Just Keep Making
Eddie Van Halen was once asked how he got so good. His response was surprisingly boring—particularly for someone who’s name is synonymous with excess.
He explained that he’d buy a six-pack of Schlitz Malt talls and sit at the edge of his bed with his guitar. At 7:00, his brother would go out to party and get laid. When his brother returned, at 3:00 AM, Eddie was in the same place, still practicing.
He kept doing this (and continues to). That’s why he can play songs like Eruption and make doing so look easy.
We’re bombarded with articles proposing how to get inspired and be creative. I consider this material to be fodder for selling magazines—that makes creative work seem more complicated than need be.
You want the secret to being good? It’s practice.
I’m not saying you need to kill yourself to do good work. I’m not proposing you should sacrifice time with family and friends. I’m not even alluding to the notion of 10,000 hours of practice. I’m only talking about being honest about what it takes to make good work. (BTW: I’m writing this post for me, as much as I’m writing it for you.)
Reading about designers you admire isn’t practice. Updating your portfolio isn’t practice. Hanging around with other creative people isn’t practice. Waiting for inspiration isn’t practice. Posting crap on social media isn’t practice.
Nope. The only way to get good (or great) is to actually do.
The nice part about doing, is how your actions can silence doubts that would otherwise slow you down. Even better yet, it’s practice—which means you can screw up. In fact, you’re supposed to screw up. If you aren’t making mistakes, it’s probably not practice.
We all get distracted, and no wonder. We face more distractions than anyone ever has. So, I’m making a little poster to put beside my desk. It contains three words: Just Keep Making.
I have long lists of tasks needing to be completed. I have emails that never seem to let up. And, like anyone else, I have questions, concerns, and doubts.
This is why I like this simple mantra. It’s a reminder that when I build, all the noise fades. When this happens, I can achieve the strange—and wonderful—high that comes from making.
Want more? Check out the full list of articles, learn about this blog, or grab a book. Here’s what I’m doing now, and what I don’t do. I hold free weekly office hours. Alternatively, you can hire me for more involved engagements, via smashLAB.