Why You Need a Place to Play

Herbert Lui
3 min readAug 10, 2022
Photo: Jason Strull/ Unsplash

A few days ago, I wrote about the four inner beings of a writer. Susan Sontag called these the nut (i.e., the obsédé), the moron, the stylist, and the critic. Professor Betty Flowers called these the madman, the architect, the carpenter, and the judge.

I started my blog with the intention that it served as the surface for the inner being known as the nut/obsédé/madman/moron.

In other words, it’s where I practice my capacity for potentially looking stupid as a writer and marketer. Creative ideas are just ideas, looking for the right timing and context, until an influential person or group of people labels it with the perfect combination of original, useful, or surprising. Voila, a creative idea! (Looking stupid is an important component to scientific research as well.)

It’s inevitable that some great ideas will start off looking like bad ideas. (Ben Horowitz has an adage, “The trouble with innovation is that truly innovative ideas often look like bad ideas at the time.”) This blog is where I share many of my ideas. It’s where I can create ugly, think stupid, and think wrong. I know it’s probably dumb.

The purpose to share though, is so I can get feedback on these thoughts. These ideas deserve the exposure, and if I’m lucky, other people will validate these ideas or criticize them, giving me valuable feedback to further develop them. (Here’s one of my favorite examples, on a matter that I’d thought was very trivial!)

Allowing the inner idiot to practice — or even to play — in public isn’t as easy as it sounds, for many reasons. It feels risky, shameful, even futile. Then again, so does all creative work (and life in general sometimes). As I write in Big Ideas, Small Papers:

As an editorial director, publishing this type of writing feels improper. It’s so far from my professional definition of acceptable, that it feels embarrassing to publish. It’s certainly not my best work — not well-considered, could use more fact-checking, and with really rough sections. It’s more a confession than a curation, a burst of ideas collaged together in a post.

In an age of fewer competitive advantages, I have a sneaking suspicion that increasing the capacity to look stupid (and, by extension, shameless about their opinions and ideas) will actually be an advantage. You only need to be right once.

For me, every single one of these posts become a starting point for a possible new body of work. The rest of the gang — the judge, architect, carpenter, stylist, critic — will all get to work from there.

If you enjoyed this article, you’ll love my book, Creative Doing. You might also like my Best of Books newsletter, where I send three of the best books to your inbox every month. Thanks for reading.

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Herbert Lui

Covering the psychology of creative work for content creators, professionals, hobbyists, and independents. Author of Creative Doing: https://www.holloway.com/cd