Doing your best creative work

Doing your best creative work

Creative work is hard.

Ask any songwriter or graphic designer if they've ever had difficulty committing to their work creatively and you'll almost certainly get a resounding "yes". While you may find that you have developed your own methods for fighting through the "writers block" that is affecting your work, I spent some time attempting to get to the bottom of what exactly is causing these problems for me, so that I could attack them directly and get to a place where I feel that I can do my best work.

Things begin to fall apart for me with what I consider to be a general ambiguity about what it is that I'm actually trying to accomplish. Attempting to complete an unclear task with no set deadlines is a recipe for disaster, and does nothing but harm to the creative process. "Brainstorming" is often an excuse that can so quickly lead to a state of not actually accomplishing anything at all. There isn't anything inherently wrong with the concept of brainstorming, but you must be certain that you have a clear understanding of the task at hand before you let your mind wander.

The next issue seems simple, but is also shockingly common: doubt. Specifically, doubt in your ability to accomplish the task at all. Doubt in your skills, doubt in your drive, and doubt in your vision for the project. Being unsure of your skills leads to anxiety, and anxiety cripples your ability to actually create anything. 

Probably most prevalent with creative professionals though, is the fear that what you're creating will be rejected. This can stem from doubt, but it is not the same thing. Fear, in this case, isn't a worry that you don't have the skills to do the task, but instead is a concern that what you're creating will be a failure in the eyes of your audience. This is the biggest productivity killer when it comes to creative people, because it's a seemingly endless loop. Your need to be validated by your audience can only be satisfied by putting out work that you're, unfortunately, too afraid to create.

This all makes plenty of sense on paper, but figuring out how to attack these issues head-on is more complicated. Learning to be happy with what you're creating is a process that can take years to come to fruition, and there are certainly artists that never reach that bliss. That said, there are things that you can do to help the situation, and possibly kickstart your ability to create.

The solution, at least for me, is really quite simple. Create for yourself. Write the blog that you'd want to read. Take the photographs that you'd want to look at. When you are creating introspectively, you can more easily ignore the fear and anxiety about how your work is being perceived by others and spend more time actually doing said work. This may seem selfish at first, but learning to love your own work helps to cultivate the idea that others will love it as well. 

Lastly, be clear with yourself about what it is you're actually trying to accomplish. Writing for an audience of one is a great state-of-mind to be in, but doesn't help you get past the blank page with a blinking cursor. Come up with a plan, set deadlines for yourself, and be honest about the end result. Projects inevitably change throughout the course of development, but when you're clear about what you want out of it, you can more easily adapt to a fork in the road down the line.

Oh, and have fun.

I'm a broadcast engineer, photographer, and writer. 

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