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Art of Creating

TEN ELEMENTS to Becoming a

Pau l P erk i ns



First Element: You Are a Creator


Second Element: Creators Create


Third Element: Creators Set Goals


Fourth Element: Creators Focus


Fifth Element: Creators Avoid Distractions


Sixth Element: Creators Bypass Resistance


Seventh Element: Creators Abandon Perfection


Eighth Element: Creators Refine


Ninth Element: Creators Do Not Quit


Tenth Element: Creators Share


Final Thoughts



The premise of this book is simple. Everyone was born to
create. And everyone includes you.
Our desire to create is woven into our DNA. It’s written
into our storylines. It’s projected onto our dreams. In
fact, I believe it reflects a part of God’s nature within us.
Creating is taking nothing,
and forming something.
It’s what compels painters to paint. Writers to write. Actors to act. Musicians to play. Photographers to photograph. Sculptors to sculpt. Woodworkers to build. Cooks
to cook.
Creating is sharing in God’s active work.
Anytime anyone creates anything,
that person engages in a holy activity.
During moments of deep inspiration, creating comes
easy. Like breathing, it’s natural and effortless. All is right
in the world, and our purpose on the planet seems clear.
But most of the time, that’s the exception, not the rule.
More often, creating is a struggle. It requires dedication
and effort, focus and drive.
The Life of a Creator
Over the past several years, I’ve thought a lot about
creating. I’ve read books and exchanged strategies with
friends. Both have been helpful, but the lasting lessons
have come the hard way: through pain and suffering, trial

and error, victory and success.
Sitting down and putting pen to paper—or fingers to
keys—I’ve written three books, edited two other books,
and started a blog. These experiences have transformed
my understanding of what it means to be a creator.
I once thought the life of a creator involved channeling
short bursts of creativity. One year I might draft several
poems. Another year I may take a dozen photographs.
The next year I could write a short story or article.
My sights were fundamentally limited. Not because I
didn’t dream of creating more, but because I didn’t know
how. Even when I felt a stirring deep within, a pull to
create, I struggled to translate desire into action. I felt
trapped, confined to frustrated ambitions and disappointing efforts.
Everything changed when I finally discovered the art of
creating—particular methods and attitudes that foster
creation, skills freeing us to create abundantly. And anyone can learn them, including you.
The life of a creator is a raging river,
not a trickling stream.
It’s rushing forward, bursting the brim.
This Book’s Purpose
Within this book, I distill the ten most important lessons
I’ve learned about the art of creating. They’re so fundamental to a life of overflowing creativity that I refer to
them as elements. While utilizing them will not guarantee fame or praise, they will help you become a more
productive and prolific creator.

we must return to the art of creating. Because in every season. and perhaps even enjoyable. If so. 4 .Perhaps you’ve already learned some of these lessons. Whether you are a new or veteran creator. I hope this book is helpful and challenging. Maybe you’ve learned them all. consider this a refresher course.

so it’s what they call themselves. they’re a pilot. unpaid (yet more gratifying) one. There’s never a second thought. Because I love writing and I feel like I was born to do it. It feels presumptuous. The truth is. As much as I tried. It’s how they spend their time. If they heal sick people. But deep down. I’m a writer. Arrogant. If they fly and land planes. being a creator is no different than being a plumber. they’re a plumber. I could not ignore what I knew to be true: I am a writer.First Element: You Are a Creator Most people don’t have a problem identifying their job. not reality. Here’s the catch. I eventually realized no external event or outside force had the authority to tell me who I am. creators struggle to embrace their title. If they fix pipes. I often thought that meant I’m not really a writer. Accept Your Identity You see. they’re a doctor. While being pub5 . It’s a dream. Yet for some reason. Perhaps I’m just a pretend writer. I couldn’t accept that. though—and it’s why I struggled to embrace the title: I’ve never published a book. Prideful. it’s a second. It’s a vocation—albeit for many of us. Just like I’m also an attorney and a husband and a son and a friend.

This story has been repeated in the lives of countless creators. Define Your Identity Whether you’re a writer. or widely recognized. who experienced little success while he was alive. or published. No one would claim he wasn’t a writer while working at his craft. Vincent van Gogh’s genius wasn’t recognized until years after he died. his compositions remained unheralded until after his death. It’s not even the finish line. It’s the same for all creators. that condescending voice in your head—tell you otherwise. publishers. It is a reality you must embrace. 6 . or an actor: embrace your title. or a musician. but is now considered one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century. Don’t let anyone—critics. or a painter. Being a creator is not an identity others provide. The first and most important element within the art of creating is accepting your identity: you are a creator. But every time he scribbled a note on a page. It is not a truth imparted by accolades. Your identity is not defined by anything or anyone other than you. Some writers are published. agents.lished is great. That fact doesn’t disqualify someone as a writer. Although Bach was a well-known organist. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never been signed. but many are not. Yet wasn’t he an artist in his time? The same could be said of Franz Kafka. Proclaim it is true. it’s not the starting line. It’s one step in the long journey of writing. Plenty of the best creators remained undiscovered until long after their death. he was fulfilling his vocation as a composer.

