Create

When I wrote Flickr as a Business Simulator, I was thinking purely about making a product--photos--and getting immediate feedback from a real audience. Seeing how much effort it takes to build-up a following. Learning if what you think people will like and what they actually like are the same thing.

It works just as well for learning what it's like to be in any kind of creative profession, such as an author of fiction or a recording artist.

Go look at music reviews on Amazon, and you'll see people puzzling over why a band's latest release doesn't have the spark of their earlier material, pointing out filler songs on albums, complaining about inconsistency between tracks. Sometimes the criticisms are empty, but there's often a ring of truth. There's an underlying question of why. How could a songwriter or band release material that isn't always at the pinnacle of perfection?

After years of posting photos to Flickr, I get it. I'm just going along, taking my odd photographs, when all of a sudden one resonates and breaks through and I watch the view numbers jump way up. Then I've got pressure: How can I follow that up? Sometimes I do, with a couple of winners in a row, but inevitably I can't stay at that level. Sometimes I take a break, not posting shots for a month or more, and then I lose all momentum.

When I'm at a low point, when I devolve into taking pictures of mundane subjects, pictures I know aren't good, I think about how I'm ever going to get out of that rut. Inevitably I do, though it's often a surprise when I go from a forgettable photo one day to something inspired the next.

The key for me is to keep going, to keep taking and posting photos. If I get all perfectionist then there's too much pressure, and I start second-guessing myself. If I give up when my quality drops off, then that's not solving anything. The steady progress of continual output, whether good or bad output, is part of the overall creative process.