Enter at your own risk. Only read this post if you want to be confused even more by what goes on inside the head of a creative or innovator.
This is about all creative professions: fine artists, commercial artists, innovators, paid or unpaid. Doesn’t matter the generation or era; what goes on in the head of a creative is perplexing even to us.
Most creatives don’t even know what makes them tick (or create). Many are compelled by reasons unknown. Some are driven to create at the exclusion of everything else. Creative people are just wired differently. Or as I’ve heard plenty enough “weird”!
It can be very painful or very energizing. It can make you sweat or be very calming. But the one thing I’ve discovered about the creative process is it’s never the same. It’s unpredictable. And can’t be managed by a well-meaning project or account manager. Creatives honestly don’t know where they’ll be at a specific point in a timeline. We just know we’ll have your creative solutions to you at the moment they’re due. And don’t bother to ask “how’s it coming”. At this very moment I’m fighting the impulse to pull out my own hair and cuss!
The creative process is difficult to schedule or understand. Creative connections that lead to solutions are random and don’t always come because we’re sitting at our computers or brainstorming with the team. They come when we least expect it, and when they do we rejoice and feel on top of the world. But most of all we are relieved!
For me the painful part is knowing I need a solution that’s the right fit. Something unique. Something that only works in this scenario. Clever or thought provoking, maybe even filled with contradiction. That pressure alone can stump ones creativity.
That pressure becomes heavy like those anti-radiation blankets they pile on your chest at the dentist. I can’t get out from under that blanket using any preset rules or following someone else’s process. The process to that great idea isn’t a process, but more an evolution as I strain and struggle against the pressure. If I fight too hard or try old processes, it becomes heavier and the pain increases.
The other side of a successful creative solution is the worry that you won’t be able to create anything as good as that next time. That last piece, whether a blog, painting or great ad, brings feelings of ‘now what’! No way can I top that! Expectations are just another layering of that anti-radiation blanket.
I saw an Oprah special on the creative process Lady Gaga goes through when she’s writing songs for a new record. She described it as very painful, isolating and abusive. For months she’ll battle through the process in that manner. Even her mother said it’s painful to watch the self destruction, but knows her ‘real’ daughter will come out on the other side. I highly advise you to watch ALL the videos on Oprah’s Next Chapter interview with Lady Gaga or the snippet above. Makes me wonder if Amy Winehouse felt the same agony,Michalangelo, Davinci, Versace or even Steve Jobs.
I read a terrific book by Twyla Tharp: The Creative Habit.
She was a great dancer and is a terrific choreographer who actually has a system for creating. Like all creatives she is always trying to come up with that new idea. That unique way of interpreting her art. For her it was every day scheduled time in the studio. Her system was one an engineer would take pride in. So organized and dedicated, but not without the “You suck” mantra or self doubts that roll through her head.
I spent 18 years choreographing my aerobic classes and workshops for other instructors. My favorite workshop I created was called “Boreography to Choreography”.
The title says it all. You may laugh and say that’s not the same as Twyla Tharp’s professional dances, but you are wrong. When I read her book I realized the system she used to create was the exact same system I used. Repetition and scheduling commitment to our crafts. Locking myself in the studio several days a week for at minimum an hour at a time, year after year. Some days things flowed. Other days I just stammered around creating nothing. But the one thing that always stimulated my creativity was the music I was working with. That music I felt through my muscles and bones generating emotions that literally and figuratively create new movement patterns or ideas. Driven by the music those movement patterns wouldn’t fit or feel the same way with another piece of music. Music, the feeling it created inspired the movements that were coached out by regular creative sessions and the routine of being in the studio.
I also believe creatives are creative in their thinking across the board. While my creative outlet changed 14 years ago I’m still creating to generate emotions or feelings in people. Now I use visuals and words as my creative outlet, but the intended outcome is the same…create emotional reactions to get people to move or take action.
It’s a shaky world inside our heads. We don’t often share the dark aspects of being a creative, but maybe through this blog post you’ll be a step or two closer to understanding what makes us tick.
Here are 5 Tips on how to work or live with a creative:
- Recognize there are times anything you say well-intended or not will have the opposite reaction than you expect. I.E. – – Don’t worry, it’ll come!
- As a manager, set a deadline, let us brainstorm together or on our own, but leave us alone to work through our processes or flounderings.
- Don’t expect us to turn our creativity on and off like a light switch. It’s not that easy or predictable.
- Understand that when we’re in the ‘creative’ zone don’t start asking us questions or start talking about trivial nothings. We are so deep in our zone you sound like Charlie Brown’s teachers. Wah, wah, wa wa wahhhh! Understand that we’re worried the creative thoughts will go away before we can make sense or use them.
Hang on, real live example below!
CREATIVE PROBLEM: Last night I was thinking about this blog. I felt like it needed additional input from other creatives that you might know and respect. So, while I layed in bed contemplating the creatives I know personally I realized their experiences are already part of the post to this point. Plus you might not know them so perhaps the additions of their thoughts wouldn’t have the intended impact.
CREATIVE PROCESS: So, true to my normal creative solving nature I tossed around in a restless sleep complete with a dream. Not just any dream, but a full on nightmare. You know one of those you feel deep in every part of your body. While in that hazy heavy seemingly drug induced (I don’t do drugs, but you get the idea) sleep I knew the crazy woman who was trying to kill me wasn’t real, I couldn’t shake myself out of the dream or wake up. I finally did when I felt myself physically scream out loud. Or, so I thought. Awake now, I knew I couldn’t have screamed out loud at all, because all three of my loyal loving dogs were still fast asleep. And, we all know man’s best friend would never allow me to be attacked by a crazy woman, right??? Right???
ANSWER: There’s your story. That’s exactly what happens in the head of a creative. We live it. We breathe it. We can’t get away from our need to solve the creative problem. It permeates our subconscious, and if we let it happen, process or otherwise, the answers will come. Unfortunately they sometimes come via a physically exhausting nightmare.
5. So, if we seem to be struggling in our sleep realize we may be just working through creative solutions and you shouldn’t wake us. It’s always best to let sleeping dogs lie!
Good night to all…I’ve just finished my blog!
Now you know – what happens in the head of a creative! Good luck to all.