A guest post by Danielle Maveal, aka Daniellexo, Etsy’s Seller Education Coordinator.
One morning I woke up to a Facebook message from one of my favorite college professors. I was excited to hear from her; she taught me so many lessons about creativity, and I often think about her when I’m sketching or working on new designs. Soon after we connected on Facebook, I caught one of her updates:
Even if they seem good solutions, avoid ‘clenching’ ideas. Hold them lightly, let them evolve and swim. Good ideas often transform into great ones if you give them enough room to play!
I think I’ve had good ideas, but I know I often don’t give my ideas enough room to play. I wondered why that was, and I set out to write my own plan of attack. Here’s that plan.
Seth Godin says, “The enemy of creativity is fear.” Creativity has other opponents, but fear is definitely at the top of creativity’s sh*t list. So be a warrior, and know your enemy. Here are the forms fear comes in when you are trying to be creative:
Observe your thoughts throughout your creative process. What does that inner snob have to say? When I’m sketching, mine says, “That’s been done before.” It drives me crazy. My inner snob expects genius right out of the gate. How can I live up to that?
Take notice of that inner snob and shut it up. How do you do that? Give yourself permission to brainstorm, sketch, build and create without having to hear from the inner snob. Tell yourself there’s a time to step back and be harsh, but that time isn’t during the first stages of brainstorming. Giving yourself permission to unleash the inner snob later on in the process, this should free you up during your brainstorming session.
The task master gets uneasy when you don’t follow your daily routine. The task master is a stick-in-the-mud and fears the unknown. It sees the first flicker of a creative idea and wants to file it away for later. Don’t let it. Put down the dishes, take a break from the To Do list and give yourself a free hour to brainstorm. Here’s the trick, set a timer and don’t let guilt creep in. This is important and you need it. Find a quiet place and think, think your thoughts! And as the brilliant John Cage said, “Be open to whatever comes next.”
Apathy sounds like this:
“What’s the point?”
“I’ll never be as good as (fill in the blank).”
“I’ll work on this later.”
And here’s the one I hear the most and want to slay, “I’m not creative.”
My biggest weapon towards apathy is curiosity. Let’s say there may be no point, you may not ever be as good as blank, and maybe you are not “creative” (bullshit), and what if you did it anyway. Aren’t you curious to see what might happen? What if you sat down and made yourself sketch right now. Don’t you want to see what you might come up with? Not everything you create needs to be shared or consumed, sometimes we can create just to give form to our own weird inner beasts!
Fear kept me stuck from moving forward. Curiosity helped me crush the line of work that I was creating and selling for years and was thoroughly bored with. I got over the fear by letting myself play with a new material. I spent an entire weekend sculpting my new line, just because I wanted to see what I might come up with. I didn’t set out to create new work, I just challenged myself to master this new material and process.
How to Beat Your Opponent
Teach (but don’t be an expert)
Every single time I lead a workshop I’m incredibly inspired to create. When a beginner approaches a new technique or material, they’re not bound by years of experience. They don’t yet know what the limits are (or supposed limits). Each time I work with a new student, I am inspired by their enthusiasm and open mindedness. Here’s the trick though, you can’t be an Expert (with a capital E). You should know your stuff, but if you think you know it all, you won’t evolve in this environment.
Be creative, in your own way, every single day. Schedule it. Make yourself. Sounds boring and counterintuitive, but you’ll never live up to your full creative potential without practice. I love the daily projects out there, and a good place to start would be picking up Noah Scalin’s new 365: A Daily Creativity Journal. If you think you’ll have a hard time sticking with it, make yourself accountable to your significant other, friend or colleague.
And If All Else Fails, Fail Big
The worst part of failing is that moment of shock — things were supposed to go a certain way and they didn’t. That moment of the unknown is what’s so frightening. Picking up the pieces is the easy part. We know where they landed, now all there is to do is clean up this mess and move on.
Keep that in mind as you create. Why fail a little? Make a splash, if you fail, you’ll have to get out the mop either way, right?
I’m no expert (wink!). So I’ll make sure to leave you with a few of my favorite resources so you can study up.
1. Living Out Loud by Keri Smith
2. The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp
3. The Art of Possibility by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander
4. 12 Fantastic Ways to Bring More Creativity Into Your Life by Blacksburg Belle
Danielle Maveal, aka Daniellexo, is Etsy’s Seller Education Coordinator.