Does Your Creative Process Look Like This?
Mine did! Welcome to the Blog! The Creative Kickoff you need to get started in your Creative Pursuit... You know the one you wished was your day job...
The one you catch yourself daydreaming about before you tell yourself to be rational and stick to what you know, to what is safe.
If you don't know what your Creative Pursuit is yet but you are aching to do something creative, there will be some tools to help you figure it out in later posts. But for now....
HOW TO GET STARTED
I believe that we are all here for a limited time and it's a shame to waste it being afraid of doing the things we want to. But I am also very practical about these things so before we get started, let's just get one thing straight...
YOU DON'T NEED TO QUIT YOUR DAY JOB.
Nowhere in this blog will I ever tell you to quit your job and go after your dreams. That's what inspirational quotes are for, and while I love a good inspirational quote as much as the next person, you can't pay your mortgage with them. I believe you can still be a dreamer and go after what you want while still being a functioning AND contributing member of society. You can start on your creative pursuit while you have other things, like a day job, going on in your life. Inspirational quotes are just that, inspirational. You need to put in the hours and make practical changes to your lifestyle to turn that inspiration into reality. Now notice I said "reality" not "success". Success is another ball game all by itself. But you can't have a chance at success without having the completed book/album/painting/movie script to show in the first place.
Now that we have that cleared up, let's get started:
1. Implement Discipline And Structure In Order To Be Free to Create
Structure? Discipline? isn't creativity meant to be fluid and free? I used to think the same thing, but the more I learned about how successful creatives produce their work the more I realized none of them sit around waiting for inspiration to strike. They woke up at a set time each day, allocated the same amount of time aside to create, took long walks, avoided distractions, some of them even ate the same meals every day. Their days looked the same, they did the same thing every day to produce the work they produced.
This was about the time I wondered "when did creativity get such a bad reputation? When did being creative mean sitting around waiting for inspiration to strike when no actual creatives did that?" Not Beethoven, not Bach, not even Sylvia Plath who had sole custody of her two children and a major depressive disorder that caused her to take her own life at 30. She still managed to have a routine and produce a lot of work in her short life.
"When did creativity get such a bad reputation? When did being creative mean sitting around waiting for inspiration to strike when no actual creatives did that?"
Prior to introducing deadlines, my creative process was a sporadic, panic-inducing list of unrealized ideas and half finished songs. The more I implemented discipline and structure into my creative work, the freer I felt. The frustration of not achieving the things I wanted started to lift and I became more productive.
"No more sitting around waiting for inspiration to strike. Without the daily discipline, Inspiration is just
2. Do Not Dismiss Your Ideas As Soon As You Think Of Them!
As soon as an idea enters our head, we usually dismiss it by saying "it's not original", "it's not good enough", "we can't make money from that", " we don't have the knowledge or talent to make this happen". We don't even give a chance for our ideas to take a breath before we suffocate it with negativity and critique.
The best trick I found to overcome this when I find myself doing the same thing is to implement the POMODORO TECHNIQUE:
- Put your phone on silent and avoid any distraction
- Set a timer for 25 minutes
- Focus on the task at hand with no interruptions for 25 minutes.
Start writing all the positive and negative thoughts surrounding the idea you just had. For 25 minutes allow it to take shape, explore it a bit further before you judge it. Once you are done start listing all the tools you might need to make the idea a reality. For example, do you need to enrol in a course? find some actors? build a website? find a vocal coach? buy acrylic paint? find an editor? Allow yourself to invest a bit more time in the idea before you make up your mind on whether or not to take it further. Is it really a good book idea? would painting a series of clothes hung on a washing line be the project you want to start? You now have a bit more information to decide.
TIP: You can continue to apply the Pomodoro Technique whenever you feel resistance to starting a particular task whether or not it will take 25 minutes to complete. Just set your timer, eliminate distractions (simply by turning off your phone, don't use being unable to avoid distractions as an excuse to not start) and then get started.
