How to Stick to Your Creative Goals

The next time you worry that whatever you want to do creatively has already been done by someone else, or worry about how long it will take you to learn how to work creatively as well as you would like , tell yourself that you are on the bus. In Helsinki, Finland. And the most important thing you can do for your career is not to get off the bus too early .

The Helsinki bus station theory was originally presented by photographer Arno Minkkinen in his 2004 graduation speech; journalist and writer Oliver Berkman sums it up in The Guardian :

Minkkinen explains that there are two dozen platforms at Helsinki Bus Station, each with multiple bus lines. After that, for a kilometer or more, all lines departing from one platform leave the city along the same route with the same stops.

These bus routes are roughly analogous to creative careers in the sense that anyone starting their creative journey often ends up at “stations” that other creative artists have reached before them. Early creative work is often derivative, whether we intend to do it or not, and it can upset some people to think that whatever they want to do creatively has already been done by someone else.

The bus not only stops at frequently visited stations, but is also quite full. With all this competition for seats and nowhere to go, but in places where other artists have already been, why stay on the bus?

Because if you ride the creative bus long enough – as the metaphor says – it will take you to some unique place.

A little further, Minkkinen says, Helsinki’s bus routes diverge, plunging into peculiar journeys in completely different directions. This is when the photographer finds a unique “vision” or – if you prefer to skip hoax talk about art – the satisfying feeling that he or she is doing his own thing.

There are, of course, several other ways to look at this metaphor – some people might argue that you can only stay on the creative bus if you have enough money, for example, to travel on the bus. Or if you don’t have other responsibilities that require you to come home at a specific time each day.

So let me add a similar creative tip that asks us to imagine ourselves driving a race car and setting our own pace. This is from a blog post by Maggie Stifwater’s Eyes Up, Writers :

This is the writing career. Use your peripheral vision to look at things that happen to you day in and day out, but never forget that every decision must contribute to getting you to the farthest point. Never forget that every tiny success or failure is just a diversion or opposition to the real heart of the matter.

And here’s another thing they tell you about keeping your eyes up: don’t get hung up on the person in front of you. If there is another driver directly in front of you, you usually look at your bumper and then turn in the same way as they did. But you know what? Then the best scenario is that you take turns just like them. So if they are wrong, you are wrong too. If there is a better, faster, cooler way that involves drawing a giant knife on the side of your car and listening to Finnish rap really loudly, you will never know.

If the two creative tips are about both roads and Finland, they need to be on the right track – or, shall we say, on the right bus route.

I’ll end with a third tip, this time from my own experience. Minkkinen argues that one of the worst things a creative artist can do is get off the current bus, return to Helsinki Bus Station and take another bus to get out of the city – because that means spending even more time driving through past all these stops. that other artists have visited before you. I disagree. I have traveled on several different bus routes in my time – the MFA in Theater bus, the singer-songwriter in Los Angeles bus – and knowing when it was time to get off those buses was an important part of my creativity. development and career growth.

Plus, every time you get on a new bus or take a new highway, you take what you’ve learned with you. Think of it as the launch of New Game Plus if you want to add another metaphor to it. You start the game all over again, but at the same time you retain all your experience – which means that you can not only quickly pass the initial levels of the game, but also gain access to previously blocked content. In my case, blogging about how much money I was making as a singer and songwriter gave me my first personal financial performances.

So, to summarize, if your creative career is too similar to everyone else’s, stay on the bus until it starts making stops you haven’t seen before. Get off the bus if it doesn’t take you where you want and if the bus route doesn’t suit your life, find a car and start driving at a speed that suits you.

Metaphorically, of course. But you can’t live a creative life without learning to use some good metaphors.


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