Serdar wrote a must-read blog post on the question “When do you know what you’re doing”? When are you doing your own thing, when are you not stuck in “tutorial hell,” and so forth. These are great questions, and I’d like to explain when I know what I’m doing.
I don’t think of it that way. Instead, I just keep going and learning.
For instance, when I wrote A Bridge to the Quiet Planet, I wanted to get back into writing fiction. I decided to write three novels and simply get better at it by doing it. As I write I learn, and of course I read, study, and consult with fellow writers. The sequel, A School of Many Futures was certainly a leap over the first novel on all accounts.
My worldbuilding books are journeys as well. Sure, I’ve got them down to a science, but each one is another learning experience, especially in terms of subject matter. As of late, desiring to improve my nonfiction writing, I’m working on developing a more organized “system” for nonfiction. Another leg of a journey that doesn’t end.
This is probably the influence of Agile on my mindset, but I’ve always been a “do it and keep going” type of person. It also means I never expect to “arrive” anywhere, just reach a plateau before the next climb. I don’t think I know what I’m doing, I just keep learning more and doing it.
Sometimes I do decide to quit a project or turn it into something else. That’s just the way life is. It’s not a failure, it’s a learning experience, it’s spare parts, it’s re-prioritizing. My journey takes a slightly different path.
This isn’t superior to the answers Serdar gets (which is best summed up by reading his post). This is what works for me, that journey of milestones, new goals always coming, pace changing, but in motion. In fact, this milestone-but-journey method isn’t even applied to all of my life. Different goals for different things, and it’s a difference I own and that is my responsibility.
Creatives – or anyone with aspirations, really – ultimately have to ask themselves the question how do I approach competency? It’s an important question, and one you’ll have to find the answer to. I can’t tell you what the answer is, nor can Serdar, or anyone you know. Anyone else trying to sell you a set of goals is delusional at best and wants something at worst.
So tell me how you measure success, how you stake out your creative goals. You know me, I’m on an eternal journey, and I’d love to learn.