The art of knowing when to stop - a note to creatives
When you are a creative person you will probably, like me, need to surround yourself with creative inspiration and, more importantly, opportunities to create. If I don’t do it, I start to get a bit twitchy - like when you’re really hungry and you need to eat.
The problem is that when your role evolves to take on more creative projects you are essentially having to sell your ideas to people. Your ideas mean money and therefore you have a danger of becoming a conveyor belt of creative ideas. There is always an element of working with others to create things that are tailored to their specific project, but what if there’s no room left for creative flair or even doing things just for fun? Suddenly you find that what was once a love has turned into something that is far from passionate; something that is about making money, self promotion or keeping others happy at the cost of what you really believe in. Your work suffers; there’s no sense of play or exploration; it becomes an obsession with getting your work noticed.
A few years ago I have had a few set backs – my work was getting either no feedback, or just the 'nice, but doesn't fit in with us,' kind of feedback, which is neither constructive not encouraging. It's easy for times like these to make us lacking in motivation, but unfortunately this is often reflected in our work. I was so focussed on where I was going wrong that I failed to make steps towards making it right.
So I stopped.
I stopped trying so hard and I decided to do what I love instead. I decided to give myself a bit of a break from trying to market myself, and simply draw and write for myself again. I decided to just do things like dig in the allotment and listen to the birds and learn from the plants that don’t work so hard but seem to do okay. I’m learning to take life a little slower; to appreciate the journey and the people in my life; to live a little simpler. Maybe trying so hard makes others succeed, but for me I just feel burnt out - like I am going against the grain of life somehow.
In no time I find myself back to my work, developing new ideas and feeling refreshed again. I am, in fact, grateful for the set backs because they make me reassess the direction of my work and try new things. But it's only taking time away from my work that I can fully do this. So if you’re feeling a little bit like you’re chasing your tail today, maybe it’s time to take some time out and realise that trying too hard makes you less fun to be around and your work becomes dull and unoriginal.
If in doubt, go get your spade out and do some digging.