It was a scene straight out of the glamorous life of a creative professional: I was supposed to be working on a tight deadline last week – 12 hours in to a Monday work day – when I was dangerously distracted by my nemesis. Netflix. I think we can all tell when we’re letting ourselves get distracted out of procrastination, but I swear this was not one of those times. Truly, I was mentally tired and struggling to find a reservoir of energy to finish my project. Sometimes we just have to suck it up and dig deep – and sometimes… A great moment can catch us off guard and fill us right back up. There on the TV is Robin Williams as Peter Pan flinging a spoonful of rainbow mashed potatoes and rediscovering his childhood creativity all over again. It was totally awesome and it brought me right back to being in my parents’ basement watching it as a child. When rainbow mashed potatoes were totally possible.
Creative mindfulness is definitely something I have to to actively practice and improve upon. I could have been (and I was) absolutely stressed out about the deadline and really hard on myself for procrastinating with that damn Netflix again. But this is where mindfulness, which is a new practice for me, comes in: I took a breath, gave myself permission to explore the creative feelings I was having watching the scene and I immersed in that 20 minutes of screen time. It gave me just enough juice to move on and finish my project without too much drama.
Just like your id or your ego, I believe that your creativity is an active participant in who you are as a person. It plays a part in your personality, your work ethic, your sense of self. It motivates you, distracts you and drives you crazy. It can be loud or quiet, front-and-center or working quietly in the background. It gets inspired, and just as easily, it gets tired.
As a creative professional, keeping tabs on the health of my creativity is extremely important. It’s my biggest professional responsibility, really – to infuse the best of my unique creative ability in every piece of work I deliver. Otherwise, I would just be a word factory… and I’m pretty sure there’s an app for that.
But to think that creative professionals are they only one who have to keep tabs on the vitality their creative senses is pretty naive. In fact, Elizabeth Gilbert points this out in her book Big Magic:
What is creative living? Any life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear.
The commitment to living life with a sense of wonder, an attitude of exploration and an entitlement to create new and unique things would make anyone better at their jobs, relationships and life.
I’ve been really taking the lessons of Big Magic and other creative visionaries to heart as I’ve progressed into more and more creative work over the last year. Every little piece you give out of your creative reservoir does need to be replaced or replenished. However, all too often, the task of “staying creative” gets mixed up with the task of staying “ahead of the herd” and the pressure of trying to be new and innovative is the worst creativity killer of all.
How I stay focused on creative #winning
7 reminders I use to keep mindful about my creative practice…
I have permission to get distracted when my creative curiosity is peaked. I also have permission to take a break when I understand how that break will get me back on track again soon.
I need to stay honest with myself about how much I can have on my plate for my creativity to thrive. I can multitask with the best of them, but it’s not always the best thing for producing my best work.
My creativity can handle a little organization. I make Asana and handwritten lists of creative projects and tasks to prep myself for the pace of upcoming projects and deadlines.
I don’t feel my best, I can’t produce my best. I gotta feed my body right 80% of the time, and feed my soul the other 20%. Physical activity should distract me from my thoughts, not give me more time to obsess over things! And sleep – always just enough sleep.
If I do this, then I can do that! I reserve the right to bribe and placate my creativity into submission for the task at hand with the promise of something totally wild and crazy later.
I need to go somewhere new, try something different or explore a new idea every day. I need to keep sight of the edge and not get too comfortable with what I know and do.
Surfing is productive for creativity. Collecting ideas is even better. Using Pinterest, notebooks, sticky pads or whatever else to log the world as I see it is absolutely essential to feeding my creativity.
My creativity is not finite nor even really limited, but it is precious and I want to treat it well enough that it wants to make amazing things with me for a long time to come. What’s your list of creative #winning habits?