Step into your identity. And remind yourself often. I am a creator. I am a creator. I am a creator. Speak it into the world. Questions to Consider • Do you struggle accepting your identity as a creator? • If you could define your identity. what would it be? • Have you allowed others to dictate your identity? • Are you prepared for a lifetime of creating without accompanying praise? 7 .

I told the driver to drop me off at the McDonald’s by the ocean. $20 a night. I sat at McDonald’s for an hour. I rode a ferry across the Bali Sea. A 19-year-old cashier offered to let me sleep at his flat outside of Kuta. because it was 20 cents cheaper than a regular taxi. The first was too expensive—$50 a night. the sky opened—a flash monsoon—my body and belongings instantly soaking. So I told my friend thanks and got a room. I found one several blocks away and sent a few e-mails. But I was wet and tired. Traveling to Bali from East Java. It wasn’t far away. I ventured back into the monsoon to find an internet café. so instead I asked if he would help me find a hotel. After dropping off my bag. But it didn’t let up. Then I jumped onto a motorscooter taxi. I responded with a description of one particularly memorable experience. At $40 a night. a friend e-mailed me. Ten seconds later. Then I boarded a small. maybe a mile. drying off and waiting out the rain. Through the narrow. Back into the rain. the second was also too much. While 8 . flooded streets. The third was still a lot. It sounded like a proposition. asking about a trip I took to Bali. we stopped at a few different hotels. Creators Create Second Element: Several years ago. crowded van to Kuta Beach. back onto a motor scooter.

I got to work. Although I didn’t know all the details I would include—or even the generalities. She tried. so I shook my head. for that matter—I had an idea. She spoke. told her no. Over the next few weeks. a woman on a motor scooter—long dark hair. made a clumsy U-turn. and returned to my hotel. Clearly I enjoyed writing the e-mail. I was discouraged and disheartened. but I only wrote two more stories. Or. At that pace. And that was all I needed. but again I couldn’t understand. facing a crucial question: as a creator. It’s embarrassing to admit. Over the next year and a half. but her voice was too quiet. Inspired. By the third or fourth read. a blue poncho flapping in the wind—drove past me. and pulled beside me. I kept coming back to it. A book of stories from a three-month trip I took around the world. will I create? 9 . I thought it was all I needed. I struggled to push the concept forward. So much so that after sending it. I stood at a crossroads. From that story a larger idea was birthed. I calculated it would take five years to complete the book. I asked her to repeat herself.walking back to the hotel. and asked if I wanted to sleep with her. I jumped back. it dawned on me: I could turn this into a story. She stumbled off the scooter. I developed the e-mail into a two-thousand-word story. shoved her face close to mine. I thought she needed help. so I leaned in close. at least. What began as an exciting idea quickly became a burden that was slowly crushing my spirit.

but it also consumed nearly all of my free time. While staying healthy was important to me. For years. and none to writing. theories or ideas or dreams. Brainstorming and dreaming. After much internal debating. Get Practical Over the years. that meant changing my priorities and readjusting my schedule. A month later. At first it felt strange not going to the gym those two mornings. if creators do not actually create. But I was determined to stick with it. I had another chapter to show for it. a fiancé. Creators create. With a demanding job. Once I made the decision. After determining I would. My priorities were grossly imbalanced. I would wake at five o’clock and write for two hours. I had been going to the gym at six o’clock every morning. This routine kept me fit.This question is the basis for the second element within the art of creating. I had to face the truth. writing was too. I knew that to write consistently. But nothing matters. Yet I devoted all of my attention to exercising. While it’s obvious. imagining and theorizing. What 10 . I immediately put it into practice. and little extra time. I needed to set aside time throughout the week to actually write. I had to get practical. I decided that two mornings a week. I’ve noticed creators love talking about ideas. it’s also critical. in fact. create.

and excited about the future. now only took a month. Create. I went from three writing sessions a week to five. All because I started doing what I was born to do. My perspective was transformed. regular may seem hard to achieve. Three weeks later. Make the Sacrifice Of course. That extra session quickly paid off. I had written a draft of the entire book. Then I injured my shoulder while lifting weights. I went from taking a year and a half to write three chapters to writing ten chapters (and rewriting the first two chapters) in four months. Overnight. you must create. The same could be said for someone with a demanding job or enrolled in school or juggling any number of priorities.had taken six months before. There’s no way to avoid this one simple fact: as a creator. If you have young children. But I also sensed it was time to take another step toward rebalancing my priorities. the pace of creating depends upon one’s life situation. Not every once in a while. Within six weeks. but regularly. more energized. 11 . And creating felt good. Life gets in the way of creating. I had written the fifth chapter. Literally. And it had a title: Attempt Life. I upped my two writing sessions to three a week. The sixth chapter was finished three weeks after that. I was happier.

