“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness.”
If you’re a straight-up optimist like myself and Mr. Orwell here, then you’ll understand and appreciate the joys of harbouring creativity. For you, developing something revolutionary after your third coffee in the middle of Hump Day is a no-brainer! In fact, you’re so good, that writing a book seems rather like a small task in-between the multitude of brilliant things that you’re already doing.
Creativity isn’t something you’re born with: your vast imagination has the ability to conjure up some of the most euphoric, disturbing, visceral or ridiculous day-dreams, sometimes leaving you stunned and a little embarrassed. You’re already aware of your own creative prowess: you feel inspired, you’re passionate, and you’re proud of your own achievements: but what’s potentially holding you back is that familiar little voice that says, “You can’t” or “This is rubbish.”
This overbearing inner critic can otherwise be known as your Negative Self: it’s a small part of you that doesn’t show itself too often, but its poison can be toxic. Ultimately, only you can stop your inner critic, but hitting creative mental blocks is an ancient nuisance, with plenty of remedies.
Everything I Do is Terrible
I’ve been seeped in the arts for years: I chose the life of a lowly writer because it suits me, but I still struggle with battling my demonic inner critic before then coming to a complete halt in motivation & productivity. Working through a Bachelor of Arts meant that I had to be creative on the spot, in a room full of strangers, while needing to reach my own outrageous expectations. This was the breeding-ground for that foul inner voice; the negativity that then seemed to permeate throughout anything I tried to create thereafter.
Whether you’ve been asked to draw something, write something or just fashion something out of thin air, your brain can spark itself into “Sure!” or “Abso-bloody-lutely not!” in the blink of an eye.
Facing these issues in an arty environment is one thing, however, attempting to mute your inner critic in an office environment is an entirely different ball game altogether.
Exploring issues creatively is a great way to combat problems, but with creativity comes all that negative baggage; the “I’m-not-good-enough” of yesteryear suddenly rears its ugly head and you’re left staring into a blank void.
There are a few things going on here:
You could be getting trapped by your own thinking, meaning that you’re so used to seeing the issue through one lens that you fail to see the alternatives.
Tamper with that outlook by using a kaleidoscope instead: start questioning your assumptions, adopt different perspectives or simply walk away and be outside for a moment. Pretend that you’re explaining your project or strategy to a five year old: break it down to its bare bones and start building again. Getting bogged down by the same answer will leave you with a dull product, so shake it up.
Perhaps you’re not feeling it: your creative juices simply won’t flow freely while you’re answering mundane emails and inputting data into Excel, right?
Sorry, wrong. Unfortunately your day-job probably doesn’t cater for the fact that Tuesday “really isn’t your day”. You need to take charge of your own productivity and that means not running from things you don’t fancy doing. Take a step back and find out when you’re the most motivated: schedule your day to revolve around those periods of lateral thinking and try to find the ideal balance between routine & ingenuity. When all of that doesn’t work, print out this quote and stick it on your desktop:
“A self-respecting artist must not fold his hands on the pretext that he is not in the mood…” – Tchaikovsky
There’s nothing wrong with aiming for perfection, but you shouldn’t kill yourself trying to obtain it either. Your inner critic is telling you that what you’re making isn’t “good enough”, but not good enough for who? You need to identify whose expectations you’re stressing out over. Most of the time you’ll find that they’re your own: while there are certainly pressures from management or your team, that insane level of brilliance you want to achieve comes straight from your spiralling thought patterns. Given that you probably don’t have time in the day to put your project on pause, you probably don’t have the time to hold onto all of that negativity either. Cut it out and start working with a strong end game in mind, not the faultless one.
Getting Over Yourself
We don’t all work in some kind of corporate playground, and being creative is a trait that a lot of people believe they fall short on. You need to stop telling yourself that you can’t do it, or comparing your supposed short-comings with someone else’s.
One of the best things about thinking creatively is that you’re given the freedom to play again: just know that you’re not going to create a masterpiece or write the next Great American Novel, but small victories through learning new skills and creating something out of nothing, sometimes makes it worth it.
You might be thinking that it’s all well and good in writing, but in practice you sometimes end up like me, and your nerves overtake your ability to perform basic motor skills, let alone act creatively. Unfortunately the only sure-fire way to overcome that is to just suck it up and get the job done. At the end of the day you don’t have time to waste on staring at a blank screen, and when you do find inspiration you should run with it, but you’ll also need the gut to let go of ideas that aren’t working, even if you really love them.
The next time you feel like banging your head against a wall and the ideas aren’t flowing freely, check out these helpful links and see if any light-bulbs appear above your head:
- Wikipedia Random Article: go here and on the left, click “Random Article” for just that! You’ll never know what might find here.
- https://coffitivity.com/ – this awesome site provides users with the ambient sounds of a coffee shop in various stages of service to assist boosting creativity – check it out and see what you think!
- http://99u.com/ – here you’ll find articles, videos and images on igniting creativity and everything else that comes along with it. There are subheadings such as “Leadership” and “Collaboration” to guide you through the website and peak your interests.
- https://www.duolingo.com/ – Duolingo has been running for years and is an easy tool to learn a new language. It starts off super easy and gradually you get to build on your fluency. Even if you’re not in a rush to learn a new language, you’ll find that using your brain that differently will ignite other ideas.
- ted.com/ – During your downtime, take a look at the thousands of videos up on Ted – you’re guaranteed to find something to suit your views and find inspiration!