Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Ebb and Flow of Creativity

January was a big month for me. I'm talking like it's over. That's because I'm done with January. My January started on December 6th 2010 when I returned from Asia.

I'm officially burnt out.

I bit off more than I could chew for January. The 2 day workshop starting when I was already 4 shoots behind, then shooting again on Monday. I'm still exhausted. I thought I could keep pace. But more importantly I thought I had an endless supply of creativity on tap.

About that... I don't.

Unlike spreadsheets, problem-solving, and analysis I've discovered rather abruptly that creativity isn't something that you can turn on and off whenever you feel like it. It's more like groundswell (waves). Sometimes it's there and sometimes it's not. And like groundswell, it's somewhat predictable. Wind speed, fetch, duration, and water depth all play an important role in groundswell. With enough time you can predict what will hit your local beaches. Similarly, influences, workload, energy levels, and time also have a tremendous effect on creativity.

In my case, I've been lacking influences, taken on too much work, got no energy, and no time = no creativity.

Who'd've thunk that creativity wasn't something that you could try really hard at and just achieve ;)


  1. Don't forget seasonality as well. Seems like I was booking faster than I could shoot at the beginning of the New Year (people get all their gumption in check then). I was knocking them out the park, kid. Then, after all that rush, there's a big lull.

    I read something somewhere in a magazine about managing change (it may or may not have been Oprah's magazine... I was in a woman's bathroom... can't be blamed, you have to read something in there). The big take-away from the article was not to tense up when you hit your lulls or try to change the lulls. But simply recognize the ebb and flow of all things in life and go with the flow when things start on their down-cycle. Kinda working for me so far.

  2. Well said! Especially the part about the women's bathroom :)

  3. It's your duty as an amazing artist to move past this. Not everyone has either created and/or been given the talents that you have, so you gotta move forward and out of it. It's like feeling sorry for the guy stuck in 405 traffic in his Bugati. Revel in what you have, even if you're stuck in a rut.

  4. LOL! :) I want a Bugatti :)

    Thanks for the kick in the butt... I'm coming out of my rut... very shortly :P

  5. I want to learn how to spell it first!

    Good to hear you're pulling through! :)

  6. Howdy Charles,

    I think it was Stephen King that said, "No one can be taught to be a great writer, but one can be taught to be a competent one." A similar thing is true for any creative profession. There are times when you soar and you feel as though you're endowed with limitless creativity. The hours, days and weeks zing by and everything seems effortless and you are satiated by your accomplishments.

    But like all wavelengths, you have your crests and you have your troughs. Obvious, you are in a trough. It is in those low, dejected, demoralized moments where one just simply moves on and do the next indicated action until one is out of the trench. In those moments, you can trust and rely your training. More than most, I know you have done the grunt work of research and practice, honing your skills. So, while many in your current circumstances may not have an emotional and creative uplift from the work, I think you can be reasonable certain that you can still produce quality work.

    It may not be grade-A excellent work, but it would be well-executed, competent work. Also, if you're anything like me, when you emerge from the trough, you will be more confident in your work and more at ease in your own skin. At least, that has been my experience when dealing with these low moments.

  7. Well said Tommy :) In the words of Brian Duffy in response to one of his legendary ad campaign:

    Duffy: ...I know that I've done a very competent job, up to the standard of which I would want to work. But you can't tell how it will be responded to. To me, it was competent. Very competent. But I wouldn't take it much beyond that.

    :) I guess competent is enough for now ;P