Wednesday, November 20, 2013

When Inspiration Fails [and other creative lessons]

Its been 5.5 years since I graduated with my Graphic Design diploma. I feel like the space I'm at now allows me to look back on some of the things I really wasn't prepared for, the things that nothing can teach you except real-world experience. For a while in the blogosphere there's been a lot of people making noise about doing what you're passionate about for a living. Lately I've noticed a few "I tried doing what I was passionate about…and then the passion died" posts. It made me so sad, but I also resonated deeply with the challenges that all creatives face - especially stepping out into the working world of 8 hour creative days that don't wait around for inspiration to strike. I feel like I've learned a some things about managing this challenge, and I want to share a few! These are written to the budding creative professional, but really apply to any human being trying to find their place in the world :D.

When Inspiration Fails You
Inspiration is essential to developing innovative new ideas. Without it, we'd never think to use iPads in hospitals, or old tires to make chairs, or the force of wind to create electricity. But I find that many people (student-me included!) have the wrong idea about how inspiration finds us. We take on a new project and get really excited about the possibilities. We sit ourselves down under the tree and wait for the apple to drop. And wait…and wait…. Sometimes it comes (as in the classic newton example I just alluded to), and we ride the high of the right mixture of attention to detail and problem solving that spits out magic with little to no effort. But that is not the norm! In order to keep our "creative wells full" we need to learn how to dig for water. I've learned that the majority of projects have "frustration and hair tearing" as well as "hopelessness and confusion" built in to their creative process. When we put our passions to work, its just that - work. But when we start to train ourselves to create inspiration instead of waiting for it to find us - the rewards are incredible, and all of a sudden a long-term creative career is a real probability!

When Comparison Kills You
I think this one is going to haunt me forever. "Comparison is the thief of all Joy" is one of the truest statements floating around out there! The problem with keeping your finger on the pulse of what other creatives are doing is that you very quickly switch from being inspired, to being discouraged by what you didn't think of or can't pull off. It takes an effort to shut out the voices and separate your own work from what other people are doing. I find that separating my "idea finding" time from "idea generating" time helps let the things I've seen seep in and inspire my ideas instead of directing them. We'll lose ourselves if we get caught up trying to be someone else. It's a pretty straightforward concept, but intensely hard to internalize!

When Standards Overwhelm You
The accessibility of the internet is a great asset to the work of a creative person. It's so easy to follow creative trends and the needs of our market place. We can learn from the successes and failures of others without having to meet them for coffee. Similar to the problem of comparison though, is the danger of getting carried away with industry standards for success. I think our creative natures drive us to pursue higher levels of achievement, but we let society define what that means. What if success for me isn't selling out a successful blogging workshop or getting design awards? What if success for me is finding a way to enrich my community with my skills and resources? We have to learn to separate what really brings us joy from what we think will bring us joy.

Does any of this resonate with you? Do you work in the creative industry or something else entirely? I'd love to hear from you, reader(s) :D! 

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