EXTRA TIP: I usually keep my Pomodoro App open on my computer so I don't have to worry about taking the extra step of opening the App, I just press the start button and FOCUS!
HOW TO STAY ON TRACK
We are likely to abandon our projects in two places:
Just after we purchase the supplies we need for the project
We may have the best of intentions, but soon after we purchase the fabric, the new guitar or the paint brushes we abandon ship. Weeks turn into months and our supplies start gathering dust in the house before they get moved into the garage to collect some more dust. I have done this so many times in the past with instruments and songwriting notebooks.
Just after we do the hard work of creating the project
We finish the book but never edit it. We make our album but never promote it. We abandon the project just before it can become something, no matter how small. When I finished my first EP (short album), I didn't do anything with it until a friend finally pushed me to organize a release party. A few weeks after that instead of trying to organize more gigs or do more promotion, I booked tickets to London and left for weeks! At the time I just thought I was lazy, but when I dug a bit deeper I realized I lacked self-belief in the quality of my work and let it stop me from moving forward. Here's the photo showing that time in my creative process.
SO WHY DO WE DO ABANDON OUR PROJECTS YOU ASK?
1. We Lack Belief In Our Talent (That's the big one for me)
Like I said before, I realized I lacked belief in my abilities to write a good song. I was quick to encourage others when they were learning something new and praise the smallest act of creativity and improvement in others, but I did not use that same voice when talking to myself. I was my worst critic. I didn't think my songs were "good enough", there was always a line I could've sung better or a lyric I could've revised. I was comparing my first song drafts to someone else's finished product, or even someone else's masterpiece. I forgot that Adele didn't write "Someone Like you" until her second full-length album...I was just starting out, writing my first EP!
The Fix: Now I tell myself that I am no longer allowed to compare my first drafts to finished radio hits. I can only compare it to the first drafts of those radio hits! And since I don't have access to those, I should stop comparing all together!
2. We Burn Out Before We Even Get Started
Other times we feel overwhelmed by the complexity of doing something new. The task feels too big. We start panicking about how we are not going to find enough time to start this. We panic about all the stuff that we don't know. We try to wake up an hour earlier one morning because it's been shown to increase productivity but we end up tired for the whole week. We try to take on too much too quickly and we burn out soon after.
The Fix: Treat it like exercise, walking every day is better than running once a week.
3. We Have Inspiration But No Motivation
Lack of motivation may also be a sign of burnout but sometimes even when we are well rested we lack motivation and feel lazy. This happens due to lack of energy or lack of proper sleep but I find it happens for me when I lack a solid daily schedule. When I used to work in fragmented bursts I struggled to feel motivated to start even when I felt like it.
The Fix: Implement the Pomodoro Technique I mentioned earlier on a daily basis to establish a 25-minute routine. This will get you in the mindset of working on your project daily, even if it is for 25 minutes! More often than not you will find yourself in the flow and eager to keep going once the 25 minutes are up. If you don't then you can stop after the 25 minutes and feel satisfied that you have done something, which is always better than nothing.
4. We Get "Busy"
Saying "I am busy" is all of the above, disguised. We do live busy lives but we are not very productive. We waste time procrastinating which may look like hours of TV, Social Media, or any other forms of distraction. Mine used to be Social Media then when I finally got off that, it started being cleaning and housework! I would tell myself that I should really clean my house before I start writing this or practicing that or I need to buy this or that before I can settle down to work!
The Fix: Now I tell myself that I can clean just before I go to bed and use the energy I have right now to work on my creative project. You already know where you are wasting your time so just be honest with yourself and tell yourself (at the start anyway) that you can still do these things but closer to bed time. Once you are on track with your project and in the flow, you will naturally wean yourself off these distractions.
All the best and stay tuned for your next week's blog.
*If this blog post helped you, pass it on to someone you can help.