January 5, 2009
Think of this as my New Year Resolution if you like.
For years I’ve had this horrific mental block which I’ve allowed to kill off a large amount of my creative drive. A combination of procrastination and fear of failure have caused me to give up on most creative projects before they have a chance to launch. As I age this has started to fill me with dread, every year since I was about 25 (I’m now 32) I’ve promised myself I’ll finally record my first album and for the last 3 or 4 years I’ve been convincing myself that I’ll get enough visual material together for a book. Neither the album or the book would have to actually be released in any sense so much as just finished, in a creative sense if you will.
Every year that I’ve failed to do both of these things has put me more on edge that I’m never going to do them and I spent a lot of last year thinking about this and actively trying to sort out why I’m such a failure at personal creative projects. Paid for stuff isn’t such an issue, with deadlines and paycheques pressing I manage to get stuff done with no problems, BUT I do believe that if I could extend my personal creative output my overall output would increase in quality dramatically (although this would be a nice side effect rather than the overall intent).
There is no one simple reason for my ongoing failure to actually create. I spent a while studying books on enhancing creativity, of which there are a few and some are pretty good. My favourites are:
I’d strongly recommend both the Paul Arden books regardless of any creative blocks as they are brilliantly witty and beautifully put together. I leaf through them both on occasion when a bit bored. The books did help a little, but not much. The first two go through the mental processes of creativity and teach excellent techniques, which for the most part I already use to great effect on work projects. But I learned some new stuff and it’s a step forward, I’m obviously not completely creatively retarded I’m just not capable of applying myself outside of a work environment. I should probably be a little clearer, by work I mean either stuff I’m being paid to do or stuff I’ve been talked into doing for someone else. I’m absolutely fine to create stuff as long as the end ‘client’ is not myself.
I spent a lot of time analysing my creative output and my general life patterns, habits and so on and I believe I’ve nailed it. I have three overall problems which kill off my personal creative drive:
Distraction and procrastination. I’m a sucker for other people’s projects. I’m better these days as people have to ask me to help out but in the past I’ve often offered myself up to every project out there without much thought to how much time I actually have. I find it very hard to relax and concentrate on something personal if I have anything outstanding for other people. An awful fear of letting people down drives me to put other’s projects above my own. As a good friend recently said ‘Just tell them to go fuck themselves’, which is harsh but effectively accurate, or to be more fair I just need to learn to manage my time. Other people’s projects are not a bad thing, but too often I end up doing the administration part which is no fun and not at all creative.
I also have this fear of not being involved in something brilliant, and often the stuff I’m involved in is brilliant – The History of Guns album is probably one of the most amazing things I’ve been involved in. The reality though is that not every project I get asked to join will be that good and the more I sign on to the less time and energy can be given to each project so I need to be a lot less reckless when saying ‘Yes’ to things.
Fear of mediocrity. This is, if I say so myself, fucking idiotic. The very fact it’s taken me this many years to see this shows I deserve a kick in the head. The fear that my creative output may be mediocre causes me to not bother creating it in the first place and so no practice, no evolution of skills and ideas and no creative process is had. EVERYONE makes something mediocre at times. If I don’t create something shitty I cannot learn where I went wrong. Fucking idiot.
Blank canvas. Not in the direct sense, but in a more general form. I have interest in too many areas: illustration, photography, music, video, animation, programming and other things. When I do allow myself some creative time I often can’t even get over the hurdle of what sort of creative thing to be doing, I can switch back and forth all day trying to decide whether to photograph things, write music, draw stuff or something else so in the end nothing gets done. This is the one problem I still don’t have a strict solution for but I’m working on it. One solution is pre-planning, I will plan a day to go and take photographs or a day to spend editing music and from there stick to the plan as well as I can. I’m getting better.
One very effective mechanism I’ve found is keeping a regular sketchbook. In those times when I’d usually surf for something horrific on the internet or watch TV I’ve been drawing random crap in sketchbooks, nothing specific, just whatever comes to mind. It started with the intent of improving my drawing skills, which it has a little, but the side effect is that over time I’ve found it easier to come up with new ideas for things to draw, plus I now have several books full of assorted sketches and concepts that can be used elsewhere.
Enough drivel. My intent now is to always be working on at least one personal creative endeavor, regardless of whether they come to fruition I’m going to force myself to find time for them and ensure they are given a decent priority over other things. I’m currently working on two very different projects, one is a simple illustration project I can work on anytime I have space for a sketchbook and pen, the other is a ridiculously overblown multimedia project which involves modeling, casting, photography, locations, appropriate weather conditions, editing, music and possibly video.
Why I am telling the internet this? Catharsis and hopefully it will convince me to carry out my threats.
Two more things. Happpy New Year, and how cool is this?
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