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.)
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
- 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?
When I find that I am low on patience and inspiration, I usually head towards the water. It’s humbling to be surrounded by something so majestic and grand as the Pacific Ocean. After all, the oceans covers 71 percent of the Earth’s surface and contains 97 percent of the planet’s water. And, at any moment it can swallow me up whole and make me disappear into nothingness.
If you are finding yourself low on inspiration, I find that these usually help:
- A change in environment: Sometimes you just need to change your location. There might be something in your current surroundings that is stifling your ability to think. Either address it or change it, but don’t ignore it — this type of frustration will fester.
- A change in perspective: You might have unnecessarily pigeonholed yourself. Try to see the problem from a different angle and your perspective should change. If you’re a designer, put on your photographer hat. If you’re a service provider, try seeing it from a client’s point of view. Be honest and don’t include your own projections. Truly try to see it from the other side.
- A change in activity: Some of the best ideas percolate while you’re doing something else. Give it a rest and refresh yourself. Chances are you will find some inspiration in something completely unrelated.
It’s sometimes difficult to put our problems into perspective. Just remember that you are one small piece of a very, very large puzzle…and that things are never really as troublesome as they seem. Don’t get caught up in the minutia of life! Just enjoy it and go along for the ride.
It’s fun connecting with people online…but it’s even better having the eyes and ears of all of your friends a few keystrokes away. Luckily for me, all but one of my friends from art school is on Twitter so it’s great being able to keep up with their projects.
I shared a minor victory on Twitter and a few minutes later, the following virtual high-five/fistbump ensued.
Focusing on composition and catching people in their natural state of being. Kind of like a fly on the wall but right in front of them. Planning on a series of this so it should be fun! I’m not really in the mood to get super complicated with equipment, film, etc right now in my life so this is a happy medium. Yay for cell phone art!
The recent emotional upheaval in my life has rekindled my drive towards artistic ambidexterity. Although I like to think of myself as a talented designer and creative marketer, there’s something to be said about pursuing something for the sheer love and thrill of it…not worrying about branding it, hanging it up in a gallery, or hoping that someone else loves it as much as I do. Enter love #2, love #3, and love #4 of my life: photography, illustration, and dance…all of which I resolve to do much more of in the upcoming year. Although I haven’t necessarily been repressed or restricted from practicing them, I have definitely been a little more preoccupied with work and love these past few years.
Today I’ve had a little bit of fun in downtown Seattle with my Android app RetroCamera. I’m hoping to catch the sunrise tomorrow morning in town before my plane heads out.