An abstract blue and black background
An abstract blue and black background
#creativity, #creativelife

Tips for Living a Creative Life

Paul Kiernan

Still, many people dream of pursuing a creative life and all that entails. But how do you do that? That’s the question so many ask who feel they're on the outside looking in.

Creative. There’s a word that sparks all kinds of imagery and debate. Companies sell themselves as creative; they promise clients a creative new look at things, and brands will promise creativity, and yet, no one seems to be able to pin down precisely what it is.

A lot gets done under the umbrella of creativity, meaning there are plenty of charlatans in creativity. The words creative and creativity come with the notion that you cannot ask for details. If you’re not creative, you won’t get it. Why bother explaining it to you? A lot of bad behavior gets excused because the people exhibiting this behavior are safe under the moniker, creative.

Still, many people dream of pursuing a creative life and all that entails. But how do you do that? That’s the question so many ask who feel they're on the outside looking in.

Because we here at ThoughtLab love creativity and the creative process and helping our clients see more creative ways to engage with their clients, we offer these tips on living a creative life.

Is that a Pulse, Then You’re Creative

When we were young, someone assessed a drawing, a poem, or a play and decided that this one is creative while this one isn’t. If you’re one of the “this one isn’ts” you know the pain of carrying around that notion that you’re not creative, how it shackles you, holds you down, and makes you feel other.

You need to let that go right now.

If you’re alive and kicking, breathing, and with a pulse, you are creative, or, more accurately, you have the means within you to be creative. No doubts at all.

How can we say this with such confidence? Simple. When you say the sentence, “I don't have a creative bone in my body,” simply remove the word creative and, in its place, put the word curious. Now, there’s no way you can say, “I don’t have a curious bone in my body,” that’s insane; we’re all curious. And since all creativity starts with being curious, we are all creative.

To get to the point where you accept this, you have to remove judgment from the equation. Never compare above or below when you’re examining your creative potential. If you’re saying I’m not as creative as Picasso, I say fooey to that. If you’re just starting, picking up a brush for the first time, you can say, “I’m not as good as Picasso,” but that’s not what we’re discussing. The level of expertise does not judge a person’s ability to be creative.

As we have written before, remain curious, and you will easily tap into your creative spirit.

To Me, Not From Me

A sand castle with Stop Waiting on the side wall

Genius, the word, much like the word creative, gets bandied about, and no one seems to ask for credentials.

We get caught up in comparing our creative endeavors and talk ourselves out of doing more by comparing. Oh, Dan, in marketing, is a genius. Did you see what he (fill in the creative tasks) painted, wrote, drew, etc.?

Instead, let’s look at our creative inspirations the way people did before the Age of Enlightenment. Back then, they didn’t say this idea came from me; they used to say it came to me. It was divinely inspired. The Gods decided they wanted to write or paint or weave something incredible, and they chose you as the medium through which they would work. It was kind of magical.

Even today, we say this. “I was in the shower, and this idea came to me.” Ideas and creativity seem to appear as if by magic. And, why not? Sure we can give the scientific reasons, the cerebral cortex engaged with the isles of reins, and then the neurons fired, and out came Hello Kitty. Yawn city. It feels better when we just say; the idea came to me!

So, to elevate some tension, stop looking for the genius in yourself and instead be open to the genius coming to you. This keeps you open and looking, listening, and interacting with the world rather than sitting in a dimly lit garret, staring at the floor, a blank page, or an empty canvas, and wondering where did my genius go?

Let it come to you.

Do Something, Don’t Talk, Do

If you’ve ever owned a puppy, you know they are just one big, always moving mouth. They will chew, eat, munch, and teethe anything and everything in their world unless you keep them occupied with toys, treats, and enough exercise to fall asleep for three years.

The creative mind is the same way; it needs tasks to keep it attentive and operating. Sitting about saying I wish I were creative, I feel like I could do something, but not doing anything is antithetical to a creative life.

Start a creative task. Do not think about the outcome; will it be “good enough,” will it change the world, will it make me famous? None of that is in your control. What is in your control is giving your puppy of a creative side something to do. Once you provide that creative side with a task to focus on, it will. And then your puppy isn’t eating all your shoes and socks; instead, it has something to focus all that energy on.

You Made the Choice, Shut Up and Do

It’s not the army, you haven’t been drafted, and it’s not your taxes; no one said you have to live a creative life; now deal with it. You chose to live this life and pursue this type of career; you said yes, this is what I want to do. No, it’s not easy. Yes, there is a buttload of rejection. Nope, you may not get rich doing it. But, if you want to avoid rejection, competition, and poverty, then maybe a creative life isn’t for you. You decide.

If you have decided this is the life you want, then stop complaining and do stuff.

If you have talent or a gift and use those to have a creative career, just stop and think before you start bitching about it. You get to do what you love and what you’re good at. You live your life right in your wheelhouse. That’s sort of amazing, and you shouldn’t overlook that. Neither should you complain about the work you have to do, the writer’s block, or the blank canvas; all of those are part of the deal.

Be warned that if you complain enough, the muse and inspiration will learn to leave you alone. Inspiration is a delicate little lamb that needs to know it is taken care of, appreciated, and useful. Keep complaining, and eventually, nothing will be coming to you at all.

Recognize how lucky you are and start doing.

Blocks, Blanks, and Frustration

a clean desk chair in the midst of a destroyed office.

Make friends with these; they will be with you on your creative journey til the day you drop.

Do you remember why you were attracted to this life? That moment when you wrote the perfect sentence or painted the immaculate sky? The time it just flowed so easily, no questions, no doubts, it just came to you, remember that? Good. Now, let that go because it isn’t reality.