Unless you’re creating consistently. It’s like preparing dinner from scratch. You must be willing to rebalance your life. you will not create effectively. So I direct the question to you: As a creator. the better you are at creating. Whether it means waking before sunrise or sitting at your desk long after everyone else in the house has fallen asleep.Regardless of the obstacles. 12 . will you do what is necessary to create? Will you make the changes? Will you make the sacrifices? If not. what’s holding you back? Is it discovering motivation? Embrace your identity. Is it setting a goal? Pay attention to the third element. Not just occasionally. but regularly. will you create? I suspect I know your answer. every creator must answer the all-important question: as a creator. will I create? Put another way. creators need to make the necessary changes to create. As a creator. It’s like exercising a muscle. because the more you create. Is it finding time? It’s usually finding time. you must readjust your schedule and sacrifice lesser priorities.

Questions to Consider • As a creator. will you create? • Are you giving sufficient priority to creating? • What are the practical steps you need to take to begin creating regularly? • What will you have to sacrifice? 13 .

No confusion about your task. but a book. Creators Set Goals Third Element: All you need to begin creating is an idea. Impose an End Date A dreaded. an idea only takes you so far. It’s likely you will meander and eventually lose steam. But without a plan. You’re not simply taking photos. you’re defining your completed creation. There are three important aspects of goal setting. You’re identifying what it will look like when it’s finished. your efforts will likely result in random pieces. disjointed fragments left for another day. a 20. You’re no longer writing stories. While it only takes an idea to begin. There will be no mistaking what you’re working toward. Define Your Completed Creation By setting a goal. including 14 . Until you define your completed creation. You’re not just crafting songs. but an album. but creating an exhibit. it takes a goal to finish. but necessary part of goal-setting is imposing an end date. Let’s be honest: most people.000 foot perspective. Creators set goals to define the extent of their creation. whether it will be a thirteen-chapter book or a twelve-song album or a series of paintings.

I knew if I wanted to reach it (and I was going to reach it). All because we did what we were 15 . hate deadlines. As a result. end dates are necessary for one simple reason: they put your mind on notice that your creation is a priority and all other activities will have to adjust accordingly.yours truly. we are affirmed. I was determined to complete my book in six months. but finishing the book more than two months ahead of my self-imposed deadline. Despite these concerns. They create stress and expectations and the potential for failure. When I began writing in the mornings. They foster an incentive to create. I ended up not only meeting the goal. It feels good to accomplish a goal. Because every time we accomplish. They are a map showing us how to find a better life. we are driven to continue forward. Foster an Incentive to Create While goals may be intimidating. But by verbalizing the goal—by committing to it—I prioritized it. we are motivated to work harder. I would have to continue waking at five o’clock and writing. Goals cast within us a better vision of our future. Some creative types fear deadlines because they ignore the influence of inspiration. Every goal stirs an internal motivation. a better version of ourselves. It seemed like a difficult goal and I feared it wasn’t possible. We feel better about ourselves. they are also motivating.

And we set a goal to do it. goals. do you have a sense of what the completed version will look like? • Would imposing end dates help you complete projects? • What does it feel like when you accomplish a goal? 16 . There’s no doubt about it. But with an idea. the only thing standing between you and your creation is time.born to do. Goal setting is difficult. and a commitment to create. Questions to Consider • Have you ever had an idea but failed to create it? • When you begin creating.

Every piece of pottery begins as a chunk of clay. The cure to feeling overwhelmed is focusing not on the big picture. And to move forward from there. Stillness. 17 . A single color or word or movement. and stare at a blinking cursor on a white screen. Limit Your Perspective Creators must recognize every creation begins with a single step. The first paragraph. Even terrifying. If I’m being honest. I couldn’t focus on the fact that I had thirteen chapters to write. step by step by step. Instead. too daunting to consider. I sit at my desk. The unavoidable fact is that all creations start as nothing. The first chord. When I set out to write a book. open my laptop. The first lyric. The first color. Every painting begins as an empty canvas. but on the task at hand. A single note. Silence. It’s intimidating to start with nothing. Creators Focus Fourth Element: Every time I begin a new project. Emptiness. it’s always a scary moment. It was too much work to comprehend. Every book begins as a blank page. Every album begins with silence.

it allowed me to ignore the pressure of writing a book and. this is known as outlining. I got on his motorbike and we drove through a sea of rice fields. Think of a landscape as a series of mini-goals. I realized. I needed to attempt life. Arrange the Landscape A helpful method to encourage limited-perspective thinking is by arranging the landscape. Looking for action and adventure. But then I injured myself and everything stopped. Mentally. I focused on a single chapter. I wrote this for the first chapter: Stuck in a house all alone. If I wanted to enjoy the next three months. When outlining my book. something I could wrap my mind around. There’s a debate over how much detail to include in an outline. it’s sufficient. It was enough to get me started. instead. 18 . That seemed doable.I limited my perspective. The concept is to break your creation into definable pieces—small parts that will make up the whole. Further detail can only help. For instance. this was the best experience of the trip. Recount previous three-weeks of traveling around Bali. In writing. I wrote a paragraph describing the story I wanted to tell and the lesson I wanted to illustrate in each chapter. When my friend Mono returned. Bread crumbs leading to your prize. channel my energies onto a single task. looking at the night sky. he asked if I wanted to go for a ride. I needed to let go of my expectations and look for meaning in every moment. My opinion is that as long as it provides a starting point. yet it was unplanned.

