_why the lucky stiff once tweeted:

when you don’t create things, you become defined by your tastes rather than ability. your tastes only narrow & exclude people. so create.

Forget the bit about excluding people. The important point here is: create. Creating something with your own hands and deriving joy out of it transcends almost all other pleasures known to man. At the same time, its sometimes difficult to be a creative person… to be disturbed, and questioned and ridiculed and shunned. To be unlike many others.

This is a small note in defence of creators and entrepreneurs.

René Descartes is famously said to have summarized his philosophy as:

Cogito ergo sum (I think. Therefore, I am.)

In the programming world, people sometimes change this to read:

Codito ergo sum (I code. Therefor, I am.)

And people who have been passionate and fanatical about their craft have changed this statement to reflect their passion. But that is making the statement extremely single track.

Creation is a super set of painting, scultpure, programming, electronics, music performance and creation, writing and so much more. And hence:

I create. Therefore, I am.

Many of us have a genetic disposition to creation. Creation is our being, our identity, our lifeline. We itch to create. We struggle to be good at a few things. We love the feeling of building something with our hands; of deriving selfish joy out of creating. We fight with friends / spouses / “society” to be able to do some things well and to stand by our choices of what those things are.

Its not always easy to have the time and place and freedom to create. They say everything is created twice: first in your mind and then in the physical world. Imagine the pressure of a creator who has built something in his mind but is now powerless to give life to that creation in the physical world. Imagine the duality of this agony and the ecstasy.

A creator is someone who likes to create. Genetic predisposition is just a very large phrase for the fact that some people are born to create and their lives are enriched by what they create, not by what they consume. Creation is an expression, consumption is a taste. You listen to the music you like, you listen to the books you read, you watch the films that look interesting to you. But you create what you want to express, what you feel inside you. True expression come from the core of your being. Its not false, its not driven by markets or appeasement or earning brownie points. A true expression is without pretense… it would be as much true if it had someone to experience it as it would be if it hadn’t.

The point, the essence of creation, is not to show off. Or achieve. Or demonstrate how good you are at it. Its far more naked than that. It does not need a consumer since its not made for one. But if it found another soul who could understand and interpret its vibrations in his own personal way… its finds another home.

And then if it touches that soul enough, it motivates that soul to create too… by telling others about it, by quoting it, by covering it, by using it, by changing it, by distributing it, by passionately pushing for its cause.

I create so that I can express. If you understand that expression and can personalise and respect it — good. I’ll value your appreciation and feedback. But you can’t tell me that it is wasteful to create in the first place. My expression is my need. I feel suffocated if I can’t be myself… and being myself is about being able to communicate and profess and express who and what I am about.

Howard Roark says in The Fountainhead –

“I don’t intend to build in order to have clients; I intend to have clients in order to build.”

Many of us read “The Fountainhead” at various stages in our lives. Sometimes we draw something from it; sometimes something else. But the spirit of The Fountainhead is The Creator. I understand that better now. In a way, Roark is an extremely succinct and exacting spokesperson of the conflict, pain, challenge and misery that a creator sometimes goes through. And he was still not talking about “Indian society”!

Roark is often discarded as being too extremist and too idealistic to make practical sense. Perhaps. But that does not mean that you ignore and belittle and crucify someone who has the fever to create! Not everyone has the sort of self-respect that Roark has to be able to stand up and fight and reject and build and love and destroy and create. Some of us are fairly soft spoken. Some of us are easy to subdue. Its just that not everyone is built as strong or as perfectly as Roark.

But that’s not so bad. That’s reality. That’s life. And its not perfect. We search for perfection, symmetry, rhythm, beauty and balance in our creations. We don’t need to be perfect humans for that.

The Compulsion to Create (Why do I create?)

I have a compulsion to create. I like to build things. I like to do things myself. I like to fail at doing things myself and then building a better solution than what I attempted at first.

