By Brad Beckstrom
When you start a creative endeavor, secrets begin to reveal themselves. The secrets may be things you had heard about but had not experienced. They may be things that others in your field know, but you’re just beginning to discover.
You can be well read, attend conferences, work in the industry, stand over other’s shoulders and give direction, but the secrets won’t reveal themselves until you begin. Until you begin hands on practice of your craft daily.
We are all creative, but that creativity often lies dormant until we tap into our creative broadband. This creative broadband is not just important to artists, it’s equally essential for a professional athlete or a standup comedian. Here’s how Jerry Seinfeld put it speaking about professional athletes:
“I read an article a few years ago that said when you practice a sport a lot, you literally become a broadband: the nerve pathway in your brain contains a lot more information. As soon as you stop practicing, the pathway begins shrinking back down. Reading that changed my life. I used to wonder, Why am I doing these sets, getting on a stage? Don’t I know how to do this already? The answer is no. You must keep doing it. The broadband starts to narrow the moment you stop.”
Jerry Seinfeld still does stand-up in small comedy clubs around New Jersey and New York. He’s constantly working on new material, testing it out with small audiences. He’s creating content on YouTube, getting feedback from larger audiences. He doesn’t need to do this but he knows he has to. He has to keep banging away at the core elements of his craft, combining them and connecting the dots. Finding out what works, no different from a young comedian just beginning to refine his act.
The cool thing about this is, regardless of your level of success as a musician, comedian, major-league pitcher we are all in the same boat with Jerry. If we stop, assume we’ve risen above the small, the less significant or less important, we fail.
Earlier this year, I began a creative quest. A creative quest to publish 10,000 photographs from a 1,000 places in 100 cities, along with many of the stories that go with them. I wasn’t ready to publish photographs, but I began the work. 10,000 photographs was not an arbitrary number, I had chosen to master photography and had read about the 10,000 hour rule in books by Malcolm Gladwell and others. In his book Outliers, Gladwell wrote that it takes 10,000 hours of focused practice to master something. Gladwell contended that this rule is consistent across a large number of fields and dates back to the Middle Ages and apprenticeships. He was not the first to come up with this theory, and there are detractors, but the idea works for me.
For each photograph I publish online, there are about 8 to 10 that don’t get published. There is also time involved in getting each image prepared. I shoot each photograph in raw format and then edit it before converting it to a JPEG and publish it on 500PX . By the time you read this, I will have published my first 1,000 photographs. My focus is in urban exploration and street photography, so my photos of trash, junk yards and graffiti may not appeal to everyone.
Like many on a creative endeavor, I have not been pleased with my early results but I look forward to using the photographs I publish as a visual record of my journey towards mastery. The famous photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson said “your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.’
As for those secrets revealing themselves, there’ve been a few. On occasion I’ve experienced creative flow. Feeling in the zone where time vanishes and I have a heightened sense of focus and creativity. A couple times, once in Seattle and once in New York, I felt this flow after very long days of shooting and walking over 10 miles in both cities.
Motion plays a big part in this. It would be very rare for me to enter some sort of creative flow sitting at a desk for 10 hours. If nothing else comes of this creative quest, walking several thousand miles never hurt anyone, my knees may beg to differ.
When you begin to practice something daily, without remuneration or seeking prestige you find out much sooner if it was something you were born to do. That creative broadband just isn’t a connection in the brain it’s a connection from the brain to the heart. And if you can make that connection you’ll continue.