Without it. Focus is essential for every creator.000 words. I wrote thirteen stories—65. I set out to write one chapter every three to four weeks. It’s like breathing.From this paragraph. For example.000-word story. That felt manageable. you slowly nudge the ball forward. 19 . And from thirteen similar paragraphs. This is because you’ll have another minigoal ahead of you. Arranging the landscape provides the following benefits: • It helps you determine how much time to dedicate to each portion of the project. You’ll know exactly where to go next. Regardless of your experience level. • It gives you victories throughout the course of a project instead of a single celebration. focus is a necessary skill for every creator. Because with it. I developed a 4. • It establishes a process by which you can quickly move from one completed portion of a project to the next. Every time you complete a mini-goal you’ll feel great. because you’ve accomplished something tangible. you won’t last long. toward completion of your creation. instead of writing a book in six months.

Questions to Consider • Do you struggle to focus on the task at hand? • What does it feel like when you face your tools with nothing but an idea? • How does limiting your perspective help you focus? • Why does arranging the landscape help channel your creativity? 20 .

to avert our eyes. The last thing we want to do is to sit in front of a laptop and stare at a blank screen. Other than discouragement. Creators Avoid Distractions Fifth Element: A growing number of us are waking to our obsession with distractions. Because engaging means giving. Creators must avoid distractions at all costs. and giving is costly. Or place our hands into a chunk of formless clay. or browsing the Internet every free moment at work—distraction is an epidemic. We fear boredom. It’s a nightmare. It prevents us from turning ideas into reality. 21 . because it surreptitiously steals our focus. Or stand in front of an empty canvas. But giving is also the most rewarding thing we can do with our time. distraction is the chief enemy of every creator. exceedingly more than any momentary distraction. Whether checking social media while waiting for a train. to grab a phone or check the news or browse YouTube or look at social media—to do anything but engage with our creation. Or hold a guitar in a room filled with silence. And it’s destroying our will to create. or making a phone call while walking down the block. our inclination is to distract ourselves. because we’ve grown accustomed to living a distracted existence. Avoid Distractions When it’s just us and our tools.

Perhaps this means writing on a computer without wi-fi. For me. especially when I’m 22 . Because distractions leave us empty. Because distractions take a back seat once you begin creating. It’s always a deception. So with every ounce of strength. Make no mistake. or working in a room all alone. or turning off your cell phone before sitting down. or ending a bad relationship. Distractions fade and focus emerges. isolate yourself. a good morning looks like this: I wake at five o’clock. put on pants and a sweater.It convinces us that something better. Isolate Yourself When creating. Hole away from any possible distraction. But it’s necessary for your success as a creator. it will hurt. But there is an easy solution. These simple steps have profound implications. awaits our attention. Distractions take what is most valuable as a creator and renders it useless. This can be difficult. Like kicking a nicotine addiction. or weaning off caffeine. with nothing to show. and begin writing—without checking e-mail or the news or social media. It will be painful. Force Yourself to Start The true challenge is always beginning. It lays waste to it. But it’s always a lie. Every single time. brush my teeth. force yourself to start. something easier.

when everything around you stops. But all is not lost. 23 . Before I get distracted. I suspect it’s also true for you. it’s also important throughout the day. At 5:15. So if I happen to get distracted. Embrace Boredom Avoiding distractions means loving silence. Stop and allow your mind to relax. I easily slip into distraction. I’ll quickly e-mail the idea to myself. No matter what.tired and uninspired. While this is particularly true during the time you’ve set aside to create. it only has the potential to disrupt me for several minutes. And once I start. I’ll come up with a concept for a blog post or even a book. then return to it one morning several weeks or even months later. I’m like a beam of light. I force myself to start. The next time you feel bored or lonely. I begin writing. becoming comfortable with nothing. Because it’s in these moments. embracing boredom. On bad mornings. Many of my ideas arrive when I’m in the shower or walking to the train—the two daily activities that involve the fewest distractions for me. that your mind awakens and you finally have the space to brainstorm. don’t reach for a phone or magazine or computer. even on the tough mornings. and run with it until the shower ends or I reach the train. because I’ve created a fail-safe.

and you will later harvest into creations. By developing the discipline and skills to avoid distractions.Boredom is the ground from which ideas sprout. you ensure not only quality creating time. but a life of overflowing ideas. Questions to Consider • Which distractions are the most difficult for you to avoid? • What practical steps can you take to avoid distractions while creating? • What does it feel like once you’ve forced yourself to start? • Are you comfortable with boredom? 24 . It’s not easy. but it’s necessary.

