Creative thinking is distributed normally across the population. However, much of this creative thought does not deviate far from the spectrum of other people’s creative thought. This can be evidenced by an individual thinking of a “great idea” only to turn on the TV, open a book, look in a store, or any other place where creativity ends up, and find their great idea already in production. This seems like quite the phenomenon to the unaware, and it’s also not unheard of for the suspicious to engage in legal action in these scenarios, swearing that this other person must have stolen the idea from them. “How else could it be?” they think, forgetting that they’re not ever truly segmented as individuals but a part of a greater whole that’s constantly shifting and adding on to what came before.
One of the first things a halfway-decent writing program will teach is the value of an idea. It’s not exactly what you want or may expect to hear: Ideas are worthless, that is, until you find a way to implement them. Until then, you’re not a writer or the next great inventor of a social networking site, you’re just a person with ideas – and given how distributed the ability to make creative ideas is and what those ideas usually are, that just makes you a person.
So you start plotting. You gather your tools.
While creative thinking is distributed normally, creative output is not. In fact, seventy percent of the population scores a “zero” in the Pareto Distribution for creative output. That means if you are putting in the effort to transform your ideas into something concrete, you’re automatically in a thirty percent minority – and that’s without any other defining traits.
But creative output, of course, is an infinitely broad domain. So what the creative person ends up doing might very well single him or her out in a known group. You become the artist in the family. Maybe you’re the only one you know who is serious about writing creatively. People take a pause when they learn you’re in a band yet you claim to be a grown adult. But while you’re being placed in smaller and smaller groups, what doesn’t single you out is the collective of creative output, of which the numbers suddenly become very large and competitive in the marketplace – because like how creative output can be plotted along a Pareto Distribution, the output itself is plotted again along the same distribution in the marketplace. So simultaneously the world can seem estranged for the creative while also seeming like it’s all before an insurmountable wall of creative others toward any kind of success.
“What do those people have that I don’t have?” the creative may think. It’s not exactly a creative thought, but a thought of human nature.
While other creatives may have more skill or intelligence, that’s not necessarily true. Your creative output may be infinitely better than what is already out there – the world doesn’t know, and the truth is that what you create doesn’t even have to be better. But the difference that separates your creative output from success, however you may define it, may come down to a persistence to give your gift to the world.
Think about it all like this, as though you can view the timeline of all creatives objectively: Would there ever be a sadder tale than that of the creative who bows defeated before the wall a moment before that one instance, just that one instance, takes place which would propel him or her into a positive feedback loop toward success? Think about how many creative people in any domain there are out there who are acting on their idea at any given time, and the odds are that there are not just a few who bowed down at the last moment and lived that sad tale unknowingly, but thousands. Those thousands who deprived the world of their gift! Those thousands who stopped persisting even though what they were doing gave their lives meaning – maybe because the misery in which they didn’t try was easier than the misery in which they did! What became of them? I have a pretty good idea, and I bet you do, too. You can feel what became of those poor souls even if you aren’t a creative, just imagine if you lost what was most important to you.
There’s nothing out there that promises that if you persist for even a thousand years that you’ll ever get to where you want to be, but just to be clear, the wall is deemed insurmountable only from the individual’s perspective. The wall in this metaphor is a community gathering of value. It’s important to remember that, and untold numbers of creatives, perhaps generations now, have been sold a lie about a bottomless treasure chest of the “self” and never make this distinction. Many gifted have died here, stuck in their own darkness, where not even logic or intelligence could save them from the trap. It’s no coincidence that the creative’s positive feedback loop toward success often coincides with the recognition of the value of others – It may be learning how to extend a hand even before someone extends a hand for you. It’s at this point the journey can begin away from seclusion. It’s at this point the creative may make a genuine offering to the world.