Writing a blog on the topic of fostering creativity is one that I was looking forward to for a while. An opportunity to speak openly and candidly about the journey of creating and bringing thoughtforms into reality seemed right up my alley.
Then, I sat down to write it. And what do you know? A creative block!
So, what I thought would be a quick discussion of tips and techniques to get the creativity flowing became a moment of deeper examination and reflection on how to recognize, accept, and move past the sticky situation that I currently find myself in.
How did we get here?
If you are anything like me, you may find that the desire to create – whether it be by graphic design, writing, setting up projects, or simply establishing something that wasn’t there before – is exhilarating. When the thought enters your head, it’s like an imperative. It must be made real! That initial, intoxicating allure is so all-encompassing, that I often find myself swimming in the thoughts for far too long. That is to say, even creative folk can find themselves subject to paralysis by analysis. In your mind, you may be able to see the fully-formed end product. And man, that feels good! So good, in fact, that the temptation is to stay right there. In that happy place where the vision and the dream are already complete.
As you revel in your great idea, concept, or creative aspiration you may find that you grow roots. And pulling yourself free – to actually put pen to paper – becomes labor intensive in itself. The course correction is to just do, of course. To simply do. But what happens when The Do is overtaken by The How? Well, I have this fantastic image in my head. With all of these moving parts and details and flourish. But to get there… maybe it’s going to be harder than I thought. Maybe it’s not going to work after all. Oh, the disillusionment!
First thing’s first: Let’s get out of neutral. Let’s move the needle away from The Think and on to The Jot. Before you get too far away from that initial excitement and let the weight of The Do settle on your shoulders, jot down the thoughtform as you saw it. In all of its grandeur – don’t be shy! And avoid the critical self that will tell you it isn’t in scale or obtainable. Just jot. The parameters, the look, smell, feel. The creative spark, when it came to you: Capture it in black and white.
Got it down?
Well, how about that – it’s already real. Sort of. More work to do. But, at least it exists not only in your mind and is one step closer to being consumable by others.
When I am faced with The Do in a creative project, I often hit the wall. It’s not that I lack enthusiasm. After all, I did The Think and The Jot. The picture is clear in my mind and in my notes. So, what’s with the wall?
Clear your cache! One of my favorite colleagues (just kidding, they are all my favorites) sometimes notes that I have about fifteen different tabs open on any one browser. And that is just one browser! I’m full up on clutter, which for me is equivalent to an avalanche of other half-formed creative thoughts and ideas that haven’t taken form just yet. Sure, I intend to do them I just haven’t… yet.
And it’s not to say that those thoughts are valid, important, and in need of creation. They just aren’t the focus now. So, close the tabs. Bookmark them, save the page. But move them out of your creative space for the moment. Let yourself be free of the other pulls on your attention for just a bit. For some, this will be just what I have described in the browser metaphor, but for others this can look like clearing your workspace, closing the Illustrator images you’ve been noodling over for a week, shutting the PowerPoint slide deck you have been glancing at every so often. They can wait for a moment, or at least until you know that they are not contributing to the wall.
Still hesitant about The Do?
I sometimes obsess about keeping myself separated from other creative forms for fear that I will somehow be driven off course by the creations of others. For the longest time, I believed that simply reveling in someone else’s art would make me an unconscious thief or frankly intimidate me in to submission by their sheer greatness. Not true. Over the years, I have come to embrace a leisurely stroll through the thoughtforms of others. There is no better way to both take the pulse of the Creator Nation than to humbly embrace creations that are in the realm of what you hope to create. Unless by intention and great effort, you will never be able to create an exact replica of someone else’s creations. Allow yourself to take a beat and get inspiration on your journey into The Do.
Ah, the great nemesis – Time! Now, if you are a full-time creative in your job, this section may not be for you. Or it could be, who knows? But I can speak from experience that, especially when your creative project is for yourself and not related to work, The When is a deceptively pervasive foe. Between other obligations and pure exhaustion lies the Trough of Disillusionment for creativity. As you begin The Do and you lean on your inspiration, The When crops up to tell you, “there simply isn’t enough time.”
Now, I don’t think I need to spend much energy here on time management as a concept or the many, many methods that exist to schedule block yourself into obedience. You know the drill: Dedicate a time, stick to it, respect the boundaries. Wash, rinse, repeat.
What is truly important here is to cast off The When block all together. It is literally a construct that you and I have created to put more structure around the effort. And while that is useful when producing for a client or time-sensitive work project, the truth about The When is that it should be treated as a useful tool, not a suffocating restriction. If we keep looking to The When to tell us if we are on track or off, the creativity (or at very least, the joy) is zapped from the effort.
Don’t get me wrong. Set some boundaries and some expectations for yourself. But do not become a slave to The When. Set aside time and stick to it. But when you are just not feeling it or other obligations arise, flow with that and come back to the initial excitement and passion that brought you to the thoughtform in the first place. Revisit The Jot, reexamine inspiring creative works of others, and put The When back in its place: It is a tool for your creative expression, not a prerequisite.
On the flip side, don’t be afraid of The Flow. When you hit a particular stride in The Do and you can’t be bothered to get out of those joggers you’ve been wearing for 2 days, don’t apologize! I kid, please bathe!
But seriously, there is an ebb and flow to all things and that must be respected. If you are in a particular rhythm, strike a healthy balance with The Flow and ride it till it dies down. Pat yourself on the back for the progress and don’t beat yourself up when tide retreats for a while.
Let it Rest
Finally, we arrive at the door of near completion. I say “near” because I often find myself struggling to let go of that last little pixel that is slightly disproportionate to the others at 300x zoom. Don’t get trapped in the loop of perfectionism. Step back. If you think it can be better, well, it probably can. But that is likely living up to a standard that you alone have set. And if you are still feeling that it is just not there and you want to improve, do it. But not before you embrace The Rest.