Firstly, creation its about control — building something on your own gives you control on what you build. So you can learn how to build it, you can fix it if it fails, you can extend it when it needs to do more. Next its about pride. I like the feeling of building something on my own. It doesn’t matter that I don’t have anyone to show my creation or setup. I am proud of what I achieved while building it. I probably learnt something, I probably failed many times till I succeeded and it just worked. Maybe I made mistakes… maybe it was not as beautiful initially. Maybe I had to practice a lot. Maybe I learnt to persevere and have patience.

When you look Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night” you don’t necessarily know about what it took to achieve it… years of patient practice, making mistakes, suffering to be better. You see the perfection of the starry night. But only a creator knows the agony and the ecstasy of the creation. And maybe another sensitive souls can feel it too.

A creation is a way we challenge ourselves to do something… even if its trivial, its an audacious goal for me; writing this in the face of distractions and more practical things to do is a challenge. Completing this is going to be a challenge. Attempting to learn something quickly is a challenge. Operating with imperfect tools is a challenge.

It could be painting, it could be music, poetry, source code, server setups, network installations, prose, imaginative prose, circuits, innovative hardware hacks — anything. These are all expressions of our challenges.

Sometimes, the motivation to create is a need, a necessity. Sometimes its just plain expression for the sake of expression. It does not always fulfill a worldly goal. It does not always need to. And that is why a lot of you question the need to create in the first place. Because it does not always achieve something tangible? Something that you can hold and feel proud of owning? Or experiencing?

Going to a blues concert to listen to a blues guitarist make his guitar weep is an experience. It might cost money to experience it. It might cost time. But it enriches the soul. Its a necessity for some like breathing or eating or earning money. Its not about “enjoyment”. Its about feeling an expression… live. There are very few things that are consumed live like live music.

So there are these two sides of creation — absorbing others’ work (always the easier thing to do for all of us) and giving an expression to our own work. They feed each other. Both are as engaging and as important. And both enrich us internally.

Sharing — The Essence of Creation

I said earlier that so many times the process of creating something is a reward in itself. But then one seldom grows in isolation. A way of growing, as a person, is to share your creation.

Sharing does not always mean the desire to feel appreciated or accepted or admired or talked about. That’s sharing with a very false pretense. True sharing rewards you with growth.

In Illusions, Richard Bach writes:

Learning is finding out what you already know. Doing is demonstrating that you know it. Teaching is reminding others that they know just as well as you.

You are all learners, doers, teachers.

Sharing my creation is a way of demonstrating something I know. Its a way of helping you learn that you too can know and do. That I am no one special — that I am just someone who cares… Who cares to know, who cares to do, who cares to share what he has built. With pride.

The intention is not fame. Its not a competition. Definitely not. Its not a one-up-man-ship. Its the most basic and pure human desire to share. Its a primitive desire, even.

So what if it sets one apart and leaves him open to ridicule. Who cares? If you cared enough, you would argue constructively. You ridicule and belittle and laugh at our desire to share because you don’t care. And its difficult for you to recognize and respect our value systems.

Actually, what causes you to discard our creations is this intrinsic belief that you know better and that we are foolish to care about something intangible.

Sharing helps me grow because it invites feedback. Even if I only have the courage to share with exactly one person. Because its too costly (in terms of energy and hassle) for me to argue and defend myself in the face of your hypocrisy and strong argumentative rhetoric. Its not worth my time to defend myself. And disturb myself.

So either I’ll strike and stop creating. (And then its your loss. And mine too.) Or I’ll do it on my terms and to my limited circle (even). Its such a sorry thing that you will never get to see and experience the reality of me. Fully. So unfortunate… you don’t even know what you are denying yourself of.

I’d rather create something for the sole audience of one (myself) than not create at all. That’s how important it is for me to create. And share. See — if I can’t share on my own terms, then I’d rather not. Anyway, after I’m dead and gone, it would come out. And then I’d have no need to specifically defend myself.

My creations will speak for me. And then they will be shared. And you’ll have the remorse of never having seen it at all.

That’s how important creation or sharing is. To me.

