Do you ever find your creative flow all clogged up with stress, boredom or lack of inspiration?
This past week I was given a freelance assignment by a massively famous band.
I love (and hate) these projects.
I love it because, well, they’re a mega-famous band and how freaking cool is that? My job rules.
I'm lucky as hell and I know that, most of the time.
If I’m being brutally honest here though (I am), finances have felt like a major stress lately. So, getting the call for this project came at a perfect time to alleviate some pressure on the ol' checkbook.
Why do I hate these projects?
Well, if I remain being honest (I still am), approaching creativity from the starting point of being “An Assignment” means that no matter how cool it is, chances are that I am not inspired, yet.
I have to find inspiration. This is a major, major, major different experience than when I start a piece of art where a vision is jumping around my mind and can't wait to get out.
Working on a creative project with tight deadlines and an authority figure calling the shots can take some of the fun out of it. It sometimes pushes me into a corner of taking the work way too seriously.
I start thinking things that start out with, “I have to…” instead of thinking things that start out with, “YES! I get to!”
Tony Robbins talks a lot about turning your “HAVE TO’s” into “GET TO’s”. This is an important nuance of words which leads me to my first reminder I give myself when I'm stuck.
Remember to be playful.
One of the killers of creativity is taking yourself too damn serious. In order to get ourselves into a place where we attract creativity, we need to have fun.
How do you have fun when creativity seems like work?
When I start a project and I can’t see past the deadlines and pressure, I give myself room to screw up. More so even, I expect to screw up. I know that my first 5,10 to 15 ideas are likely going to suck. I know that the first 3-5 hours of hard work will serve no purpose other than to let me know several ways that really don’t work.
That’s hard. It’s difficult to spend hours on concepts only to look at what you've done and say, “Welp, that really blows guess I better try something else”.
I’ve come to realize (again and again) this is just part of the process. Knowing that means I can just dance around and have fun while in that phase. I put on music, listen to an audio book, take frequent breaks and sometimes talk to myself saying things to lighten the mood like, “Wow that’s impressively bad. Bravo Jay”
By alleviating some of the performance anxiety up front, I am able to get myself in a place to let the good times roll. If you forget to have fun and be light on yourself, you can fall into a classic case of imposter-syndrome during this phase.
The other side of this is a bit paradoxical, so stick with me here…
Remember to take my work way too serious.
I can hear you now thinking, “Huh?”
It’s great and necessary to have fun with my process. I may or may not have thrown back a beer or inhaled better than Clinton before getting on stage to live paint with a band from time to time. There’s moments after this were I find myself drifting to a place of, “Weeeeeeeeeee!”.
It's easy to then forget that I’m here to do a job. I am here making art as part of a collaboration with my muse to take care of business. I am the physical vessel from which creative needs to flow.
It can be challenging to loosen up but then once you’re loose, it can also take a nudge to get you back on your mission. If you're not careful to hang on to the right amount of seriousness, you can get sloppy, lazy and make poor creative decisions.
If you can have these two mindsets of playful and serious balanced and dancing with one another, you’re in the sweet spot for creativity to flow.
So depending on where you are at any given moment, you might have to nudge yourself with some reminders like these to stay in that Goldilocks Zone.
- This is so silly. This doesn’t really matter. Just have fun, kick back and enjoy..Loosen up Mr. Stressy McStresspants.
- Be like Metallica and paint like, “Nothing else matters”. This is everything. Up your game. Take no prisoners. Go big or go home. This is everything. The world is counting on you. Paint like your life depends on it.
More simply said…
Be serious…but not too serious. Be playful but not to playful.
This weird tango between sides of your personality can feel confusing. A lot of creative people jump ship during this turbulence. Stick with it though. Know that both of these sides and everything in between is not only typical but it’s a mandatory part of the journey.
I just finished that project. I was able to ride the wave into the zone and came out the other side of the tube. The band management says they love it and I'll share it with you guys when I can.
If you're like me and want to take your career to the next level, I offer one-on-one Creative Coaching for Artists, Writers, Musicians and Creatives of all types.
We will work together on:
- Developing Creative Mindsets
- Finding Purpose
- Finding Long Lasting Inspiration
- Professional Networking
- Building Habits
- Formulating a Plan to Succeed