5 Thoughts on The Creative Act by Rick Rubin

27 September 2023

I read Rick Rubin’s book without any preconditions so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’ve always admired Rubin for his work and the philosophy surrounding it, so I was sure I was onto something interesting when I picked this up.

The Creative Act: A Way of Being is not a go-to process that one needs to follow but rather a collection of essays that do not follow any rule in length or theme; here are five thoughts that have resonated with me.

Get up and do the work

There is this myth in the creative space that eureka will strike you and that you can only do great work when you are “inspired” as if it is some divine power looking after you. This is far from the truth — you need to get up and do the work. Stop sitting around and waiting until you’re “inspired”. Work needs thought, patience, and getting your hands dirty, not some divine intervention.

Creative skill is not reserved for the few

Rubin argues that creativity is something we are all born with. I tend to agree. It might vary from one person to another as if it’s placed on a spectrum and our background, education, and upbringing will all have an impact. But problem-solving and the act of creating is innate in all of us. You are constantly solving problems and creating without noticing whether it’s planning your morning commute to avoid traffic or planning your calendar for the week.

Have patience

“If there is a rule to creativity that’s less breakable than the others, it’s the need for patience is ever-present.” Patience is not equivalent to sitting around and waiting, but more about not giving up and giving art its time. Sometimes a project needs to sit and get relegated to the back of your mind before it can move forward. Some projects need more time spent on them. Just because a previous one took three days to complete doesn't mean that all should. And the duration spent doesn’t make it better than the other.

The more you produce, the better you’ll get

aka. practice makes perfect. Art is no different — the more you work, the better you will get at it. Rubin also writes that we shouldn’t get locked down into achieving perfection, because our next work will be better than the one at hand, which is better than its previous one. We are on a constant journey of learning and improving, no matter how great our work is.

If you don’t do it, someone else will

Rubin explains how our creative work is not ours, but merely handed over to us to share with the world. Everything we do is a collection of thoughts, influences, inspirations and lessons from the surrounding world, we just put these things together. As a result, anyone who is exposed to the same pulses as you are, is likely to create something similar to yours. “If you have an idea you’re excited about and you don’t bring it to life, it’s not uncommon for the idea to find its voice through another maker. This isn’t because the other artist stole your idea, but because the idea’s time has come.”

If you read The Creative Act and have some thoughts to share, I’d love to hear about them.