Creative Strategies w/ Matt Shadetek: Enhance Productivity and Creativity

In this creative strategies article, Logic expert and Dutty Artz label owner Matt Shadetek explores the idea of giving yourself limits to enhance productivity and creativity. 

Creative Strategies w/ Shadetek: Collapsing the Possibility Space and Letting Go

Collapsing the Possibility Space and Letting Go

In the past, making something meant to physically bend, cut, join, paint, strum, stroke, strike, sing. Today, we still use our bodies to create, but much of what we do is mediated by a layer of technology. We use electronic tools to filter, shape, and process the input we give them. A bicycle makes the energy we put into moving ourselves from place to place far more efficient. It amplifies our physical ability and makes us more powerful. Steve Jobs described the computer as a “bicycle for the mind.” I love this image. However, as with anything powerful, there’s a double edge.

Unlimited Undo

One of the major changes of the digital revolution is the ability to undo infinitely. It’s like a creative time machine. Made a wrong turn 15 minutes back? Open up your undo history and edit out the mistakes.

We also have an endless array of tools that allow us to pick apart and reassemble a project at any given time: hot swapping, versions, layers, cut and paste. The old carpenter’s phrase “Measure twice and cut once” no longer applies in the digital world. Instead, we have new phrases like “We’ll fix it in post.”  Powerful tools become part of our lives and culture, changing us and the way we create.

Now that calculators are cheap and ubiquitous, many people question the need to be able to do math: why waste energy learning to do something a computer can do faster? I think we are seeing a similar thing happening to creators of art in the digital world, but with the ability to make an artistic commitment.

Too Many Options

The risk of having a creative time machine is a creative Groundhog Day – endlessly looping back to the starting point and trying again, never moving forward. Our use of infinitely flexible digital tools requires that we develop a new skill: to collapse the possibility space. The temptation is to say “I choose this–for now–but, I’m going to keep my options open in case something better comes along.” Those who know how to collapse the possibility space look into that infinite world of possibilities and say: “I choose this, and that’s it. I’m moving forward.”

I have seen the results, or more accurately, the lack of results, of those who always keep their options open. For some, the possibility that anything can be changed, replaced, or tweaked is a siren song that lures them into the rocks of never finishing anything. They amass piles of unfinished, unreleased material.

The manufacturers of digital tools sell us the seductive fantasy that somehow everything will be transformed, reimagined, or suddenly improved at a moment’s notice. The people who give in to this temptation cling to the hope that there is a better answer around the corner. They dream that a creative princess will appear and kiss toads into princes. They dream that waiting will solve their problems.

I have learned that waiting never helps. You make the work you are capable of making today. If it seems good, rejoice and tell the world. If it doesn’t, tomorrow the sun will rise again and you’ll have another chance. Hopefully, the sting of yesterday’s defeat will motivate you to try something new and learn from your mistakes. Hopefully, next time you’ll do better.

Make Decisions, Finish Projects

None of this can happen, though, if you cling to mediocre, near-finished attempts, keeping them on life support as you tinker with details. If the work doesn’t take on a life of it’s own and show you a path forward, it may be time to move on. Trying to drag a lifeless idea across the finish line is one of the most painful and demotivating things you can do. No amount of undo will save it.

Sometimes, people are afraid to put an idea aside because they fear there was something good in it that will be lost forever. It feels like a waste. The good news is that creativity is a resource that works in exactly the opposite way of many tangible resources. We pump crude oil out of the ground, burn it, and it’s gone. Unlike oil, the more we use our creativity, the more clear and powerful it becomes. And it never runs out permanently.

If I were asked to compare creativity to any natural resource, I’d compare it to water. Water is absorbed and evaporated, used but not destroyed. It’s transformed into a different state, and returns to its source to run through the cycle again. Water flows. It moves from state to state and continuously transforms. Trap it in a stagnant puddle and it turns brown, starts to smell, and becomes unhealthy.

If you are not where you want to be with your current skills, join the club. None of us are. The work, like water, wants to pass from you, out into the world. Accept your limitations, do your best, commit to a decision and let the work keep flowing. This is not an easy or passive process, but it can be learned and practiced. Be confident that there is more where that came from. Collapse the possibility space and let go.


 About Matt Shadetek

Matt Shadetek is one of New York City’s most exciting producers. His live sets encompass contemporary Dancehall, UK Funky, and Dubstep, all delivered with Shadetek’s unique production voice which bridges the underground-mainstream divide. He’s one of the rare DJs who can rock a crowd with sets composed solely of his own dancefloor bangers and remixes.

Matt’s early love for Hip Hop and Dancehall along with edgy electronic sounds led to his Warp Records debut album Burnerism as part of the duo Team Shadetek. While Matt was living in Berlin and touring Europe, the followup LP Pale Fire was released, featuring the underground hit “Brooklyn Anthem”. The hit song kick-started a dance craze in the Brooklyn reggae scene (leading to over 100 fan videos of kids dancing to it).

Returning to NYC, Matt founded the Dutty Artz label/production crew with DJ /Rupture. Shadetek produced Jahdan Blakkamoore’s debut album, Buzzrock Warrior (!K7), pioneering its signature Reggae-Dubstep-Rap sound. In 2009 he also teamed up with Rupture to release the mix album Solar Life Raft (The Agriculture). His latest release, on Dutty Artz, is Flowers, an effervescent solo instrumental effort that references dubstep, UK Funky and Garage. He has toured internationally both solo and accompanied by Jahdan as vocalist.

Connect with Matt on Twitter | SoundCloud | Website

 


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