Discover more from Fike's Substack
How do you find your creative pitstop?
It may just be the next fork in the road.
One of my favorite little moments in the original Muppet Movie is the ‘fork in the road’ scene where Kermit and Fozzie are on their road trip journey and struggling with their map. Kermit says turn left at the fork in the road, and they look up and veer left at the LITERAL fork in the road. Sight gags. Gotta’ love ‘em.
But the thing is–
Wouldn’t it be great if it was THAT obvious?
There is a power to meandering. We are prone to creating artificial end points to the phases of our lives. And – more often than not – these end points allow us to take stock of who we are, what we do, and what we want out of life.
Embracing Our Creative Phases
The same can be said for our different stages of creative work. I used to draw myself as a pro basketball player, then realizing as a 5’3” 13 year old that it might not be in the cards for me, moved on to other passions. I started writing fan fiction for Star Wars as an early teen1, spending summer vacations with a five star journal jotting down random tales of Jedi battles and the like. After high school, I got into filmmaking and screenwriting as a craft. I don’t think I ever really became great at either, but it was a phase for me.
I remember being so discouraged as I waded out into new creative waters, struggling against the currents when I couldn’t immediately gain superstar-dom.
Why was this so hard? Why couldn’t I be like [creator x]?
Every step in our creative journey brings with it pieces of our future creative self. I picked up my penchant for visual storytelling and camera direction that would serve me well as I wrote my Department for Mutated Persons2 series . My fan fiction days allowed me to hone my dialog writing craft, rather than focus on world building. It was over 10 years ago, that this idea of the gap in my talent versus my taste became apparent to me, when I saw this video by Daniel Sax about the great writer and communicator, Ira Glass. In THE GAP, Ira Glass talks about the tension point where our talents and our taste – our ability to discern great art – don't meet, and how we can overcome that.
THE GAP by Ira Glass is one of my favorite creative pep talks when I’m lacking confidence.
I don’t know if I ever really got over the hump as far as talent vs. taste. But I was able to think about this dichotomy, and it allowed me to appreciate the creative struggle for what it was: an opportunity to grow. Not all of my new creative endeavors would become part of my lifelong creative toolkit. Sometimes they would just be little pitstops on the road trip, and – taking a left at the fork in the road – I’d leave them behind while bringing a piece of the experience along for the next stop of the ride.
Not all of my new creative endeavors would become part of my lifelong creative toolkit.
It’s become important to me to see my creative journey as a mad scientist rather than a master artisan. Not every piece goes in the Louvre. Not every word is poetry. Not every post is gold. We all can tinker in the lab, and be happy with the results if we glean some new nugget in betterment of our process. We’re all first drafts in need of refinement and editing, and that’s a good thing. I’m so grateful for the voices in my life that have the confidence to tell me how it is, to like the things they like, and to tell me when they don’t.
This perspective also makes us more open to critique, to listening to others speak into our work and our lives in ways that can help us hone what we do. When all the things we make aren’t WHO we are, we’re less inclined to take feedback as personal attacks.
Your Next Big Try
This is not to say we can’t make art that is deeply personal to us, just that not all art should be deeply personal projects. Sometimes, you’re just in the lab frankensteining3 things together. And the experiment might blow up in your goggled face, and you'll just jot down a few notes for the next big try.
Sometimes, you’re just in the lab frankensteining things together. And the experiment might blow up in your goggled face, and you'll just jot down a few notes for the next big try.
So go try. Meander in the creative soup. Look for a literal fork in the road. Strap on your goggles and mash some art together. Be courageous enough to be silly with your art. Experiment. Take critiques. Understand that this is all a process, and – eventually – the road leads somewhere.
Thanks for reading my Substack! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
Shout out to my “Maclunkey stage” as Jon and Andrew like to joke on our I Freaking Love That Movie podcast.
Don’t look it up. It’s a word, trust me.