If there was one thing to learn, to truly understand, about being a creative it’s the duality it allows us to have. We pursue our creative desires by learning. Putting in hours of work to understand HOW to grow and get better at our craft. We continue to amass knowledge and skill that we use to create our personal masterpieces.
Why do we tend to forget or ignore the other half of the creative process?
You know what I’m talking about. Teaching.
Those who can, DO. Those who cannot, TEACH.
We’ve all heard this quote, or some variation of it at some point in our lives. It’s one of those driving factors for not just creatives, but athletes, business people, and all sorts of other industry professionals.
Sadly, it’s a load of shit.
Not only is it completely untrue advice, misleading people to believe that if someone TEACHES that they are just not skilled enough to be able to actually DO something, but it scares creatives into this secretive mindset where they refuse to share anything.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen photographers get downright angry when someone asks them how they did something in their photo. You’d think they were guarding the secrets of the location of a mysterious time travel portal that lets them live forever. It’s honestly pretty sickening.
The simple truth is that if you really want to learn how to do something at a high level, then try to teach it to someone else. While there are a vast number of reasons WHY this happens, it boils down to the fact that when you are trying to teach something, you’re forced to really pay attention to details.
I feel very fortunate that over the years and over various creative pursuits, from photography to music to writing, I’ve had some wonderful teachers that gave so freely of their time and knowledge. It’s why, a long time ago, I made a complete mentality shift. I focus on ways to provide VALUE versus just looking for some false status as a “successful” or “master” creative.
Because I had teachers that were so gracious and giving I developed a deep sense of needing to pay it forward in myself.
Let’s not forget the other reason why teaching is so valuable.
We’ve talked about it before, the big “L” word that most of us creatives eventually begin to think about.
What will we leave behind?
Sure, you may leave behind the novels or stories you wrote, the paintings you’ve made, the photographs you created, or the songs you crafted. But that is all just STUFF.
What you really leave behind, your legacy, is the knowledge that you’ve been able to pass on. Think about it. Why hoard all of that hard earned knowledge?
If you do here’s what happens. You spend years toiling and struggling to gain every bit of knowledge you can and in the end…. You die. The knowledge dies with you. Your unique vision, your thought process, everything that made you a “creative genius”, it all dies with you.
And then no one cares. No one remembers you. Your years of work are forgotten because you couldn’t take the time to teach it to anyone else.
Your legacy is what YOU pass on.
I could ramble on for hours on all of the virtues of passing on the knowledge we gain. And I likely will in future posts and episodes. But for now, I think you get the point.
Creativity is a beautiful duality.
It’s wholly unique in the sense that the BEST creative work is produced when we exist in the space of being student AND teacher at the same time.
I shared this over on my aicpod Instagram account(which you should jump over to and follow if you don’t already!) and while it’s a very simple illustration, it’s a great way to sum it all up.
If you want to push your creative growth to the highest level, embrace the duality of creativity. Stay a lifelong student, continue to push yourself to learn every day. Then find a way to turn around and share your knowledge with others.
Let your legacy grow, share freely, seek to provide value to the world. Even as a beginner, there is someone out there that can benefit from your unique voice and knowledge.
In seeking to simultaneously be a student and a teacher, you’ll develop a much deeper connection with the work you make. Your creative voice will begin to ring clearer and louder within your work.
You’ll be creating from within your own true north and you’ll feel so much better and in balance.
David (Usually Dave) Szweduik is a photographer, podcaster, and all around geek from the great state of Minnesota and can be found weekly on his podcast Adventures in Creativity. There you’ll find him having conversations fueled by curiosity around the amazing world of all things creativity. If you want even more terrific creativity based content, feel free to join the fun with the Newsletter!