laziness. Perhaps it was fear of putting myself out there. 25 . lack of focus. Stalking us. not wanting to exert the time and effort into something that might not pay off. Ready to pounce. exposing myself to public criticism and failure. And it afflicts all of us at one point or another. Defeat resistance not by battling. Stop Fighting and Start Creating Instead of fighting resistance. the only sure way to neutralize it is by simply bypassing it. resistance comes in many forms. it prevented me from pursuing my dreams for a long time. but by creating. Unless we have a strategy for dealing with resistance. or insecurity. Waiting for a moment of weakness. dragged far from our dreams. exhaustion. writer’s block. It may have even been insecurity about whether I had anything worthwhile to offer. Whether pain. resistance is any internal pressure keeping us from creating. I convinced myself to step back. Whatever the reason. But every time I took a step forward. fear. For each of us. Maybe it was a bit of laziness. Creators Bypass Resistance Sixth Element: For ten years I dreamed of starting a blog. Stop wrestling. At its core. we will find ourselves caught in a current. It’s the dark enemy of every creator.

you declare victory. I disagree. It’s every creator’s dream. I would suggest this attitude is simply a justification for surrendering to the resistance. appearing and disappearing unpredictably. More than half the battle is showing up. It cannot be the engine that propels us forward. Because inspiration is fickle. If you’ve built into your schedule specific times to create. In fact. When inspiration is at our backs. it’s already won. even if you do nothing but sit and stare at your tools. you conquer it. If resistance can prevent you from appearing. Stop struggling. Simply appear before your tools and begin working. Just as distractions disappear once you start. songs appear. always show up—even if the resistance is strong. but creating. The antidote to resistance is not confronting. The moment you create. Inspiration cannot drive us to create. 26 . But the moment you arrive. Don’t Wait for Inspiration A common critique of the show-up theory is that creating should be driven by inspiration. Never allow the resistance to keep you in bed or in front of the television or stuck in the social media quagmire. not discipline or sheer willpower. It’s a form of passive defeat. But it’s inconsistent. It comes and goes like the wind. resistance flees from action. That is its most effective tool to keep you from creating.Stop thrashing. the brush glides. life is wonderful—words flow.

It wasn’t until experimenting with the other perspective—creating because I’m a creator—that I began consistently writing. I once bought into the perspective that to write. I had to first feel inspired. Creators cannot create because they are inspired to create. little got written. That sinister voice whispering in our ear. I would wait. the more we do it. Perhaps it’s time for you to make it better. Waiting for inspiration is like waiting for God to improve your life. Silence the Internal Critic For many of us. Most creators figure the critic will eventually go away. But then the inspiration would seemingly random times. Creators must create because they are creators. for inspiration to strike again. telling us everything we cannot do. You have nothing to offer. it will vanish like a pass27 . and so would the words. For years. the strongest form of resistance is the internal critic. Given enough time and success. It’s not surprising. Like every learned skill. I would get a burst of inspiration and write a story. but the quality of my work dramatically improved. sometimes months. the better we are at doing it. It’s not worth the effort. You’re not good enough. Not only did I produce more material than ever before.

The internal critic never goes away. but with action. but by creating. Almost daily I hear it. Silence the internal critic not by reasoning. And almost daily I silence it. always waiting. Questions to Consider • What form of resistance do you struggle with most? • What has resistance kept you from creating? • Do you ever wait for inspiration before creating? • What does the internal critic say to keep you from your tools? 28 . Not with words or logic or season. always ready to deflate our dreams. you must stop struggling with resistance. As a creator. But ask any long-time creator and they will tell you it’s simply not true. bypass it. It is always watching. Instead.

keeping us from making progress. we create nothing at all. Instead of creating any material. At least you’re creating. Perfection is the leash preventing us from breaking free. knowing you may end up tossing half of it. This fear often reappears throughout a project. Test. it’s discouraging. This means simply getting it out. this shows itself as writing and rewriting a single sentence until it reads perfectly. As a writer. Let It Flow The better way to create. It’s the chain keeping us restrained. And it needs to go. is allowing your creativity to flow. Not only is this approach to creating incredibly inefficient. Creators Abandon Perfection Seventh Element: Perhaps the greatest fear of every creator is facing their tools—whether keyboard or pen or brush or guitar—and not knowing how or where to begin. It’s the dam holding us back. 29 . and the more efficient and enjoyable method. I’ve wasted entire mornings reworking a paragraph until it sounded just right. But at least you’re making progress. At my worst. Experiment.

whether leash or chain or dam. I don’t know about you. I will write the beginning of the next chapter or section or paragraph. You can always come back later. write a sentence or two of the next chapter before you quit. I call this finishing with a start. start at the most natural place. Because I can turn a sloppy first draft into a good second draft. (More about that element later. Do whatever is necessary to get it down. Put whatever makes the most sense or skip it altogether. I can create a great third (or tenth) draft. In fact. Only then do I give myself permission to leave. As a writer.Brainstorm. Be Sloppy To be sure. I try to end every writing session at a place where I can easily start the next day. but I would much rather have a sloppy first draft than a few well-crafted sentences. do yourself a favor and finish where it will be easy to pick up later. Finish with a Start Because starting is harder than finishing. And from a good second draft. Pick an analogy. this means instead of walking away at the end of a chapter. and visualize yourself tearing it away. this will result in sloppy first efforts.) Creators must make peace with sloppy first efforts. 30 . If you don’t know where to begin. move through it. If you get hung up somewhere.