Blocks, blank canvases, and frustrations around getting it right are the daily deals in the creative world. If you give up as soon as the road gets bumpy or the ideas don’t come to you in lightning strikes, you shouldn’t be doing this.

Smooth and easy are not adjectives often seen hanging around creative work. The bumps and bruises, the blank pages, and the days of nothing are all part of the creative process. You can life hack them, you cannot ignore them, and you cannot judge your work or your creativity by them. They happen, accept and deal. Then keep doing.

If you want smooth, easy, clear hospital corners, then a life of dirty, gutsy, frustrating creativity may not be for you.

Perfection is an Infection

The word infection conjures images of scabs and buboes, puss in varying colors of green and yellow, gauze and swabs, and the need to get it the hell out of your body so you can be healthy again.

You should look at perfection in the same way. It is something to get the hell out of your mind. Striving for perfection is not helpful, and it will cause you to be slowed down, unhappy, and tired, just like an infection does.

Now, don’t read this and think, cool, I can slap any old thing on the page, and I am creative. No. That’s not what we’re advocating. By putting aside the desire to reach perfection, we’re not saying you don’t try to make all your work as good as possible. There is a vast difference between doing your very best and perfection.

Striving for perfection kills your joy, your creative drive, the purity of the work, and your connection to yourself. You can only work with the tools you have, and your greatest tool is you. Are you perfect? If you answered yes, I can only imagine you’re single, alone, and never invited anywhere.

Perfect is silly. It’s a rope that chokes the creative drive out of you. If you create a perfect piece of art, writing, theater, or dance, then why bother doing more?

But if you strive to improve each time you create, you can get closer to perfect. But it will be like the philosophy of Zeno’s paradox. This paradox states that two balls, one stationary and one moving, will never touch. Before the moving ball hits the stationary ball, it must pass a halfway point. As there are an infinite number of halfway points, the balls never touch. You may strive to do your very best with each creative project, but you’ll never reach perfection, so stop trying. Stop making your life impossible.

Embrace Fear

Someone made a lot of money from the idea of No Fear. I think that is ridiculous.

Fear is useful. Fear keeps us alive. Fear tasks over when reason and intelligence are drunk and not firing on all cylinders. Fear keeps us safe in many situations.

Fear is not to be dispelled completely, but it’s not to be worshipped either. Fear has been around forever, and that’s why we have to.

But, in the creative life, what good does fear do us? Not much. It’s kind of a one-note emotion. It’s always red hot yelling about what’s going to happen to you, how bad it will be and why you should avoid risking anything. When that type of fear runs the show, it’s time for a little conversation.

When you start a project and feel fear, ask what it wants. Why am I afraid of writing this or painting that? The answer usually has something to do with being judged and can probably find its roots in that nightmare perfection.

Fear has no nuance, but it can be taught. So, when you start a new project and fear shows up in a bathrobe with a cup of coffee, just tell it that this will be fine. I’m going to write a paragraph; no one will be killed, I will not lose my job, my wife isn’t going to leave me, it’s just words on a screen, relax. Eventually, your fear will know when it needs to be around and when it’s okay to let things go.

Is it Original

A building with architecture that makes it look like it is bending and falling.

As a creative, you move through life with your sense engaged. You’re seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching things that, maybe not immediately, might inspire your work. It has to be that way; you must remain open to any and all inspiration that comes to you.

Now, sometimes there is an aspiration to create original work. That’s kind of a double edge sword. If you produce what you think is original work, some critic will list your influences from what you’ve seen and studied down to what you've eaten and listened to. It’s all part of the pot from which we draw to create.

Does citing influences make you unoriginal? No, of course not. Unless you’re a professional forger, no creative sits down and thinks, I will do an exact Renoir.

To achieve the feeling of originality, you have to do authentic work. And when we say this, we mean authentic to you. With great care, humility, trust in yourself, and boundless curiosity, you have to create. When you do, and it’s coming from your authentic self, meaning the you that you are when no one is looking or judging, the sitting in your underwear eating Cheetos, no cares, no deadlines, free to be you, you. When this is where your work comes from, of course, you’re influenced and inspired; we all are. If you’re not being affected daily, you’re not alive and cannot do any kind of creative work.

But if you remain true to yourself, you’re authentic being; then your work is going to feel more and more original each time you create, and eventually, you’re not worried about originality any

longer because you will be working from you, and you’re the only you there is; thus, your work is original.

The Only Truth is Curiosity

Look, we could have probably saved you some time in reading this, but what we have shared so far is essential. You need to know what you're getting into when you fully engage that creative side. The points we made here are valid; you will encounter them on your creative journey, so yay.

If you can walk away from this article with one thought stuck in your mind, it should be this: curiosity is the only truth for a creative. If you lose your ability to be curious, it will severely hamper your creative process.

Never stop asking, “I wonder what …” and the rest doesn’t matter. Stay full of wonder, stay in search mode, remain childlike, and ask why a bazillion times. Stay curious.

Curiosity helps us grow, expand, understand, and be inspired to create. If someone says act your age, ignore them, they are afraid of being curious. It’s kind of strange that some people believe they know all they need to know and are no longer curious. Don’t do that.

Stay curious, keep searching, and never fall prey to perfection; you may have a good shot at living a creative life.

ThoughtLab is Creative

Maybe you've hit a wall, done it all, and now you’re feeling dry and completely uncreative; that’s fine; come talk to us.

ThoughtLab runs on creativity; designers, creative writers, and even our account managers are driven by creativity. We can help you out of a slump, offer you ways to be more creative, or just take the reigns and bring you along on a creative journey with us.

If you’re stuck or you just want some inspiration, drop us a line and get a free consultation; you won't believe how far we can help you see with our creative teams. See further. Be more creative with ThoughtLab.