12 ways to be sustainably creative

I’ve talked with a lot of people lately who are at transitions in their life, some of them creatives. I got an email from a friend who found me online, asking my advice. She told me how she used to be super creative but said, “However, my creative drive and energy dried up about two years ago and I haven’t really seen it since.” She asked what advice I would have. I know everyone’s story is different, and I’ve been incredibly lucky and blessed for things to fall together in this stage, but I figured maybe others would be curious of some things that I feel like have helped me get here and sustain what I do.

Find your Direction:

  1. Create around struggles you’re continually solving
    1. I’m always fighting with my doubt or my questions with God. But when I learn something in the battle, I have something to share! So to have a sustainable well of creativity, choose something you are continually solving, especially if it’s a struggle. You almost have an instant audience too when you speak to a struggle others have.
  2. Bite sized projects
    1. The death of so many projects is their unattainable scope. Know your own attention span, and pick or cull down projects accordingly. If it doesn’t get done, you’ll probably just get discouraged. And once you adequately tackle a few small ones, and you get your disciplines and rhythm down, then you can start tackling bigger ones.
  3. Choose what you’re good at, have access to, and what intrigues you:
    1. Look at what you’re good at, what you have access to, and what you’re passionate about. Choose something that maximizes the overlaps and combos of those things! Lets say you’re passionate about vegetarianism, people tell you your Facebook jokes are funny, you love to write, and you have some friends that do standup. Maybe see if they’d want someone to write their jokes and you can write them about the food industry! Or something, but I hope you get the point.

Making time:

  1. Trim around your passions
    1. Figure out what it is you want to focus on, and trim out things that aren’t necessary and don’t move you toward that. You’ll need to make sacrifices otherwise nothing will change. If you’re thinking about getting a dog, but it will take up your lunch break which you were going to use to write your novel, you must make that choice. If you choose the dog, you can’t complain about not getting the novel done. If you buy a house, make sure you’d rather have the house and all the maintenance AND can still have time to launch your non-profit. Everything comes with cost
  2. Live below your means.
    1. You don’t have to work more if you spend less money. And with that extra time you don’t have to work, you can pursue your passion.
  3. Kill your TV and Videogames
    1. If you find yourself plopping down in front of the TV or Videogames, you’re probably munching up time you could be pursuing your dream. Ask yourself if you’re willing to give up your dream for the next season of that TV show. I know it isn’t quite as black and white as that, but maybe we need to look at it that way so we don’t just creep into only watching TV shows and playing video games.
  4. Make your resources do double duty:
    1. If you’re answering an email about how to stay creative, turn it into a blog post. My point is, if you’re spending time on stuff, use it for as many creative mediums as possible. Overlap people, places, ideas so they can be utilized for as many things as possible. If you make images here are the websites I have listed for my visual stuff: Behance.com, Society6, Tublr, Facebook (personal and business page), Niume, Pinterest. You’ve already done the hard part. Now blast it out there. And if it’s writing, this is my list: Scriggler, Medium, your own blog, Facebook (personal and business), Wattpad, Goodreads.

Honing your craft:

  1. Choose and sharpen your tools:
    1. If you paint, get phenomenal at painting. Work at it hard and often. They say you become a master after 10,000 hours.
    2. If you get compliments for your initial shot at photography, maybe do it a little more and see if you’re a natural. It’s way easier to succeed at something you’re a natural at.
  2. Expand your skills, but know what’s too far out:
    1. I think it would be cool to learn music, and every now and then I think of a song I’d like to write, but I tell myself, that’s just way to far out of my scope and I’d be an amateur at several things and a master of none. But after a couple years of professional illustrating a band asked if I could animate a video for them. So I learned AfterEffects and now I can directly animate any of my illustrations! That was probably a good jump in skills.
  3. Balance of “What you’re good at” vs. “What you’re passionate about”
    1.  If you love photography but you naturally suck at it, maybe it’s best to focus on what you’re good at, unless you want to make it for your own enjoyment, or your mission really can’t be communicated any other way. I really struggle at writing, but that is the best medium for me to communicate ideas. So I just struggle through it until I get the idea right. It’s a lot of hard work. But with art it flows more naturally and people like my art more often without me having to try super hard. But this is the balance I have chosen: the message of my writing is important so I will slog at it, and I will use my art to buttress up the writing. Even if I could become a famous illustrator, my life is still wasted if my mission to help others understand God better is forsaken because I don’t write.

Making money at it (#FreelanceLife):

  1. Likability, quality, punctuality, price. Yep, in my experience, it really just comes down to 4 things.
    1. Likability: If they LIKE working with you their impression of the whole experience tilts in your favor, they’ll hire you back, and they’ll recommend you to their friends. I’ve never had to do active marketing. The clients just keep coming in and getting better, and it’s because of word of mouth. I think this is what Chik-fil-a tries to do. they figure if you feel good about yourself and about life in the restaurant, you’ll come back.
    2. Quality: Be careful to deliver WHAT they ask and make sure it’s your BEST. Before I send off some work to a client I do something else for a bit and later go back to the first to get a fresh eye on it. Also, to get an objective eye, observe it in a different format. For example, turn your painting upside down. Or even better, looking at it in a mirror is TOTALLY helpful. If it’s an important blog or writing piece record the audio of yourself reading it and play it back.
    3. Post what you can online. Make sure everyone you know knows that’s what you do. If people know and like what you do, you are likely to be the one they recommend when they, or someone they know needs what you do!

That’s it! Reach out with any questions!

Raw Spoon, 7-6-17

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