By finishing with a start. It hinders our creative energies and hampers our spirits. For creators. you are assisting tomorrow’s version of yourself. Questions to Consider • Do you ever find yourself stuck perfecting a particular point? • What would it look like to let your ideas flow? • Have you accepted producing sloppy first efforts? • How would finishing with a start help you the next time you returned to your tools? 31 . Let it go. It keeps us from moving forward at a swift pace. perfection is the enemy of progress. Abandon perfection.

failing to refine. You will expect one thing. 32 . Instead. First efforts rarely produce much value. it will be a painful process full of disappointment and letdown. Creators Refine Eighth Element: Abandoning perfection and refining are two sides of the same coin. Not create art. Otherwise. we must continually refine to create art. shows little care for his finished creation. when a first effort produces something spectacular. Like a sculptor chiseling stone. And it takes time. The sooner you accept this fact—and abandon hopes of scribbling a masterpiece—the easier creating will be for you. Adjust Expectations Creating is an art. painter. This isn’t to say we cannot experience moments of genius. Know it’s necessary. every creator must refine to uncover beauty. It is a craft. actor. A creator who only produces sloppy first efforts. or writer. Mentally prepare for it. Regardless of whether you’re a songwriter. dancer. but get another. You cannot have one without the other. But most of the time. he only desires to process his thoughts. refining is an essential aspect of the creative process.

Pour as much or more time into it as you do creating. But by the end of it. I did not plan for my friend to leave without me for the day abandon me alone. gaps in the story. Develop a Process Refining must become just as much a part of your creative process as the actual work of creating. I had a solid second draft. (Additions are in italics. Over the next few weeks. I would read through the chapter over and over. so I often found the cadence off. refining is not accomplished by a single pass. I had quickly written it. the word choice awkward. It must become second nature. The rewrite usually took an entire Saturday—ten hours of focused attention. The process I developed writing Attempt Life involved editing each chapter at least ten times before allowing another person to read it. 33 . Not splitting open my toe against a marble doorsill I did not plan to get injured. I planned for adventure. and unnecessary detail and verbiage. Not telling my friend. threemonth journey around the world. your work will remain incomplete.) Before setting off on a once-in-a-lifetime. Mono. deletions are crossed out. To go a step further. Without it. Here is an example of the edits I incorporated into the opening paragraph of the first chapter. making changes on paper and incorporating them later. The toughest edit was always the first draft.It takes work to strip away the messiness and arrive at a finished product.

That is why it’s necessary not only to build refining into your process. but to solicit feedback from others. But as I nursed a bloody toe in an unfinished house in a remote village in East Java lay on the floor. particularly those you trust and respect. looking at the back of a wood shingle roof. This was my process and it worked for me. it’s nearly impossible to view your work impartially—to step away from the noise and hear clearly. unfinished house in a remote village in the middle of East Java. One of the chief hindrances is our tendency to form emotional bonds with our creations. Your process will likely look different. If you cannot refine your own work—perhaps you have a hard time seeing your first efforts as anything but perfect—this is even more important.Not spending twelve hours stuck And I certainly did not plan to ever be stranded inside an empty. Solicit Feedback As a creator. before commencing beginning my career as an attorney—might not turn out exactly as I had anticipated. Otherwise you will view every piece 34 . But I must offer a forewarning. What’s important is developing a process that works for you. I considered the possibility that this trip around the world I had my carefully and methodically planned trip—this epic life adventure voyage after five years of struggling through life and hard work and law school. You’re going to need to develop a thick skin.

though. others will not. my dad. My dad has a poet’s ear for cadence. Josh Rogers. They simply want to help you make the best art possible. Editing is a break from the hard work of writing. Josh is a nitpicker when it comes to word choice and grammar. My wife. more than flattery that strokes our ego. sometimes their suggestions hurt. we must value truth that hurts. and my friend. There are three people I trust as editors. Continue Moving Forward One last point. For that reason. 35 . even if it means hurt feelings.of feedback as a personal attack. it’s easier. I do my best to resist becoming defensive. and he has a keen sense of story. For me. While you might see your creations as your children. never let refining keep you from creating new material. To that end. they are unafraid to share their opinions. making them excellent editors. but suggested improvements. That may result in suggestions you find painful. Refining is different than creating. I have to be honest. We must always strive for beauty. And trust me. making them a tour de force editing team. All three of them are great writers. I have reworked entire chapters because of her feedback. But because I trust them. because I know they are only trying to help. My wife is a big-thinker who spots weaknesses and inconsistencies. That is why you must see feedback not as criticisms or critiques. Excellence must be our passion as creators. Each has a complementary strength.

