Temporary Lulls Are Just That…Temporary

This post sings a bit of a different tune. It’s more about the lulls in energy or drive that hit me in my daily life, be it work related, training related, or personally related.

It seems more so than ever I am aware that my life really is a series of unbalanced scales. I have a finite amount of hours and energy each day I bring to a project, to school, or to a training session. Sometimes when things in my life don’t seem to be in balance, it throws off the entire equation and I just shut down for awhile. Sometimes that while can last a few hours to a few weeks. And, every so often, I try to take a step back and really examine what I’m doing. Since I don’t work a 9-to-5 job, my projects last anywhere from a few hours to a few months. It’s nice and refreshing to be able to reframe my viewpoint so regularly. In fact, it is a luxury that I quite dearly missed in the spurts I committed to working full-time the few times in my adult life.

Lately I’ve been juggling more design work than school work. Just a few months ago, I was immersed full time in school work. What happened? Did I get bored or am I just coming up against a temporary lull? As you may already know, my interests oscillate between tech/design and health/fitness. One started off as a hobby and became a career, and sometimes it seems like I’m trying to redo that entire cycle over again in a completely different field.

I like to think of these temporary lulls as good practice for the Ironman. 17 hours is a long time to slug away at something. There will be some times when I don’t feel like swimming another yard, biking another mile, or running another step. It is in these temporary lulls that build character and grit. It is in trying times that you learn that the best things in life are the things you earn — education, leadership, strength. The things in life that are worth having are worth working for. Some have to work tirelessly before they see the fruits of their labor. Some people will never reach their end goals, but the journey is so consuming and well worth the investment that it is, in of itself, the reward.

It is in these quiet times I spend alone that I learn the most about myself and the people around me. A little bit of quiet observation unfolds a great deal of analysis of my past and present. I can’t predict the future but I can stack the odds. I can make plans for the future without sacrificing my appreciation of the present. I can honor the past by living fully in the present. I can (try to) learn to let go of the people and events in the past that burns inside of me.

I think the one thing I’ve learned the most in my adult life is how little I actually know. It’s kind of scary. I don’t have enough time on this earth for all of the books I want to read, the languages I want to learn, the places I want to visit, the startups I want to work with, the people I want to meet, the races I want to run. A lot of people at my age (and younger) feel invincible and on top of the world. I feel the exact opposite. I have so much to learn and so little time to execute it in. And, even though one of my goals is to complete an Ironman triathlon, I know that I have a lot of training ahead and a lot of life lessons to learn along the way.

I guess one place where I can start is…how the heck do I work all of the gears on my bike? That’s a pretty actionable first step, right?

The Best Way To Motivate Every Creative

I love what I do. I love it, I love it, I love it. It is days like today that I thank the starry sky above that I’ve been blessed with the brains, determination, and opportunity to pursue my passions fearlessly.

Dress For Success - Hollywood Taft Building

Last night I slept when I wanted to. This morning, I woke up when I felt like it. Today, I drove through Los Angeles, with the windows down and the sun shining bright above me, to meet with a client. I sat down to a casual meeting over coffee to help a client with her newly launched website and to chat about her concerns and other projects. Afterwards I drove south on the 101 and into Hollywood…the day was so clear that I could see the blue skies behind the downtown LA skyline. I parked, grabbed some lunch, and headed up to chat with Dress for Success Worldwide West about what we could do to improve their website and social media marketing efforts.

Dress For Success Worldwide West Twitter

I spend so much of my time behind a computer, clicking away on my keys, sending tweets and writing blogs (for myself and others). I go through designs like I do laundry. I mentor and I critique and I troubleshoot and every once in awhile I get to peek my head out from the madness to sit across from a client, face to face, and actually TALK. What’s great is that the universe has thrown some pretty amazing people in my path. I admire every single client I bring on — for their determination, their drive, and investing in something that will help make the world a better place in their own special way.