Compromises and Buying into YOUR reality

The need and compulsion to create does not have to be in conflict with my ability to make a decent living doing things that I like and love. Its questionable what a real legacy is… a house or a body of work? a large sum of money or the gift of expression? Still — that is not to say that both of these dualities can’t be present together in one’s consciousness. Yes — its a different way to live one’s life. Very different. But that’s the very point… isn’t it?

Its not easy for you to accept this dissent, this difference, this independence, this alternative way of living, this spontaneity, this lack of predictability. And hence, you make life difficult for the creator — with your anxieties, plans, trivialities and mundane-ness.

Foolishly, a long time back, I believed that I could play by your rules in your conscious reality and then retreat back into mine and do my own thing with peace. But how terribly mistaken I was! You won’t rest unless I think like you, do things your way, on your conditions, on your timelines, with your results and within the bounds of your “value system”. You demand total compliance and I can’t give that.

And then — you know what happens? Contempt. Pressure. Compromise. Resentment. Guilt. Bullying. Arguments. Abuse. Why? Because we get swayed and confused. I get distracted by your grand visions of peace after I’ve given you what you were looking for… so that I can peacefully do my thing.

You see how important peace is? The timeless solace where you can focus on exactly one thing without desiring perfection in life or getting distracted or wanting anything out of your endeavour. We do your things because they are easy for us to do… because we are led to believe that we will be left alone after we’ve “done it”.

But its never done. Is it? Anyway… I’m not going to use the sanctity of this monologue to argue about that.

All I am trying to say is that there are, maybe, 4 types of us:

  • Those who are supremely abdicate the world’s set rules and follow a road of their own making, living on their own terms and living to the fullest right they know to be possible… they are often called by many obscure names — artists, activists, “social workers”, whatever else. (I fail to see how these names do any justice, though.)
  • Then there are those who accept the reality that they will need to do something else to make a living and then find some other way to fulfill their souls with their passion. So they might teach at a college or a school. Or have a day job. And then they use their free time to create.
  • And then there are the those who compromise immensely and loose themselves because they choose to “comply” with the world’s rules rather than question them. Or maybe they don’t know better. There is nothing wrong with that. That is just their level of consciousness. They are one with their choice and it suits them. That’s all.
  • And there are those who choose to take this duality by its head… they take the courage to make their lives out of what they are passionate about… and some of these people — start businesses and become entrepreneurs.

I’m going to talk about the fourth type here. The entrepreneurs… those who take this duality headlong. Because that is the way they feel they can do maximum justice to their being and passionate souls.


Let be begin by questioning something that all of you believe is the accepted way of leading your lives (and hence, by extension, mine as well):

“Why is it so important — what others have done? Why does it become sacred by the mere fact of not being your own? Why is anyone and everyone right — so long as it’s not yourself? Why does the number of those others take the place of truth? Why is truth made a mere matter of arithmetic — and only of addition at that? Why is everything twisted out of all sense to fit everything else? There must be some reason. I don’t know. I’ve never known it. I’d like to understand.”

Roark again.

So what’s different about a creator trying to be an entrepreneur at the same time? Firstly, its a rather sacred attempt at perfection. “I will do what I love and I will stand by what I care about and hence — I will earn my living.” No compromises.

Secondly, its a genuine intention to not do what is a popular or an accepted way of going about starting or running a business. There is no safety in numbers. There is no fulfillment in being popular. You succeed the day you satisfy yourself based on your own benchmarks… because anyway, they are far higher and honest than others’.

I see a lot of people starting a business because its fashionable to start a business. They choose what they want to do based on what is popular, not based on what they are passionate about. They do everything in a certain formulaic manner because its been done before and there is a certain safety in following a lead. And then you don’t fail so quickly. Or at all.

In my own thoughts, I sometimes look down upon those who choose an extremely easy and accepted way of doing things. Who follow your rules and succeed by your standards. Because they are not challenging you or themselves enough. What’s the point of doing that? Of doing what millions others have done before?

There is a certain integrity in not complying. What is unfortunate is not the loss of this integrity… but the submissive compliance and defeated acceptance of the fact that you will have to trade and pawn this integrity to function at all.

