Creative flow (Part 2 of 3)

Yesterday I asked you ‘what would you do if you had no undo?’

My own views are that creativity is a mixture of part performance and part control:

  1. Performance - free flow, getting into the zone and just going with a flow. Less thinking, more intuition.

  2. Control - noticing things in the performance that you like / don’t like, and tuning the performance accordingly.


I think there’s too much focus on the control side of creativity, and much less on the performance aspect.

Having an undo is part of the control aspect of creativity. I would like to put forward an argument that by avoiding using the undo feature, you are in the ‘performance’ aspect of creativity. Stop your flow to hit the undo button and you are breaking flow.

I sometimes feel that there is a need to over-produce work, that photographers want to have all options available to them, so that if they make a mistake, they can back up and correct it. But by having this ‘escape option’ available all the time, we’re less likely to just run with where the work is taking us.

If you were a live musician then you would be very used to your performances varying from one concert to another. But when we have endless options to go back and correct what we do, I think we can lose a lot of spontaneity in our work.

But the problem is much wider than this. I think that when we have too many options and a way of backing out, we never really ever commit, or finalise what we’re doing.

I hear too many points of view these days about trying to remove the need to commit to anything for as long as possible. For instance, just recently I heard an argument about not using grads in the field because they are ‘baked into’ the shot and cannot be undone later. It’s a terrible argument because it is trying to avoid introducing mistakes.

We have to make mistakes. Mistakes are part of the creative process. Mistakes allow us to find new directions through the unintended. We can often be surprised by what we’re shown when we do something we didn’t intend to do. Mistakes are part of experimenting. Creativity is all about experimentation, and experimentation means we do not really know what the outcome will be.

Mistakes also tell us that we need to work on improving our technique.

Avoiding any commitment, any final decision in what you do to the very end is, well, just a false view that you have endless options and therefore greater control. Too much control and the performance suffers. Spontaneity is removed and the work suffers.

Creativity is a mixture of performance and control. We need to be loose enough to find new things, and know when to hone and shape (control) what we’ve found. We also need to know when to let go and surrender to wherever the work is taking us.

Creativity is about keeping up a flow in one’s work. That can only happen when we choose to commit, choose to complete, and choose to move on.

I’d suggest avoiding using the undo feature for a while. See where your decisions take you.