Photo by Forrest Anderson
Successful creative professionals never give up vigilance over their soul to anyone else. They live by design.
They include in their lifestyle the time to care for themselves. They set aside blocks of time to bring their lives into order so that they can live simply, civilly and with a sense of balance, beauty and good design.
They respect their own choices and give themselves a right to refuse projects that they believe won’t end well. They stand back before spiraling down into bruising experiences that prevent them from getting good results.
They fill their minds with good ideas and then nourish the best of those ideas until they come together in reality. They nourish the thoughts that will take them in the right direction and shun those that stunt their creativity.
They are willing to get away from the crowds to chart their direction, a clear step-by-step one toward real fruit and away from obstacles that impede their progress. They are not reluctant to get off the beaten path when necessary to accomplish their goals.
Successful creatives realize that a desire to bring order or clarify in some way is the foundation of creativity. They realize that order doesn’t just mean trains that run on time but that go in the right direction to the right destination and that provide a joyful and relatively safe journey along the way. They realize that it’s an oxymoron to think that they can be miserable now and get to a joyful place in the end. Both the journey and the destination count.
Ideas and impressions come to all of us from outside – some wrong, some right. It is through the act of thinking that we decide what to do with them. This is the beginning of the creative workflow. Good ideas are the consequence of constant exposure to good, fun, productive things. We can decide what to do with the impressions and ideas we get in a self-aware, proactive way or in a semi-automatic “victim” way that is not self-aware. If we choose the second, we allow our thoughts to be processed or moved along an assembly line that we were taught by our families or other influences.This automated approach can lead to erroneous conclusions which we can assume reflect reality.
This type of superficial, unplanned thinking is very dangerous to a creative. It spawns thinking that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. People think in this way because:
They aren’t paying for the grass.
They aren’t willing to spend the time and effort planting something that will really grow in their own location and climate.
Creativity requires careful, thorough selection of the ideas you will pursue depending on not only the direction you want to go in, but what will work in your environment with your chosen resources. It requires being open minded about pulling up what doesn’t grow and replacing it with what does, paying the price in time and labor for a good product.
This approach is the key to not just a successful creative career but a happy marriage, family and a healthy lifestyle.
To use another metaphor, only internally powered, light, highly maneuverable ships that avoid iceberg zones and have a clear charted destination avoid disaster. Those that are weighed down with unnecessary cargo, that don’t easily adjust to changing circumstances and that haven’t charted a wise course and destination are sitting ducks. Both oceans and the world are natural minefields for the unwary, uneducated, naïve and directionless. You don’t have to be a bad person to become mired in problems that will sink your creative career; you just have to be rudderless and drifting with the winds.
As creatives make conscious, wise choices about the direction of their professional lives, they find themselves abandoning the icebergs in their lives and sailing more smoothly in the direction they want to go. They learn to simply decide to do that which works, then the next thing that works and the next and the next, being discerning about their choices.
Successful creatives choose to live in a world of real talent and real production, deciding where they operate, what they want to accomplish and therefore the results they will get. They don’t worry about feeling overwhelmed. They realize that everyone in the world is overwhelmed - it's a given.
That unexpected things, both good and bad, will happen on the way to a creative destination is also a given, and real professionals never use it as an excuse not to plan and make discerning decisions.
Here are the basic creative tools to set the right direction and keep yourself on the right route:
Creative brief/statement of work - Articulate clearly the goals you want to achieve for a creative project. The creative brief/statement of work is a valuable assessment tool to determine what you want to achieve, because it helps you to know what is expected and decide what you can handle.
The resources available to achieve those goals. These include time, software, the Internet, research materials, access, complimentary projects, your skills.
A project plan. This is crucial. It should preferably build on previous plans and be based on best practices and past experiences.
Risk management – anti-iceberg plans to avoid as many obstacles as possible.
A schedule so you realistically determine how long it will take you to do a project and can set realistic milestones and deadlines.
A completion plan to wrap up the project and deliver it. Ta Da done!
Evaluation, then immediately moving into your next project.
This type of workflow is the foundation of creative professionalism.