It’s a strange and often scary fact – but creative people constantly make promises, or even sign contracts promising to supply things that don’t even exist yet. To deliver projects for which the main idea isn’t even formed. For freelance creative people just starting out in their careers, that can be a terrifying prospect. What if inspiration doesn’t strike? What if they don’t feel like creating? What if they get creatively blocked? Here are some secrets from veteran artists who know how to make themselves feel like creating.
You don’t have to feel like creating to create good work
It’s a common myth that inspiration has to strike before anything you create will be good. While it’s true that your best ideas probably come when you’re feeling creative, the work you create when you just turn up and start will generally be almost as good. So the tip that most veteran artists give is, just make a start. Wake up at the usual time, sit down at your desk/easel/work table/sound desk/piano and begin. Put the hours in. It helps remind your subconscious mind – the part of you that comes up with all the best ideas – what you’re aiming to achieve.
Keep a creativity diary to track when you feel like creating
It’s likely that you don’t simply feel like creating by pure chance. Other factors in your environment are highly likely to be affecting your attitude. So if you’re new to a professional creative career it can be very helpful to keep a creative diary. Note down when you created well and what seemed to help – or simply what you did beforehand. Were you well rested? Had you just had a meal or a cup of coffee? Were you excited about working with a collaborator, a new piece of equipment, or a snippet of melody you’d dreamed up? Finding out what consistently puts you in the mood to create will help you gain confidence that you can come up with the goods when you need to.
Understand that being creative doesn’t always feel good
Even when you’re good at what you do, creating can feel like hard work. I used to be a singer that explored the frontiers of the voice. Consequently I had to write my own material. But I’m not a natural songwriter and it never ever felt good. I simply had to grit my teeth when I decided to write an album. It meant months of simply getting up and doggedly sitting with paper, pen and tape machine until the work was accomplished. So you may be able to create good work even though you don’t ever feel like creating.
Feeling creatively confident may take years
I have to confess though, that there did come a point where, although I didn’t particularly like songwriting, I could promise to deliver a project with confidence. That confidence came after what I realise now, was probably 10,000 hours of practice. Anders Ericsson, professor at the University of Colorado wrote a paper in 1993 about the role of deliberate practice in the acquisition of expert performance. He concluded that 10,000 of practice is what it takes (in a talented individual) for them to attain true competence in their craft.
So do keep going. If you’re nervous about your creative process now, it probably will get better if you soldier on, despite the fact that you probably don’t feel like creating just at this moment. You’ll rack up your 10,000 hours before you know it, and you’ll never look back.
If you want to understand more about how to nurture your inner creator try chapter 10 of ‘Organizing for Creative People’ where you’ll find tips and tricks for remaining creative and innovative over the whole course of your creative career.