On Why It's No Good to Try, You Must Do!

On Why It's No Good to Try, You Must Do!

June 8, 2012 by

With the passing away of hugely influential science-fiction writer Ray Bradbury I wanted to cobble together a quick post to discuss one of my favourite quotes of his:

Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things.”

Though the first part of the quote is hugely important, I’d like to take a closer look at the latter part (which relates to the first part anyway).

I think there is merit in the idea of ‘trying something’ at the its basic level of meaning. Sure, it’s good to try new things, new hobbies, and immerse yourself in experiences and have a go at starting some things. That’s all good, and I encourage you to ‘try’ new things every day.

At a deeper level, however, when we’re actually talking about physically doing a particular action, in a certain moment, to ‘try’ is sabotage. Trying to paint, trying to learn, trying to please other people, trying to write. It’s all self sabotage. And it’s all to do with how you think.

Trying, in its true sense, means that what you are doing is dependent on outcome. You want something to turn out in a certain way. When you create a piece of art that you want to turn out in a certain way, perhaps to be like one of your favourite artists, you are not a participant in the action of painting, but an observer.

When you operate with this mindset when you undertake anything in life, you are hurting yourself, and possibly others too. This is where it ties in with the first half of Ray Bradbury’s quote, which is to say that you are self-conscious when you ‘try’. Trying is effectively the same as self-consciousness. When we are actually doing something in the moment, we are no longer self-conscious.

“When you operate under a mindset in which what you do is dependent on outcome, you are trying too hard.”

When you are focused on the outcome of something, you are in the mode of ‘trying’, and you are effectively telling yourself that what you are doing right now, is not good enough (because you haven’t reached that outcome yet). You are pre-programming yourself for failure.

This applies to so much in life. Even at the early stages of doing something new, like for example you started dancing classes. You are not trying to be a good dancer. You are being a beginner and you are accepting of the fact that you are learning.

I think the trouble that ‘trying’ creates, is an important reason behind why so many people fail to even start things, to make new things, to be truly creative and to be themselves. Because you are trying before you have even started. You know you will have to try, instead of actually do, and so either don’t start, or you restrict yourself in the doing.

So how do you get yourself to let go of trying and start doing? As Ray Bradbury puts it, you simply must do things.

Do comment, and I’ll comment back. Also don’t forget to sign up to our newsletter with more tips for creative geniuses.

About the Author: Alex Mathers

Alex is a project starter, sometimes finisher, writer and illustrator. He started Red Lemon Club in 2009 with the aim of helping talented creative people leave their mark.

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"Your blog inspires me so much, and helps me feel somehow not as insignificant, despite the plethora of artists around the world."Natalie, artist

  • http://ankolie.com Anko

    You should do company coaching, great note!

  • daniela

    I think that the really differents between to try and to do is in how we approach a new experience.
    If you try to do something with commitment and perseverance the result will be as good as do in the same way.

    Thanks Daniela

  • http://www.inspiredprimate.co.uk Alex

    Hi Alex,

    Great post, thank you. It relates to the psychological principal of flow – that when we are engaged in something we naturally enjoy, that’s not to hard or too easy, we loose ourselves in the process and experience joy.. :-)

    Looking forward to more like this!

  • http://www.hellomrobinson.tumblr.com John

    This is a great post on the topic of actually approaching a creative project with a positive attitude, instead of “trying.

    Helps me think about future projects and the mindset I need in order to be successful.

  • Christine

    This is me!!! I try way too hard…get nervous when I start a drawing or painting…worried it won’t turn out perfect and it ruins the enjoyment of just doing…I am usually happy with the way it turns out..but did I really enjoy the whole process? I don’t think so…I was too worried about the outcome before I even got started. And that sometimes means I procrastinate too….I am trying to just do..before I even read this…I am working on looser drawings and paintings to get to the point where I truly am enjoying every minute of the process!!! Good article…

  • Daniel

    Interesting article and you found some brilliant Bradbury quotes.

    I’ve been in contact with a lot of young adults and adults and have sensed this among a large majority. Maybe if we all behaved like kids (drawing/doodling), lacking wisdom for subjects we want to learn or simply enjoy we can go very far without doubting ourselves before reaching a distant goal because we simply enjoy doing it.

    Well written article, captivating as always.

  • Alex Mathers

    Thanks Daniel. There is a certain amount of truth in the benefit of not knowing too much (or at least thinking about something too much) when approaching various tasks and projects. Thanks for the comment.

  • http://thewritevintage.com Lauren

    Great advice Daniel.
    The best mindshift I ever had was to knock the word ‘try’ out of my head and replace it with ‘I’m going to …’

    Which is why I’m now going to ditch the corporate arena and go freelance. And I’m going to survive.

    I’ll be back to read more of your words of wisdom soon

  • Alex Mathers

    Good luck with going Freelance, Lauren!

  • O’segun

    I think the word “try” opens your mind to d possiblity that u might fail at something, but learning from the failures and moving on to “Do” is very important. Most people are so afraid to ever fail that they just let Go. Many Trials and experiments on smaller related projects will help u “Do”. Say For Example shooting a some short films and documentaries before trying to do a feature lenght movie. I just believe sometimes opening the mind to failure and accepting it as a part of learning helps create better successful people. Afterall nothing good comes easy.

  • http://www.susan-wicker.co.uk s wicker

    I find this quote really helpful and inspiring as I too am venturing into the freelance world. I find it hard to just work and see where it leads me, and need to open up my mind more.

  • http://www.colorampersanddesign.com Hollie

    I love this! In the business world, there is so much focus on outcome, planning, visualizing, etc. But that mindset is so counterproductive to creative work. I get into the trap of planning myself away from any action. I think it’s time to just jump in with both feet! Thanks for the inspiring post!

  • http://stephengavin.co.uk Stephen Gavin

    Good work Alex.

  • Alex Mathers

    thanks Stephen!

  • justinchina

    ‘Do or Do Not…there is no try’ – Yoda.