Guillermo del Toro on failure

"I think it's essential to fuck up. I think of failure as latent success. Any experience in life is neutral. You can tint it as a piece of learning or you tint it as a piece of misinformation….Now, is it a heartache? Oh yeah... But you learn from it. If all you think about is success rather than fulfillment, that's a dangerous coin you're dealing with. That kind of success has a horrible exchange rate of currency. Horrible. It's never going to be enough to pay the debts you have in your soul as an artist."
Read more of del Toro's considerable creative insight here.

Chris Hardwick on unsqueaking the wheel

"You may not be able to force yourself to be creative in the moment, but you can force yourself to just work. Even if what you’re coming up with is gibberish at first, you’re unsqueaking the wheel. And you might not notice the benefits right away, but after 15 minutes or so, you’ll find them. You just have to push through it. There’s no trick. When your brain says “No, I have nothing for you,” just do it anyway. Eventually you’ll train your brain like a dog. It’s really just getting around your sometimes-counterproductive internal monologue." Read more here.

Activist Josh Fox on moving forward, even when it gets tough

"Once you know, you have to get active. And there are two possibilities. One is that you can be depressed, anxious, and worried at home alone, or you can go out there and work on it. That is the way forward. That is what will actually make life better. Even better than if you hadn’t known about this." Read more here.

Robert Rodriguez on getting started

"Naturally kids just create… As a kid, you don’t know anything--you don’t have to know anything. You just have to start. As you get older you start to think, What if I fail? What if I can’t do it? So you reteach them what they already know: You don’t have to do anything. Just show up. You’re not going to know what you’ll draw until it’s done. All you have to do is show up with a pen in your hand and a blank piece of paper. But unless you pick up the pen and start, it’s not going to come to you. You’re not going to just dream it up. You have to start the process." Read more here.

Matthew Weiner, also on failure

"A lot of the business people and creative people that I’m fascinated by all have something in common, which is a lot of failure--a lot of dramatic failure--and a lot of rejection... But you get to a point where you’re like, okay, I can be bitter and just stop or I can keep going because I really don’t have a choice. The key thing in all of that is that most of us have people in our lives who keep us afloat. Part of what kept me determined was not some amazing agent who said 'you can do that’--because I really didn’t have that--but a family and a creative community of six or seven people who had read the pilot of Mad Men...There is a string of failures that typify success. The weirdest thing is it’s kind of shameful to be rejected a lot, and a lot of people become dominated by that. It’s so embarrassing. You feel delusional." Read more here.

Strategist/Magician Mike Jacobson on side projects

"If we don’t have other passions to get our minds off work, we’ll go stir crazy. It’s awesome to have another outlet for creativity, and one where super weird, diverse experiences are built in." Check out our roundup of creative side projects here.

Joss Whedon on filling the tanks

"Constantly watch things and things you don’t [normally watch]. Step outside your viewing zone, your reading zone. It’s all fodder but if you only take from one thing then it’ll show. I once read The Killer Angels. It’s a very detailed, extraordinarily compelling account of the Battle of Gettysburg from the point of view of various people. It’s historically completely accurate, and the moment I put it down I created Firefly, because I was like, ‘I need to tell this story. I need to feel this immediacy. I so connect with that era, the Western and how tactile everything is and how every decision is life or death, and how hard it is and how just rich it is, and how all the characters are just so fascinating....Now, if I only watched sci-fi I would have just had the Millennium Falcon part, which has already been done, but finding that historical texture, it literally, I put the book down and started writing Firefly. And that was my vacation from Buffy, which was two weeks. I got two weeks every year, and in that vacation I read, in 14 days, 10 books. My wife and I saw like nine plays, and that’s all we did. We just filled the tanks." Read more about how Whedon gets it all done here.

Ron Howard on editing

"Shooting your movie will be exciting, but editing is where the project is ultimately made. That's the final rewrite, the place where you can really understand what your movie can grow up to be. Despite all your vision and creativity every film finally takes on a life of its own. Look for that, discover and enjoy the surprises." Read more here.

Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci on letting emotion guide you

"Don’t be married to your work. Just be married to the spirit of your work, and understanding that gives you the flexibility to work with people, to have different points of view be part of your process. At the beginning, all ideas kind of have to be on the table. And for me personally, I tend to be somebody who responds very much at a gut level to things. That tends to weed out certain ideas and it tends to focus others, but it tends for me to be about an emotional response to some idea." Read more here.

Washed Out on naivete as a gift

"I’m entirely self-taught, which I think is both a blessing and a curse. A lot of the things I was doing on the first couple Washed Out releases was very naïve. Because I didn’t have the background, I was doing things the wrong way, and that’s what the sound was about in a lot of ways. I’ve picked up a lot over the years and I feel more confident with a mixer and on the engineering side now. But in some ways, I want to stay naïve about other things, because that’s how you get a unique spin on them." Read more here.

Noah Baumbach on creating your own prompts

"I find a lot of writing happens when you’re not actually at the computer. So I carry a notebook ... Those things help. Bringing them to the computer helps. You have something to input and that can start you off." Read more here.

Simon Barrett and Adam Wingard of "You're Next" on just doing it

"Really, the only way you can learn to be a filmmaker is through trial and error, and we definitely have a lot of that under our belt. We’ve been working at this for over a decade now, and it’s only through accepting all of our faults as filmmakers and all the mistakes we’ve made up until now that we’re actually improving. There’s a hugely different practical application to actually making a movie that you can’t prepare for in film school." Read more here.

Co.Create

Essential Creative Wisdom From Ron Howard, Guillermo Del Toro, Joss Whedon, And 9 Others

We combed through our many, many interviews with talented creators in 2013 and picked out their best bits of creative wisdom in an ongoing effort to help you become more creative in 2014.

When it comes to making things, there's a lot to be said for relying on intuition. Some of the greatest creative work ever made has been the result of people simply feeling their way through a project to figure out what works best. At the same time, there's a reason so many artists undergo informal apprenticeships from their forebears: to learn their secrets. Perhaps the most important secret is that there is no one secret that can lead a good artist to greatness. However, some solid advice from the masters can help point them in the right direction.

We've sifted through our 2013 interviews and cherry picked prime bits of insight from luminaries like Joss Whedon and Ron Howard, as well as up-and-comers like the musician known as Washed Up, and two leaders of the new horror movie vanguard, Simon Barrett and Adam Wingard. In an interview over the summer, the later two advised aspiring directors to drop out of film school and get busy making movies on their own. There are other ways to stand on the shoulders of giants beyond apprenticeship or formal education in your creative mode, and one of them is reading the essential knowledge offered here.

Have a look at what some of the greats have to say in the slides above.

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1 Comments

  • Dear Joe Berkowitz & Fast Company,

    Would it have killed you to have made this article with 50/50 gender split? Would it have killed you to include at least one women in this group? What is the matter with you journalists? Why do you consistently continue to ignore half the population of the planet? Do you not have mother's, wives, girlfriends and daughters that you love and respect? Do you really think that creativity and sound advice can only come from men?

    Disappointed again. Palmer Enfield One of your women readers