On a day like today I am happy that I chose to follow the path of greatest resistance, that I chose to ignore the naysayers, and to chase my dreams. To be a creative is to be a very special person. So, my dear clients, when you wonder what it takes for a creative to do their very best work for YOUR project, keep some of these points in mind:

  • Give them the freedom to be creative. That is why you hired them, after all. (Check their portfolio beforehand to make sure they work in the style you are looking for.)
  • Realize that you’ve hired them for their professional opinion. They won’t always be identical to yours. If you’ve been stuck with a yes-man I would start looking elsewhere because it’s obvious that they’re not thinking…they’re just doing.
  • Give them space to create. It’s very hard for people to be creative on demand. Maybe if you stopped calling so often or sending a deluge of emails they might have the time to sit down and do the work without constant interruption.
  • Remember that creatives do their best work when they’re inspired. If they’re not answering your calls or emails right away, it might be because they are doing research or contemplating how to approach your project.
  • Give them definitive deadlines and instructions. If you absolutely need things a certain way, let them know up front. Otherwise, don’t get upset if they can’t read your mind.
  • Challenge them. If you think the work they’ve produced is mediocre, say so…but give constructive reasons as to why, so that they may improve and create their work in your image.
  • Be thankful. Just as much as you screened them and (hopefully) wrote them a check, they are doing you a favor too. They are sharing their gift with you so that you can, in turn, share it with the world. Don’t ever forget that they’ve chosen you, just as much as you’ve chosen them.

Are you a creative with something to say? What suggestions would you give?

The Creative Process for Creatives Can Get Pretty Creative

Whoever says being creative is a natural process is pretty much lying. Creativity takes lots of energy, guts, emotions, and work.

I’m one of the lucky few. I’m paid to be creative. When that happens and I don’t feel like I’m being creative enough, pandemonium ensues. (It’s all inside of my head at least. See “guilt” post for reference.)

Creativity Is The Opposite Of Routine

The paychecks, although whole-heartedly welcome, doesn’t necessarily validate the creative inside of me. I see it as more of a challenge.

The more projects I book, the more I see them as hurdles I must overcome for my clients. Some questions that race through my mind are:

  • What can I bring to the table that hasn’t been thought of before?
  • How can I message this campaign better so that it reaches their target psychographic?
  • How will I be able to package the visuals so that their constituents can relate?

Sometimes I end up going dark, a.k.a. out of reach, for my clients because I am in the creative zone. That’s more often than not. It sounds cliché but in order for me to get creative I have to feel a spark. I have to find my inspiration and that takes a little bit of effort. Sometimes I have to change my environment; sometimes I have to listen to new music; sometimes I have to do something absolutely unrelated. (I think if I were a little more upfront about this painful point in my process, my clients would be happier, so I will put that one on my to-do list for future projects.) Routine is absolutely essential for some aspects of my work, but if I let my day be run by the clock, I run myself into the ground. It’s a pretty simple equation.

For me, the creative process is never routine. Being creative is being okay with flux and constant change, waning motivation and strokes of genius. Creativity takes place between my ears before it takes place on my sketchpad and lastly on my screen. It should for you too.

Here are some crazy things I’ve done to spark creativity:

  • Drank in strange, new bars with my sketchbook
  • Hopped on a Greyhound to travel to another city
  • Rode on the train with no intention of going anywhere
  • Blogged
  • Drove to the beach at 2am
  • Sketched in an video game arcade
  • Sat down at a 24-hr coffee shop and perused books
  • Sunbathed on the beach
  • Went to an event that I didn’t want to attend
  • Called a friend to ask them for advice
  • Tried a new coffee shop
  • Drove to a beach a few hours away to sit at the lifeguard station during sunset
  • Peruse other designers’ blogs
  • Sink my teeth into another project
  • Clean. Oh my have I cleaned…
  • Worked in another medium (photo and illustration)

What’s your creative process like?

Empty Pursuits of Happiness?

A mutual friend, with whom I went to design school with, posted a great article on the endeavor to reconnect with his creativity by way of strategic unplugging.

The thing about design is that the pursuit of a career in such a florid profession requires a LOT of passion. You have to love what you do, every minute that you’re doing it. You have to find the silver lining in every client complaint, every technical wrench that gets thrown in your way, and the upside to every irate vendor you work with.

I certainly believe that creativity is what sets the human race apart from other forms of life here on Earth. Our ability to adapt our physical environment to better serve our inner sanctum is fascinating. We’ve built cities, buildings, natural habitats, space stations, and our homes on ideas. To be human is to bring  ideas to fruition.

Tweet Sample @joelbeukelman

Life is pretty short. Do what makes you happy. When you find that you are sacrificing a much larger chunk of yourself than you’d like, it might be time to slow down or move on.