Set an Intention

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Updated November 3, 2022

You’re reading an excerpt of Creative Doing, by Herbert Lui. 75 practical techniques to unlock creative potential in your work, hobby, or next career. Purchase now for instant, lifetime access to the book.

Each of us has an impulse to make excellent things, to tinker, and to seek fulfillment and reward. We may also feel a need to express ourselves in order to gain a sense of comprehension or fulfillment. We want to tell our stories, like we have for hundreds of years, to make something that has a chance of lasting beyond our finite human lives, as well as to make a bid to connect with other people. We may also be driven by a deeper mission or through-line, to support or honor something or someone. We may want to give back to our community, or to find more fulfillment and reward in our jobs.

As you move forward, gaining momentum, you’ll face countless obstacles. You will need to do a simple, but very difficult, thing, which is to set an intention for your work. This transcends practice, technique, and experiments. What are you doing, and why are you doing it?

If we don’t make time to reflect on why we are creating, then political, economic, and social incentives all have a way of seeping in and causing us to make decisions based on their values. As Watterson said, “Selling out is usually more a matter of buying in. Sell out, and you’re really buying into someone else’s system of values, rules and rewards.”

The solution I propose here is an intention—your own position on what you want to do. In order to do that, you need to have an idea of your purpose as well. I know there are plenty of books out there that talk about how to do this, but my opinion is they complicate the whole matter. Nobody, no framework, no prompt, can figure out why except for you, so the only thing left to do is for you to do it and trust that you’ll figure it out along the way. Or as Ethan Hawke says, “There is no path till you walk it.”

Set a Mission

Commercial success and acceptance are both outside of your control. Aiming at those goals would be like trying to aim at the wind, instead of trying to ride with it and have it fill your sails.

Rather than succeed commercially, set out to do something for yourself. It could be as simple as trying to have as much fun as possible. As renowned record producer and recording artist Pharrell Williams says, “As long as I concentrate on the fun, it usually turns out cool. It’s when I become too worried about how it has to be, that’s when God spends a lot of time chuckling at me.”

Maybe you are setting out to express or expose some sort of truth, or to discover it, and to figure it out. Or you’re just trying to refine your techniques. Whatever it is—make it an internal mission, and not an external one.

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