The Problem with Creativity/ 7 ways to tackle your block
The problem with creativity is… it’s messy. Not in the tripping over boxes, duct tape stuck to my sneaker, branch in the eye type of messy (that’s the type I can tolerate), but messy in terms of delivering something tangible from a bunch of buzzing farts of ideas. You have a deadline, a bunch of half-baked thoughts, some doodles, and dang it, you are hungry. Maybe you just need a little snack and then you’ll be ready to go. Uh- oh. Below is a mish mash of problems I face, and things my inner #girlboss tells my whiney, playful, and sleepy parts to get my act together.
1. I have too many ideas. If you are like me, your thought process is not a straight line. It’s not even a circle. It’s like a suckering shrub with tangents sprouting off to produce their own family of ideas. Sometimes it’s difficult even to figure out where it all began. At some point, I have to tell myself to stop. From the suckering idea shrub, I connect the lichen growing on one branch over here to the sprig over here to the root over here and, BAM, a thing/ idea. It’s an overwhelming thing to begin but it is my process.
My best lesson was taught to me by the creative director at the first firm I ever worked at. I was designing a courtyard for a condo. He told me I had four hours to have an initial concept over to my new client, my eyeballs nearly fell out. After four hours I was still drawing like mad and grumbling that I needed more time. My director ripped the drawing from my hand, scanned it, and emailed it directly to my client, incomplete. I needed that lesson in order to learn how to give myself limits. At some point, it’s time to stop and move forward with the material in front of us.
2. I need better tools. I find myself using this excuse a lot. The fact is, I can probably use what I’ve got and the restriction may even produce something even better than I had imagined. Needing more or better tools won’t solve my procrastination problem, but if may create a money problem.
3. It’s so big, I can’t begin (enter procrastination). This is halfway correct. It is big. So, I must begin. My favorite quote is this: “It’s such a big dream, I can’t see it all.” by Edward S. Curtis- Seattle pioneer and photography adventurer. I know from experience that I always come up with something. And I can count on one hand the number of times I knew how it would end when looked at from the starting line. So… GO! If you are having trouble figuring out how, maybe this video will help you. I mean, if George the Poet can do it, you can too.
4. I have so many things to do. Multitasking is an illusion. Great multitaskers are just those people who can break focus, focus on something else, and then swap over to a new task. It’s not that they are doing many things at the same time, they are just doing many different singular things in a small amount of time. But at any one time, they are doing only one thing. When I am doing too many things at once, I am most likely doing them poorly and more slowly. Practice juggling.
5. My client/ boss’ control problem is stifling my creativity. Oy. Well first, the real problem to first apply your creativity to is the client’s project problem, so try shutting out any of the human drama. Apply your creativity within their constraints without the ‘don’t tread on me’ feelings. Then have a conversation or find a new boss or client to explain how you best work. Employers want their people to do their best and need to know when they are holding things back. For clients, at some point you’ll be able to build clients that trust you. For me, my best work comes when I can follow a thread of an idea and just see where it leads. Instead of madly trying to come up with interesting combinations of ideas under duress, the process is more exploratory. This is when it becomes really fun for me and my best clients know they will get way more than they paid for.
6. I’m stuck. Ya, it happens. Probably your brain needs to work on something else. I know I make the best connections while driving or after a nap. Maybe your brain needs a bit of time and a change of activity in order to organize your thoughts into genius. If I haven’t even started, a trip to the art museum or a coffee and copy of bomb or elle decor will usually give my brain a new direction and unanticipated focus.
7. No really, I’m stuck. My desk collapsed on me and I can’t get up.
Oh dang! Sorry buddy, that’s all you. Do you have any of those tools we discussed handy?
Vulnerability: Teachings from Pharell and Brene Brown
When I’m procrastinating and need a kick in the a**, I like to throw on a quick TED talk. This one on Vulnerability by Brene Brown was particularly eye-opening.
It’s message of courage, openness, and wholeheartedness is one that I personally strive for. These qualities are also necessary to achieve the kind of boldness, creative thought, and success for my business, Lola Creative to thrive. I am also amazed whenever I see a speaker who can address a crowd as if they are her best girlfriend. This lady can speak two words and I am already drawn in. In a nutshell, it teaches that our belief in our vulnerability as the source of what makes us special, is the key to joy. Also that connection requires vulnerability because it reveals our authentic selves.
This is particularly useful in business, where vulnerability can be viewed as something less than professional. It’s scary because it admits some degree of uncertainty. In my industry, uncertainty is necessary, nobody knows exactly what will happen at an event because all the pieces have never come together in the same time and place. All we can do is prepare. Even still, confidence, even if unfounded, can be a bigger sell to a hesitant client than a bold idea. Everyone has someone to impress but our clients have one shot to nail it. To fail at a lofty goal is so scary, many would rather choose the safer option to make the potential fall less scary. Several times we’ve been in the situation where we’ve proposed a bold idea or experimental approach only to find that later, it needs tweaking. It will have to be modified. This has sometimes been stressful for our clients who are reluctant to relay an alternate to their higher-ups for fear of looking incompetent. We’ve even been tempted to simplify our offerings to what is easily accomplished. We also have been tempted to express over confidence in the beginning when really, “Yes, absolutely this can be done!” actually means, “Yes, absolutely we are capable of doing this, until we can’t. And at that point we will move to another awesome idea that will work better.” Brene’s message is a wonderful reminder that new paths are uncertain, but also yield exciting results. Experimentation and creative acts are vulnerable endeavors and if vulnerability leads to joy. Than the path to the “hell yeah” business that we want rife with uncertain moments.
With all this on my mind, later in the week I went to my number 2 time waster, reality TV. The Voice is on and this past week I was surprised to see Brene’s findings echoed in the coaching of Pharrell Williams. To a rejected Bianca Espina, he said, It’s not about the chairs,”It’s about your great time.”
The idea that as a creative professional, if you are to draw people in, your ‘performance’ must be authentic, bold, and vulnerable. You must be so into your thing, that it’s play, and the audience reaction becomes more of an observation and learning process than a judgement call.
Next we’ll talk about building trusting clients who value a bold approach.
And speaking of vulnerability, stay tuned for a very uncertain situation, our first big event using tall floral arrangements without floral foam… In a glass house… midsummer. Yowza.