At some point, you reach a place in your career where work that once felt difficult is now fairly simple and projects that would have kept you up all night several years ago are now quite manageable. You feel in total control of your process and mastery of your domain.
Sounds great, right? However, it’s in these moments that you are potentially in danger of slipping into stasis. Similar to muscles that aren’t exercised, when you don’t sufficiently challenge yourself, your creative process can atrophy.
In the book The Art of Possibility, Benjamin and Rosamund Zander relay a story about the great composer Stravinsky. His work was intentionally very challenging to play and required both remarkable technical skill and musical feel. He is once reported to have exclaimed, “I don’t want the sound of someone playing this passage, I want the sound of someone trying to play it.” Some of the best creative work occurs not when someone is in complete mastery of their domain but when they are operating just on the edge of it, taking risks, moving just a bit faster and beyond their technical capabilities.
As you consider your work right now, how in control do you feel, and do you believe that is a net positive or a danger to your body of work?
Don’t measure creative accomplishment. Measure creative growth.
Are you ever operating on the edge of your abilities? Where might you take a creative risk today?