“The whole difference between construction and creation is exactly this: that a thing constructed can only be loved after it is constructed; but a thing created is loved before it exists.”
I ran across this quote as I was doing some research for another piece. It stopped me in my tracks. If you do a quick Google search, you’ll find that it’s almost always attributed to Charles Dickens. But, as that famous quote from Abraham Lincoln says, “Almost everything on the Internet is misattributed.” So, I dug a little further and found the quote actually comes from author G.K. Chesterton’s analysis and critique of Dickens’ novel The Pickwick Papers.
The quote resonated with me so much because I see this stark difference between construction and creation so clearly in the work I do for content creators in business as well as for those who do it purely for art.
I routinely meet marketing practitioners who have found great joy in their careers as content marketers. They see themselves set free to create valuable content that delights and informs an audience. In fact, this can one of the main challenges I’m asked to solve. The flame of creating content can burn so bright that it attracts everyone in the company – and everyone wants a piece of it. The problem comes when everyone’s attracted to creating, but there’s a need for business content that must be constructed. You know, those FAQ’s, and the technical spec sheets aren’t just going to write themselves.
On the other hand, I also run into artists and journalists who now find themselves writing content for businesses. Some of these people struggle with the pressures of constructing pieces that simultaneously meet business needs and tell a fulfilling story. They feel frustrated that the process they used to love is now reduced to wearing a hard hat in the “content factory.”
To be honest, I’m often torn between constructing and creating.
I will tell you flat out that this weekly letter – and the accompanying podcast – is a creation, not a construction. Every week, as I create this content, I find a quote or reflect on an anecdote – and I get to laugh, to think, and to truly enjoy the insight before I ever put it to audio or text for you.
G.K. Chesterton also wrote this in his analysis of The Pickwick Papers: “In creative art the essence of a [piece] exists before the [piece] or before even the details or main features of the [piece]; the author enjoys it and lives in it with a kind of prophetic rapture.”
But, yeah, website copy beckons.
I haven’t found any magical way to make sure everything I do becomes a creation. I still construct as much as I create.
But maybe there’s an intention to change. Maybe if we start trying to focus on creating – even website copy – we can find the love that fuels the process.
And that means we can find more joy in the work. Back to Chesterton on the creative process (pronouns substituted):
“The the last page comes before the first; before the romance has begun, [the creator] knows that it has ended well. They see the wedding before the wooing; the death before the duel. But most of all they see the color and character of the whole story prior to any possible events in it.”
This quote reminds me so much of my grandfather’s challenge to me, which I’ve written about before. He’d ask me, “What experience did you create for someone today?” If I didn’t have a good answer, he’d offer this reminder: “Every experience you create is the opportunity to have an impact on someone. You choose – as well as get to experience yourself – what that impact will be.”
So, go create something.
It’s your story. Tell it well.