Everything seems to be in tension, lately. Creating always involves a form of high wire balancing act, without a net. They tell you there is one right way to solve all your creative difficulties, but is there?
Any brief survey of Medium.com will reveal a slew of mutually contradictory advice articles on how to succeed at everything and anything. For every author exhorting you to do one thing, there is another equally emphatically encouraging you to do the exact opposite. What are you supposed to do?
Oddly, I subscribe to the belief that you have to do a bit of both. You also have to neither, sometimes.
Here are some mutually contradictory arguments I’ve seen made:
- Between going fast and slow
- Between new and old
- Between innovation and tradition
- Between procrastinating and diving straight in
- Between what you know well and faking it until you make it
- Between pleasing everybody or pleasing yourself
- Between fear and courage
- Between brazen, outward self-confidence and authentic, shameless vulnerability
- Between refined, edited, perfected, polished work and raw, unadorned, unapologetic, warts-and-all, first draft works
- Between fitting in and being outstanding
- Between contemplation and immediacy
- Between disrespect and acclaim
- Between obscurity and notoriety
- Between fasting and feasting
- Between connection and isolation
- Between solitary effort and collaboration
- Between certainty and bafflement
- Between clarity and confusion
- Between lofty goals and unfulfilled ambitions
These contradictions seem to apply to productivity hacks, product management processes, making art, in your career, life, you name it. For every advocate there seems to be an equal and opposite iconoclast. Dissent and consent go hand in hand. Somehow, out of this confusing antonymic soup, we still manage to create things, miraculously.
It’s always a compromise and a balance. Think of it as a multi-dimensional spectrum. There is no guaranteed recipe. Sometimes, one thing works best; other times its very opposite is just the ticket. You almost never know which it will be.
Once you realise this, you might have a moment of epiphany, where you experience profound sonder. Here’s the definition of sonder: https://en.m.wiktionary.org/wiki/sonder
Your mental model, that you’re the only one clueless and struggling, against unique challenges, while being denied the secrets that would ensure your unopposed triumph, which you are certain everybody else already knows, is replaced by the certain knowledge that this is everybody’s experience of their lives. The suffering is universal and nobody has the magic spell, despite appearances to the contrary on their Instagram account. Everybody wrestles with the same creative tensions.
You’re not special, but you’re not alone either. Even this is in tension.