Play the Fool: Ethan Hawke on Creativity

Watching his not-so-recent TED talk, there’s one advice that Ethan Hawke wants to share to artists: play the fool.

From Dead Poet’s Society to the Before Trilogy to his brilliant thoughts about art and creativity and life, I have always loved Ethan Hawke. I always share whatever I learn from him in the internet to my artist friends because they can surely pick up some inspiration or learn from him.

In my other creativity blog about collecting and connecting the dots, I mentioned that I know a lot of people who are very hypercritical of their work. They overthink a lot whether their creations are good enough and will be accepted by people. I think we can blame a lot of culprits to this mindset, and one of them is social media. In my attempt to showcase my work on Instagram, I accidentally became an influencer and eventually lost my enthusiasm over my creative processes because I became a slave to the expectations of my followers.

Never again.

Chasing Quality is the Enemy

Ethan Hawke asserts that being hypercritical of our own works and being stuck during the creative process stems from the fact that we want the best quality outputs as possible. But the truth is, quality is subjective. Our work may feel like phenomenal for us, but not in the eyes of its audience. Or, we may not like and appreciate our own work so much, but it means a lot to your audience. We will never know. Ethan Hawke also emphasized that the world is an extremely unreliable critique. And it’s not up to us whether our work will be good or not.

Hence, just fucking create something and don’t worry about the outcome. Focus on the process (Gary Vee will be proud of me in this part haha).

So, play the fool. Give yourself permission to be creative.

What is then the purpose of art if it’s not meant to satisfy your intended audience? Ethan Hawke points out that this is the part where we drive away from the idea of art being a luxury, but more of a sustenance. Art is there to make sense of life, and we therefore need it. Poetries, stories, songs, and other forms of art makes people feel that they are not alone and that we are more connected than we think. Life is not all about surviving, but also thriving, and we need art to thrive. We need beauty in this world.

Playing the fool and giving yourself permission to be creative means getting to know yourself, knowing what you love, and going after it. It doesn’t matter if the whole world will be laughing at you. Because going after what you love is what matters most, above all else. Ethan Hawke said, “If you get close to what you love, who you are is revealed to you and it expands”.

I mean, life is short. Are you going to spend it on things that you don’t like doing?

Embracing Individuality

I have always considered myself a non-conformist. I never had to follow the crowd if it doesn’t suit me. I would usually create my own path and decide to follow it all the way. People would sometimes think I’m achieving something unique because I must be going the extra mile. I am just taking another road, folks. The road where I can peacefully stroll because it’s comfortable, and it’s not crowded.

Like the previous creativity advices on collecting and connecting dots and thinking out of the box, giving yourself permission to be creative and playing the fool also meant getting out of your comfort zone.

I am ready to try new things, play the fool, and welcome new ideas.

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