The Edit Is What Matters

Everyone participates in the creative process. If you're a writer, filmmaker, graphic designer, or one of the other traditional creative types, this is a given. For the rest of us, it's not so obvious. But if you squint hard enough, every email and power point presentation follows the same creative steps.

Loosely, the act of creating something can be broken down into:

  1. The idea
  2. The raw material
  3. The edit
  4. The release

In my experience, the edit is the only step that truly matters (although the rest can help).

It's a cliche in the startup ecosystem that "ideas are cheap." There's some truth to that. No idea is truly unique or original. Every idea builds off of previous work. This means that just about every idea has been tried before. While a bad idea can certainly kill a project, a good idea doesn't guarantee success.

Raw material is where most folks get stuck. It's the part that's most easily used for procrastinating. Tools live in this category. And as we all know, not having the "right" tools is a convenient excuse for not proceeding. A hopeful film maker can spend unlimited time assembling the right camera rig. Writers will fiddle with software and note taking indefinitely. My peers, programmers, can jump from stack to stack without making any progress on the original idea.

Even if the tools aren't the problem, hopeful creatives might not make it past step 2. The initial step of assembling raw material (words, photos, video, audio, colors, etc.) can be so intimidating that they leave the page blank. There's too much pressure to create an instant masterpiece.

The irony is, the raw material is not what matters. The edit is what matters. The edit is where decisions are made. It's where the idea can be expressed effectively. It's where tradeoffs are considered and where a lot of the raw material is cut away.

Remixes are a perfect example of this difference. With the same instruments, vocals, and theme a skilled music producer can create two completely different songs with the same sounds.

This shouldn't be intimidating. It should be a license to breeze through assembling the raw material. Write nonsense. Take photos of your front yard. Create a hacky python script. Remove the pressure.

Then you can get to work on the edit. Keep a high standard. But make sure it's in the right place.