Conquering The Creative Process

I’m in a chaotic state right now. While the new year brings on new goals, hope, excitement, for me it has also brought on some indecision. 

Work Bigger started as a weekly blog exactly one year ago.

In 2016, I published 44 articles all focused on building our self awareness so we can be more mission-driven and make an impact through our work. All this content led to a pilot program which led to a larger community (all in beta).

Although exploration and feedback have led to education and experience, I’m still figuring out some key components of the business.

This is sometimes exciting, sometimes daunting. Indecision, insecurity, inaction are my enemies.

When we’re in the process of working on a big project at work or getting something we love off the ground how do we know when to jump? When is the research process over? Is it ever over?

Here are three ways to conquer the process of working, creating, launching, decision-making so we can not only survive the creative process but also thrive because of it.

Embrace the Chaos but Set a Timer

In design thinking, we’re taught to flare – to explore, conduct user research, brainstorm big. This is strongly encouraged and is critical to innovation, to finding the new –  because we’re not holding back. Reality is suspended.

But for how long should you flare?

For someone like me, who enjoys the exploration, the research, and likes to work on my own terms, I’ve realized that setting this boundary is crucial.

In design thinking, we set a timer for each brainstorm session. You flare for 10 minutes, then you give yourself another 10 minutes to focus, to dissect your findings and draw conclusions.

The timer provides accountability. And it’s only from the focus and your conclusions that you can then take action.

To decide when to focus, start with listing all of your questions. Get to answering them, then answer the following:

(1) Have you answered most of your burning questions through your research? 

If not, what questions do you have left, and how pertinent are they to your project?

(2) Have you developed criteria to go from exploring to focusing?

For example, if you’re in the midst of researching what side hustle to launch, what criteria have you set to make that decision. You can think about (a) which side hustle makes you most excited, (b) which idea the greatest market need, and (c) what’s easiest to launch today?

(3) Are you feeling anxious to get going and take next steps?

If you’re feeling off, anxious, not excited, get quiet. What’s your gut telling you you need to do? We often overlook the silence. We value noise because noise equals action. But the answers lie in the quiet.

You Don’t Have to Be the Decision-Maker

Have you ever sat in a classroom or conference room battling over an idea with your team?   

We should do XYZ. It’s genius. I’m right, and you’re wrong. 

This.Is.Pointless.

When we’re in the thick of creating, being objective is difficult. We love our ideas. They’re personal to us. 

As Larissa May shared in her interview last week, we cannot be so attached to our ideas.

Who is directly impacted by what you’re creating? Is it a client? Is it a team member?

Let this person be the referee. Ask them questions, and gather feedback. The benefit of this is we’re stepping outside of our subjectivity, out of our heads. It also allows us to move quicker and get unstuck. 

After all, the work is not for you, right?

Find the Positive Triggers

I’m going to go back to the chaos and talk about the sh*t ,the negative chatter. I know it’s not unique to me or to you. If you’ve done anything that matters to you, the self doubt is there.

You’re looking for a new job and you’re just not finding one; you’re trying to launch a business, and you can’t crack the code; you’re working to get healthier, but something’s not clicking.

Like we have negative triggers (e.g. a specific family member commenting on our weight or a friend trying to one up us), we also have positive triggers, things that make us feel good.

I’m not talking about positive triggers like shopping or getting a like on your Instagram post. Although these work in the short term, they don’t add much benefit in the long term, and eventually we come down from that temporary high right back to the sh*t. 

A positive trigger is a trigger that fully helps you make a shift in the moment. 

For me, it’s Dr. Dyer’s podcast. His advice pulls me out of my negative chatter and helps me shift my mindset. I feel more positive, calm, I tune into my own silence.

What and who does that for you? Reading a book? Meditating? Writing in your journal? If you don’t have your positive triggers, invest time in identifying them.

In Conclusion: To Conquer the Creative Process

The creative process is chaotic, which makes it both exciting and brutal.

It’s exciting as ideas take shape and you feel close to innovation, but brutal as the unknown can be so stifling. Taking action is the only way through. If you mess up, you have findings to help you iterate.

Can you relate? Have you had a goal or worked on an important project but through the process you faced a roadblock? How did you get through it? Share your comments and questions below.