Failure is not trying to build or create something and not being able to do it. Failure is not being able to devote yourself enough to engineer the creation in your mind into the real world.

Failure is: not getting a chance to create what you’ve imagined.

I am not a failure till the day I stop imagining or building something. I fail again when I am ready to suffocate than create. I die when I comply so badly that I don’t recognise myself in the mirror. But then I also think that it is far more honourable to burn out than to fade away. Just like that.

Just because we choose to use running a business as our outlet, that doesn’t mean you will judge us by how much money we make for you? When we are not operating on your false rules, how can you judge us by your false pretensions? What qualifies you to judge at all?

I have nothing against earning a lot of money. That is, but, a natural outcome of solving problems with love and excellence. Point is — it is easy to earn a lot of money anyway — what way are you going to choose? Is that going to be the single most important and defining character of your work? Or money going to be the most natural and peaceful outcome of your creation?

My way of judging myself is the quality of my creation and its possible impact — on people I’ve worked with and people I’ve worked for. Nothing else is a benchmark for me. I know how bad my work is. I know how much I can do better. I know what I need to do to do a better job at my work. I know how I can make an impact with my work. I know what it will take to do what I’ve imagined and dreamt of.

I know exactly. I have created the success in my mind repeatedly, already.

And so I also know how badly I could be faring right now… and what I’m doing wrong. And where I’m failing. You can not show these to me.

Here is the test to find whether your mission on Earth is finished: if you’re alive, it isn’t.

— Richard Bach, Illusions

Being Free

For a lot of people, entrepreneurship is the counter side of working for someone. For a lot of people, it is the perfect escape. And they are a success by your standards.

In my mind, entrepreneurship is not that escape. It is the only way. To be free. This symbolizes a responsible sort of freedom to me. Its not an escape from drudgery. It does not replace working hard and being passionate. It does not mean working less with age. And it also does not mean having to work fixed work hours that suit your convenience.

I am sure that anyone who has worked in a formal organisation has experienced what it feels like to take orders from someone they considered inferior to them. How does that feel? Suffocating? Evil? You want to bang your head into the wall? Break things? Does it frustrate you?

I am not superior to you. Or anyone else. But I refuse to take orders. Period. I refuse to suffocate myself and bring myself down to your level to explain myself to you. Or show you how wrong you are. Or follow “your way”. Or your methods. Or your diktats. So — don’t order me around; especially when I know that you have no way of knowing what I have thought about or planned in my mind; and are completely incapable of thinking on my behalf and for my welfare.

Being an entrepreneur gives me the freedom to think without boundaries. To create without restrictions. Its not about not working for someone. Its about only working for myself and what I care about.

Unfortunately, while I might have forsaken mental slavery as a choice a long time back, I have also screwed up big time. That doesn’t mean that I am wrong. It just means that I went astray. It doesn’t make my choices or value systems incorrect (because I still haven’t “failed”). I just means that I will have to try other ways of going ahead and of giving my due. I have no remorse for my choices or loss.

Don’t crucify a creative-entrepreneur because he doesn’t get you enough. Admire him for having the courage to do something different. For himself. For you. Don’t demand compliance because you think what is popular must be right. Find a way to live with so much all-consuming passion that it doesn’t matter that you are walking alone.

Its not about living with perfection. There is no absolute standard for perfection. Perfection is a state of mind. You can feel it right now. Now. If you want. Just shut off the pressure and noise and need-for-acceptance and popularity. Don’t define how a life must be lead and what must be achieved or delivered for life to be perfect. Things are the best they can be… by putting pressure you are not going to get something any sooner that you deserve to get it.

There is no stigma in being different. There is nothing sacred about being like everyone else. Life makes no promises to us. We owe nothing to anyone else.

The body of our creation is our only and true legacy. Join us in creating it. Don’t punish us for building it.

You won’t understand. I know. But that’s okay. I can smile and look down from where I am and still feel peaceful with this disagreement.

It doesn’t matter.