Take four weeks and do them simultaneously. don’t spend two weeks writing. I continued to treat it as sacred. That way. If you’re a writer. And make sure it includes refining. Always keep at it. But nonetheless develop a process. before I went to bed—I edited. then two weeks editing. Questions to Consider • Have you accepted that your first efforts are rarely perfect? • How important is refining to your process? • Who are the people you trust and respect enough to receive their feedback? • Is refining easier than creating for you? 36 . sitting at a doctor’s office. The process I developed involved writing for two hours in the mornings and editing during free moments throughout the day and over the weekends. always move the ball forward. This is particularly important if you’re refining throughout the course of a project. Any time I had to wait—riding a train to work. There’s no doubt your process will look different than mine.No matter the season. I protected my morning writing time.

it’s usually because of laziness. a child never becoming an adolescent. a teenager never reaching adulthood. There are a thousand reasons creations remain unfinished. Abandoning a creation is the same way. It cuts short any potential impact upon the lives of others. or fear. Nearly all of them are excuses for failure. Leaving a project incomplete. it dims those around it. Whenever I have stopped creating. It’s not simply the loss of a dream. The death of a dream not only suffocates a single flame. an infant never growing into a toddler. pain. Identify the Obstacles I don’t mean to suggest there are never legitimate reasons to quit a project or even stop creating for a period. Those are personal decisions. 37 . And those are terrible excuses to quit anything. Discovering we are not up to the task. But before quitting. Creators Do Not Quit Ninth Element: Every creator dreads the prospect of failure. A creation confined to a dream is a tragedy. you should first identify the obstacles keeping you from creating. And I’m certainly not here to judge anyone. It’s a stillborn.

Like pain. But this is perhaps the worst thing you can do. creating can only help. And for whatever reason. but it will cause feelings buried deep inside to surface. pick up a piece of art that inspires you—a book or movie or painting—and remind yourself that it started as an idea. Consider my thoughts in the final element. Creating is the healthiest outlet for pain and hurt. creating often surfaces our deepest fears. Whatever fear you’re facing. anger and confusion. If not. You might even find your greatest work through your deepest wounds. Pain is a more complex issue. It’s a part of being human. or the inherent vulnerability required. Perhaps it’s the risk of failure involved. refusing to quit is the most import38 . there’s no excuse for laziness. loneliness and isolation. Hopefully reading through this book helps put it to rest. away from expression. When you’re hurt. it should not keep you from creating. it has the effect of driving us inward. Whether caused by heartbreak. Not only will creating help you process your emotions. depression. it’s only natural to close yourself off from the world. Whatever you’re going through. But at one point or another. fear is also a complicated issue. everyone suffers from it. the death of a loved one. or the overwhelming nature of an incomplete project. I’ve definitely found that to be true. Refuse to Quit Other than embracing your identity as a creator and choosing to create.Of course. or a personal mistake.

Stopping amidst the craziness is not only difficult. Let me be honest. In a world consumed with destruction. we abandon our calling. The big house with the white picket fence. Between work and school and social media and advertising and television and everything else involved in a twenty-first century life. It wants nothing more than to leave you empty with nothing to give. This is deeper than distraction. We are called to lift up and encourage and inspire. it’s seemingly impossible. but it’s our natural tendency to quit. We are called to give. we are called to create. By quitting. There’s no energy.ant element within the art of creating. To take the widest and easiest and most well-traveled path. There’s no time. We are constantly comparing. though: not only does the world want you to quit. To do exactly what others tell us. obsessively critiquing. Second. This is the never-ending game of consumerism and ma39 . This is the boob tube and the YouTube. the world. This is the nine to five. There’s no space. This is about our animalistic instinct to follow. This is different than laziness. Yet it’s our calling as creators. The two cars with the two kids with the twoweeks’ vacation. frantically catching up. it’s no wonder most of us stop before we even start. our tendency. First.

This is the sought-after. And none of it includes creating. whether we give into our nature. But we do choose whether we surrender to the current. leads away from creating. Questions to Consider • Have you ever quit a creation? • What are the obstacles preventing you from completing a project? • How does the world keep you from creating? • Are you projecting the life you want and chasing it? 40 . we have an obligation. It’s reality. a calling to carry forth our creation.terialism. Because they will try. both without and within. because creators cannot quit. Project the life you want and chase it. bringing it to completion. Creating is not just counter-cultural. Being a creator means choosing a different way of life. it’s counter-personal. Creators do not quit. It means not accepting. sacrificed-everything-for American dream. but projecting. And don’t let the world or even yourself get in the way. So you will have to try harder. It’s not a choice. a duty. doggedly pursued. Every inclination. Once inspired.

There’s rarely a thought given about sharing. sometimes intense. Perhaps you’re not ready for any of that. or 41 . Creators Share Tenth Element: The final element within the art of creating is controversial. It doesn’t always mean putting it online or publishing it or even sending it to family and friends. And we certainly don’t want to promote ourselves. it’s necessary. lonely existence. It keeps us awake at night. it’s more rewarding than anything in life. making it big doing something they love. the sometimes tender. Share with a Whisper Sharing doesn’t necessarily mean displaying your creation on the street corner. some of us prefer to remain anonymous. It causes discomfort to a lot of people. What we enjoy is the craft. art of forming something from nothing. but with others— to share. So here it goes. Creators have an obligation— not with themselves. Although it can be an isolated. including me. While many creators dream of fame and fortune. But just as creators must complete their work. It makes us nervous and fearful. so too must they bring it into the world and let others receive it. But like the other nine elements. We would rather avoid the attention. Let me begin with the premise and build up.

