November 12, 2018

Finding Your Creative Spark

The enemy of creativity is distraction. Growing up in the 1980s, I didn't have the internet or Netflix. There weren't tiny computers in our front pockets. No one was addicted to social media. As a kid, I spent time creating. I colored pictures, wrote short stories, and invented elaborate games in my backyard.

These days, I waste huge chunks of time doing nothing. Playing with my phone, scrolling through my Twitter timeline, looking for a new binge-worthy series. Hours disappear. And when I do sit down to create, I'm easily distracted by beeps and vibrations. It's a problem. But I have discovered a few tricks to stay creative and productive in the midst of the technological invasion.

1) Find your happy place.
This is different for everyone, but there are places on this planet that your productivity will go up, and there are places your productivity will plummet. Some people work best at home. Others need to escape. Some work better in isolation. I tend to work better in public places (coffee shops). People energize me. I'm more distracted when I'm alone because the silence is deafening. Wherever that place is, find it and get to work.

2) Discover your ideal hours of creative productivity.
I'm not a morning person. I spent decades apologizing for that until I finally accepted who I was. Some people wake up at five o'clock in the morning to write. I could never do that. I like sleep. My most productive period is late morning/early afternoon (10:00 AM – 3:00 PM). If I try to write outside of that window, it's normally mush.

So—and you really have to commit to this or it will never happen—find at least two hours per day and use that time to create. If you can spare more time, do it. I suggest two hours instead of one because it normally takes me some time to enter a creative rhythm. If you only have one dedicated hour set aside, you'll run out of time right as you experience a creative breakthrough. Write, paint, sculpt, sing, dance. Tap into your creative energy and see what happens.

3) Travel back in time to 1985.
I was eight years old in 1985 and experiencing my creative peak. I didn't have a cell phone. I don't think we had cable television. I'm almost positive Ozark wasn't streaming on Netflix. The internet was just a gleam in Al Gore's eye. I know the media has convinced us life is impossible without our technological gadgets, but they're lying to you. Society survived for centuries without Twitter. You can unplug for two hours per day. Don't say you can't. You're inflating your own value. Someday you'll pass away, and the world will keep spinning. So why not contribute something unique and meaningful while you're still here so our planet spins just a bit slower in your absence?

4) Fail spectacularly.
I know we're all delicate flowers whose entire self-worth hinges on how many people like our most recent Instagram post. Get over it. Who cares if no one likes the thing you created? You didn't create it for them. I spent way too many years paralyzed by fear of failure. Of course I've produced some creative duds over the years. Everyone has. It doesn't mean we're talentless hacks. Keep going. Keep honing your craft. Keep creating. And if you're going to fail, fail spectacularly and learn from it.

5) Play in a sandbox with friends.
I've learned this lesson a million times, but I keep forgetting it. Creating can happen alone, but it's more fun with friends. And I don't mean that you have to all sit in a room and paint together or work on the same project all of the time (although that's certainly wonderful too), but simply having a group of friends to encourage you is a game-changer. And it doesn't have to be overt. All I usually have to do is hang out with creative friends for an hour and that's enough to recharge my battery. When friends do cool stuff, it motivates me to do cool stuff. Hey, that looks fun; I wanna play too!

For the next month, make all five a priority and see what happens. At least two hours per day in your happy place back in 1985, failing spectacularly in a sandbox full of friends.