Take Someone Behind the Scenes



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.

One of the simplest ways of communicating value is showing the effort that actually went into the work. That might involve literally showing the process of making it, though it might also be more biographical. You may ask yourself, and answer, questions like:

  • When did you first get the idea for this piece of work?

  • How did the idea start?

  • What did you see throughout this process?

  • Who influenced the work?

  • What parts of the work might have emerged from stories in your life?

  • What skills did creating this work require? If you had these skills already, how did you hone them? If you didn’t, how did you learn them or who did you work with?

  • How many times did you try making this work?

This process involves metacognition—thinking about how you think. If you find it too heavy a lift on your own, you can act as if you’re talking to your best friend about it. You could also enlist the help of a friend who might be available.

When you start to answer these questions, you’re taking someone behind the scenes of your work. You’re also learning to articulate the value of the work, based on what went into it. (To borrow an industrial analogy, this would be describing the raw material and the processing.) You could write it all up, or record a video, or prepare this communication in whichever media you feel most comfortable with.

When Michael Saviello talks about his work, he also offers to show it to the person he’s talking to. He allows them enough space and time to take it in, and he can see how they’re processing it. He doesn’t just plunk them down; he learns about the person. Sometimes, he even lets them sit in, watch him paint, and ask questions along the way.

Make Them Curious

If people had the attention span to sit for a few hours with your work, then certainly it would speak for itself. But, they don’t. Still, if they were curious to learn more, or knew how to help you, they would. If you experience a reluctance, hesitation, or fear of telling people about your work, it’s even a greater reason to try. The more reluctant you are to talk about your work, the more potential you’re blocking up.

Derek Sivers writes in Your Music, Your People, that when people ask you about your work, giving a boring answer is rude. I wouldn’t go that far, though I would agree that even just a minute of preparation could help. Sivers writes, “Before the conference, come up with one interesting sentence that says what you do—including a curious bit that will make them ask a follow-up question.” He gives the example of, instead of saying “I’m a bassist,” introducing yourself as “Bassist of the Crunchy Frogs—the worst punk bluegrass band ever. We’re headlining the showcase tonight. Our singer is a pirate.”

If I were talking about my book, for example, I wouldn’t say, “I’m an author,” I’d say something like, “I’m the author of Creative Doing, a book that debunks the biggest lie in creative thinking. It has 75 prompts to make the reader more creative. It’s the only book with a shape as a mascot.”

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