Matt Farley on Creativity

In today's newsletter by Austin Kleon, he mentions an article portraying an artist called Matt Farley. The article appeared in The New York Times Magazine ( Austin quotes the following two paragraphs:

To Farley, creativity has always been a volume business. That, in fact, is the gist of “The Motern Method,” a 136-page manifesto on creativity that he self-published in 2021. His theory is that every idea, no matter its apparent value, must be honored and completed. An idea thwarted is an insult to the muse and is punished accordingly.

“If you reject your own ideas, then the part of the brain that comes up with ideas is going to stop,” he said. “You just do it and do it and do it, and you sort it out later.” Or, as the case may be, you don’t, but rather send it all out into the abyss, hoping that someday, somebody, somewhere will hear it.

In that article, the author Brett Martin cannot quite make up his mind about the quality of Farley's work:

Mostly I was trying to figure out whether I thought Farley was a bad guy. Did his scheme represent the inevitable cynical end product of a culture in the grips of algorithmic platforms? Or might it be a delightful side effect? Was his work spam or a kind of outsider art?

Whether or not Farley happens to produce some quality content among his quantitatively impressive body of work I can't quite tell. But, frankly, some of the song titles sound disgusting and he shouldn't outsorce all of his editing to his audience, which I feel he seems to be doing.

Honestly, there are parts in Martin's article that just sound so liberating to me. I knew the parable about the pottery class (that Austin also mentioned in that same newsletter) but for some reason the way that Matt Farley phrases it is certainly resonating super well with me. The 2 paragraphs quoted above had this very liberating effect on me. I certainly know the feeling that I have so many creative projects I could work on and for some reason I never seem to follow them through enough. It seems to be a powerful thought to me to just allow yourself to follow up on some idea for however much time you have on any given day (I am not a professional creative person). I think I tend to overthink what to work on and then I try to optimize rationally what makes most sense to work on and then I end up just doing nothing at all and feeling bad about it. However, I should in fact just work on the thing that comes to my mind first and just see what comes out. I never thought of myself as a perfectionist in the sense that I try to produce the perfect outcome but maybe I am a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to waiting for the right conditions to work on any project. I think that's something I can improve on.

I find this super motivating and I hope it can help me to just keep on working on all the ideas I have. I sometimes feel overwhelmed by all the possibilities for all the different projects I could work on. And then I end up just working on none of them at all and tend to have negative thoughts about it. This drains a lot of my energy. But instead, I could just use my energy to work on something positive, on something creative.

On the topic of quantity vs. quality, I very much liked the episode about Christoph Niemann on Netflix "Abstract: The Art of Design" series (can be watched for free here: The part starting at 35:30 ist super great, where he says: "I found that I need to develop these 2 personas, be a much more rutheless editor and then be a much more careless artist." I think in that sens Matt Farley certainly mastered one of two personas :D