Create or Hate is the 4th book by Australian entrepreneur Dan Norris.
Written with one goal in mind – to inspire you to create something – it’s a deliberately short read.
But does it achieve what it sets out to achieve? And is it worth the couple of hours of your time it’ll take to read it?
I think it does, and I think it is.
I wouldn’t be creating this review otherwise. 🙂
Please note, I’m not claiming the ideas here to be my own. It’s more my reaction the ideas Dan expresses in the book, and perhaps my attempt to internalise the ones that resonated the most.
“Successful people make things”
One core theme of Create or Hate, as seen in the tagline, is that successful people make things.
It’s an inarguable statement really.
As Dan points out in the book, some people are successful in business. Others may be successful artists.
The businesses may be in software, clothing, food, transport or anything else. The art may be painting, photography, music, pottery, or anything else again.
All very different, with the only thing they have in common being they created something.
That doesn’t mean all who create a business or art will be successful, of course.
It’s not a guarantee of success, but it is a requirement for it.
What is Hate?
The other central idea of Create or Hate is that something called Hate is what stops us from creating.
As explained in the book, Hate doesn’t need to do anything for this to happen. It exists, and that’s enough.
The creative mind has to push Hate away, and the only way to do this successfully is by creating something.
It brings to mind the quote, often attributed to Edmund Burke, that “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”, or Martin Luther King’s “darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that”.
Without the positive being active, the negative will passively flourish.
Just as with evil growing in the world, the longer you allow Hate to feed itself, the harder it is to defeat it. In less abstract terms, this means getting into the habit of not creating only makes it harder to start.
You may have noticed Hate is being presented as a proper noun here. That is, with a capital H.
It’s being made real. Almost deified, perhaps.
This is another concept from the book, and it helps reinforce the idea that while Hate is intangible, it is there, it has to be recognised, and it has to be given respect.
Ideas found in Create or Hate
It’s not my place to cover every idea in Create or Hate but expanding on the main ones I personally took from it will be useful.
It’ll help me to internalise them as much as anything.
The first is what it means to be creative.
How can you call yourself a writer if you hardly ever write? Or a photographer if you hardly ever take photographs?
It takes a level of proficiency to do these things well, but Dan argues the standard isn’t important.
You don’t need to be writing in a way nobody’s ever written before, or taking photographs in a style nobody’s ever shot in before. You just need to be creating something.
Productivity, not quality, is creativity, and it’s your activity or inactivity that defines whether you’re creative or not.
You can’t be creative unless you do creative.
Hate comes from within you
This next point might sound like some Star Wars dark side kinda philosophy, but that doesn’t make it any less true.
As the book explains, the Hate that stops you from creating is found inside of you.
Someone might tell you your writing or photography is bad, but only you can use that as a reason to not write or shoot anymore.
However, even that’s not the main issue here. The internal monologues you have are.
We tell ourselves not to do something far more often than other people tell us not to. We feed our own Hate far more than anyone else does – partly because most other people don’t actually care about what we’re doing.
It usually works like this. You, or your internal Hate, find an excuse not to create that thing you say you want to create.
Your excuses will be daft and irrational but you’ll tell them to yourself often enough that you’ll legitimise them, and believe them to be genuine reasons not to do anything.
You’ll talk to yourself in a way you wouldn’t talk to anyone else – “you’re shit at this, mate” – and the self-hatred will grow and grow.
What you tell yourself – that you’re someone who isn’t good enough to be creating anything – is what you’ll become.
The circle of creativity
The more Hate you have inside of you, as Dan Norris argues, the more it will grow. Fortunately, the same is true of creativity. Both are self-feeding.
You might be aware of the idea that you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with. This includes your levels of creativity and your levels of Hate.
Surrounding yourself with positive people will boost the former, allowing you to more effectively suppress the latter.
It’s not just people either. Podcasts, books, music, even cheesy motivational quote social media accounts can help you keep your internal Hate at bay and get creating.
Another part of this circle of creativity is the building of empathy for other creators.
Feeling pangs of jealousy when viewing other people’s work is not uncommon. You wish you were that good. You wish you were that successful.
You view something you should like and allow it to feed your negativity instead.
Developing empathy for those who also create, even those who are a level or two above you, can help massively.
Think about how long it took them to produce what you’re looking at. About how much unrecognised time and effort it’s taken to get that good. About how they were one day in the same boat as you are now, looking at the work of someone else and wishing they could do the same.
Negative thoughts feed your internal Hate, but it’s hard to dislike something when you feel empathy towards the creator.
Final thoughts on Create or Hate
As Dan explains, there’s a reason he wrote a book on how to create and not on how to be successful.
It’s hard to guarantee the latter. Impossible, perhaps. But the first step towards it is taking control of the former.
Creating more than you consume is a good imbalance to strike, which is why the shortness of Create or Hate works.
It’s not a book that’ll take a few weeks to read when you could be producing something of your own instead. It’s a book to spend a couple of energising hours with, and ends with a task for the day: to make something.
That’s a fitting end to the book, but I’ve saved something else to end this review on.
For all the ideas outlined in Create or Hate, there was one simple question – the title of an early chapter – that resonated with me the most.
“What have you not created yet?”
I thought about it for a second.
The answer that came was… ‘everything’.
Book images © Dan Norris