Permission To Look Foolish

Ethan Hawke speaks about the significance of giving yourself permission to be creative.

June 18, 2023   •   3 min read  

Table of contents

Recently I watched this TED Talk with Ethan Hawke on the nature of creativity.

He always provides a compelling perspective when he talks about how he approaches his work and artistic expression.

So, here are 5 key takeaways from this video to help you feel comfortable being creative.

1. Become Multi-Hyphenate

Who says you have to stick to one role or skill?

You can take the 10,000-hour approach and master one talent or you can let your curiosity roam and become a jack-of-all-trades.


There should be no rules in your creative pursuit so don't be afraid to explore different roles and skill sets.

2. Give Yourself Permission

Grant yourself permission to; experiment, learn, fail, obsess, or depart.

Embrace the messiness in the creative journey, and find freedom in the fact that mistakes are inevitable.

They are just a stepping stone to growth.

Remember that creativity is trial-and-error (not formulaic) and the finished product is always open to subjectivity.

If you wish to improve, be content to appear clueless or stupid in extraneous matters.
   - Epictetus

3. Play The Fool

Creating something unique and original means you need to take a chance.

You need to be unafraid of looking foolish in your attempt.

Wander into uncharted territories unannounced with nothing more than an instinct and a passion.

Find the untrodden path and make it your own.

These moments of fearless exploration will make you realise the magic that sets you apart from the crowd.

Give yourself permission to be creative | Ethan Hawke

4. Shades Of Grey

Many parts of life can be black and white, but creativity exists in the shades of grey.

Art has complexity and nuance that makes the experience unique for each person that interacts with it.

In the grey, you can see everything from contradictions to elegance.

The grey is where authenticity shines brightest, it is raw and transformative.

You can admire someone else's shade of grey, but your sole focus should be to find your own shade and paint the world with it.

5. Make Art An Experience

Which art captivates you?

It's the art that is linked to an experience.

It doesn't have to be the most groundbreaking, but it does have to be unique.

Infuse your creativity with your perspective, emotions and stories.

To make something truly experiential, transport people into a world that resonates from your heart that leaves them feeling changed.

It should spark their curiosity and imagination, and stir their souls.

Even if only for a brief moment.

If you were inspired by these points, please do yourself a favour and watch the full 9-minute video to help improve your creative process.

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