What’s important is that you share it with someone. It’s about a five-year period of my life and the journey I traveled healing from the wounds of my past. you are sharing your heart. In its present form.maybe your art requires a certain setting or a particular context. By sharing your creation. comfortably content? 42 . it’s terrifying. Acknowledge Your Fears The prospect of revealing yourself to the world—even more. it was never intended for a larger audience. Why risk the criticism and humiliation and embarrassment? What good could come of it? Why not remain locked inside. I wrote a personal memoir called Rewinding Forward. And that’s okay. But I’m glad I did. To this day. It’s too delicate a subject. and to help those closest to me better understand what I went through growing up. it’s profitable. No. Start with the person you love and trust most. Sharing your heart is always rewarding. Because those I love now know me better. Yet I was still afraid to share it. It was primarily written as a therapeutic tool to make sense of my story. That’s fine. It’s a brutally honest book. I have only shared it with a handful of people. Even when painful. one in which I bear my soul. Too exposing. Anyone. your most vulnerable part—is scary. Prior to writing Attempt Life.

perhaps a painful experience. I imagine I’ll experience similar emotions before meeting my first child. Only by acknowledging fear. In fact. and it must be dispelled with truth. because you’re literally changing your brain. moving it outside from inside. freeing it from our past and our emotions. We also see that many of our fears are based upon a lie. such as: I can’t do this. we see it naked and alone. We exert so much energy trying to avoid fear. and before dropping him or her off at school for the first time. It’s our body’s response to a perceived threat—whether it’s real or fake. I will not fail. Each lie is rooted in insecurity. No one will like me. but I remember feeling pretty frightened before my first date. Measured against its source. I’ll fail. it’s usually surprisingly small. They are hard and they are scary. But they are nonetheless necessary. I’ll be rejected.I’m not sure about you. I would go so far as to say the most important decisions do not come easy. I will be liked. I would suggest the most significant events in life are difficult. I won’t be rejected. When we externalize fear. and before proposing to my wife. Tell yourself: I can do this. can we move beyond it. But fear is simply an internal reaction to a risk of danger. You’re reprogramming your 43 . And do it often. I felt the same way before kissing a girl for the first time. Yet fear remains.

And we must use it. Questions to Consider • Do you hesitate to share your creations? • Do you agree that by sharing your art. Our creations. It is our voice. And we. Sometimes it’s real and deep. the creators. Believe the World Needs You Nothing can keep us from sharing with the world—not fear. In an age of cynicism and doubt. And we need to put it in its place. fear is a distraction.thoughts. We need to declare victory over it. will do this the only way we know how: by sharing what flows from deep within. I’m not suggesting fear is irrelevant. there must be those proclaiming hope. you are sharing your heart? • What fears prevent you from taking the next step? • Do you believe you’re needed in the world? 44 . when nothing is sacred and nothing is beautiful. not distractions. But in most cases. It is our raft in the ocean. not anything—because the world desperately needs us. It’s a speed bump. not resistance. then move forward. It is our light in the darkness.

paul@paulperkins. Or feel free to reach out to me. I honestly believe every one of us has a story to tell. and begin creating. head over to my blog. let me know. if you’re interested in sharing thoughts or exchanging ideas or simply getting to know like-minded folks. face your tools. If there’s anything I can do to help. If you ever find yourself stuck of paulperkins. Even since writing it. Please don’t be shy about twitter. Use it as a resource. Lastly. looking for pointers and encouragement and just good company. and the world needs to hear it. I’m always happy to hear from other The Art of Creating Community: 45 . I hope you will reference this book. I’ve returned to its pages for guidance and reminders. I wish you all the best in your creative endeavors.Final Thoughts Now is the moment when the rubber meets the road— when you put away this book. There’s an entire community of people like you.

how-to instructions. Paul Perkins shares the ten most important lessons he’s learned to becoming a productive and prolific creator. With an accessible and engaging voice. DC. building a structure. he covers all of the bases. or cooking a meal. molding a sculpture. and faith. Senate and then at the White House. After graduating from college. Whether writing a great American novel.Everyone was born to create. Hilary. where he attended law school and worked in the U. painting a portrait. He and his wife. Connect with Paul on his blog at paulperkins. Cover Image © Anteromite/Shutterstock . taking a photo. constructing a poem. crafting a tune. All of us dream of creating. speaking sometimes painful truth about how to break free of what holds us back and unleash our creative potential. art. where he writes about living intentionally in relationships. and outside-the-box ideas. From the simple (you are a creator) to the difficult (creator’s bypass resistance). he moved to Washington.S. In The Art of Creating. Paul Perkins grew up outside of Portland. The Art of Creating provides concrete steps. now live and practice law in DC. The challenge is turning our dreams into reality. After reading it—and likely re-reading it many times over—you will walk away knowing exactly what it takes to create your dreams. And you will be motivated to do it. And everyone includes you.