Let’s talk about creative imbalance. Balance in life is important. This also applies in the creative life for us creators. To take a moment and see where you at is a simple and very powerful exercise to do. Because, we want to make sure we are eating from all parts and having a balanced diet and not only from the less funny, but important, vegetables.
When it feels like life is against you; you have struggles at work, you don’t get commissioned for the jobs you want to do, days filled with commitments or you are in a deep creative rut. You experience less joy for your once fun and creative job, that now feels more like forced labor than a creative outlet. Plain and simple – life sucks! This often results in that our level of creativity is lowered and we start to doubt on our own competence and in ourselves.
Because we feel less joy in being creative, we also tend to move away from the things that makes us creative. We stop doodling, looking for interesting shadows in nature and we start to compare ourselves to others online, with the result of that we often feel even worse.
A creative imbalance
This usually means that our creativity is out of balance – we have a shortage and excess in our life. That’s why doing an exercise that clearly shows what you are doing too much- and too little of. This tool is very simple, but powerful and is being used by physiologists within cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). And now will the project manager inside you scream of joy – we shall make a list!
Or, not only one list but several. We start to list what you think you are doing too much of. It can be as long as you want, but at least 10 points is good. It can, for example, look like this:
What I do too much of
- Putting out fires all day (drains energy)
- Only doing bread & butter work (important but without creative challenge)
- Worrying for my business (economy)
- Worrying why I don’t succeed with my client pitching
- I compare myself to other creators (who often have come further in their careers)
- Stress (to/from work, deadlines, musts)
- Ponders (about everything and nothing, often to the negative)
- Unhealthy “Band-Aids” because I feel sorry for myself (junk food, alcohol, tobacco)
- Stuck in my own development (don’t learn new things, don’t do new things)
- Taking bad decisions (for my business, economy, commissions, strategy)
This list can be as long as you want it to be. But, spend some time on it and really think of what you feel you are doing too much of.
Tip! Take a full work week and write down what you do during the days.
The next step is to make another list (yaay!) with what you feel you are doing too little of. Just like the one above, at least 10 points and really think it through. It can, for example, look like this:
What I do too little of
- Personal creative projects
- Business development (planning, structuring, analysis, vision)
- Meet and socialize with like-minded (after work, meet-ups)
- Stop for a moment to feel and see where I am
- Development of my skills and knowledge (workshops, courses)
- Exercising and taking care of my body (jogging, lifting weights)
- Read books (I’m trying but its slow)
- Being inspired (exhibitions, movies, magazines etc.)
- Finishing old, more long-term, projects
- Appreciating myself, what I made and how far I’ve come
Black on white
The benefit of making lists like these are that you easily see what your workday and creative chores look like. That you feel uninspired, out of energy or stuck isn’t strange when you only do the things, that of course is necessary, but don’t refill or provide an outlet for your creativity. To only work with these works for a while, but sooner or later you need to fuel up the creative gas tank. Just as only visiting exhibitions, working on personal projects or socialize at after works (I wish) don’t work. We also need to make money and make sure our accounting is up to date.
The key to creative freedom is to have a balance between the necessary musts and the fun and creative parts. Because without one we can’t have the other. That means that without the necessary musts, the ones generating money, time and opportunities, we can’t do the fun stuff that refills our creativity, that often costs time and money. A creative imbalance!
Or as Thanos said it: