Biz Stone's First-Hand Guide to Being More Creative
You probably know Biz Stone for his long startup-world resume, which includes being the co-founder of Twitter, and being a helping hand for lesser known--though still notable--startups, including Xanga, Blogger, Odeo and Jelly (of which he is currently CEO).
Recently, however, Stone's career took a creative turn when he was selected as one of the five celebrity directors for Canon's Project Imaginat10n. Along with celebs like Eva Longoria and Jamie Foxx, Stone was asked by Ron Howard and Bryce Dallas-Howard to direct a short film inspired by user-submitted photos. Stone selected nine photos he found compelling and wrote a screenplay around them and one additional photo picked by Ron Howard. The result? Evermore, a tale of a small family with a shared love for Edgar Allen Poe and a granddaughter with a plan to unite the family after a loss with "The Raven."
The film had a screening Thursday, but Stone spoke with Inc.'s Abigail Tracy about his creative process and how to navigate unfamiliar territory.
What was your creative mindset going into this new project?
I had to embrace it in the true spirit of the project. I collected the photos without any prejudice or plan, just a totally blank slate.
After I picked them, I had a moment of panic. They were wildly different and had nothing to do with each other. But it turns out that that is part of my creative process. I have always liked the challenge that constraint offers--creativity is inspired by constraint. Human beings are at their most creative when they are limited. Of course we see the same thing in Twitter with the 140 characters, and yet people are able to do world-changing things within those 140 characters.
What have you found to be a common thread when it comes to creativity in any industry?
I think there is one big similarity between any creative endeavor--emotional engagement.
It's almost as if failure is guaranteed unless there is emotional engagement. Success is not guaranteed, but there is a far greater likelihood of success if you have an emotional engagement with what you're working on. The same was true for me working on Twitter as it was for this project. If you love what you are doing and what you are working on that is going to carry you through even those really difficult low points that you have to go through in order to get reach the ultimate goal. If you are just doing it for the money or you do it because you think other people might like it, you might collapse and fold because you just don't have that emotional engagement which encourages that fortitude to take you through.
What advice would you give to people struggling with the creative process?
You have to remember that creativity is a renewable resource. It's not something you run out of.
The truth is that you will never run out of creativity or ideas. You may think you do but in fact there is something that will always remind you that you have infinite creativity. There is an infinite amount of ways to approach any challenge. You might feel like you are at the end of your rope but the rope really never ends with creativity.
But how can someone be creative in an unfamiliar environment?
There is no shame or harm in asking for help or saying I don't know or looking to others for support. A lot of times you are working on a startup and don't think to ask outside of your small team for help on a project, when really there are six billion other people that you could ask. The same thing is true with a project like this. I leaned heavily on other team members and asked what they thought.