One of the top questions I get asked by small business owners is how do I sustain creativity? The short answer is that it’s a lot of work. They don’t usually like that answer and I can totally see why.
Many business owners are chasing the idea that if they just post to Instagram enough, someone will find them and throw money at them. (simply not true)
Here I’ll share the three things I use to continually foster creativity and turn out some pretty cool content as a result. If you’re ready to learn what I mean by hard work, continue on. Or… you could keep posting to IG and hoping. Let me remind you, friend. Hope is necessary, but it’s not a strategy.
Know What’s Stopping You
Creativity can be halted by roadblocks. Inner and outer roadblocks. Inner roadblocks are associated with a number of things, but mostly things like lack of motivation, clarity, and purpose.
Then there are outer roadblocks. Obviously, these are things we seemingly have little control over. These are things like:
- No time to be creative
- Physically not in shape
- Too tired
- No place to feel comfortable
While outer roadblocks seem to be uncontrollable, that’s not entirely true. In fact, many things we put in the category of “not in our control” are simply a choice we are making to NOT take responsibility.
Take ownership of your time, space, calendar, desires, efforts, relationships, and physical abilities. Choosing to own your stuff is step one to clearing the way for creativity.
Ok, let’s assume you have “cleared the path” and are feeling sufficiently in control of your life. Now we can create. Even as you sit in front of that keyboard or stare down at the blank notebook page, you struggle.
Where do the ideas come from? There are a variety of ways to pump up the volume on your ideation. Ideation is where you are just thinking of things to create about.
Some of my favorite places to find inspiration are in my own personal struggles and triumphs. Telling the purpose behind something that happened in your life can even be therapeutic.
The key to talking about struggles is not to dress them up. Tell the gritty details about how you tried a new way to close the sale and the customer thought you were a jerk. In fact, the gave you a bad review.
Talking about how that struggle made you feel, why that telling about it is important, and how you learned from it creates a connection with your audience. If your audience happens to be future clients, your vulnerability shows how genuine you are.
It’s counter-intuitive, but telling future customers how you totally blew it with a client ACTUALLY makes them WANT to buy from you (as long as you’re honest and tell how you felt as a result and what you did about it so you never repeat it).
This is not to say you should create stories about being a jerk. We’re human, we’ll do enough real things to have a bucket full of ideas. The important thing here is being vulnerable, sharing the details, and what you’ve learned.
From time to time, I use prompts for creating. It takes the mental work out of deciding what to create and allows the creative process to get going. Not uncommon for me to get half-way through a prompt and switch gears.
I end up switching gears because now that the creative process is rolling, the ideas about what I really want to share are flowing. If this happens, don’t sweat it and don’t slow down. Keep going. You can always edit things out later.
A pro tip for you is to have a way to capture new ideas anywhere you are. I use trello boards (an online app) to capture ideas. The new ideas go into a review board and periodically I look through them(sometimes while standing in the grocery line – but never at traffic light ;).
I have several boards with different themes and I place the ideas on those boards for future prompts. I let them incubate there until I come across them again or find them when looking for a prompt to write about.
You can also schedule a reminder and prompt yourself to write about the topic on a specific date. I do this and have a little rule. If I’m prompted at a later date about the idea and there’s no “juice” in the fruit at that time, I delete it and move on. #NOMENTALCLUTTER
Art imitates life imitates art, right? Yes. Using other creators as inspiration is nothing new. Picasso, Monet, and even Jackson Pollack all were inspired by other artists. It makes perfect sense that you would look to others to inspire you.
Important to note, that I am NOT talking about copying or borrowing ideas from people. I mean for example you hear of another person doing a 21 Day Coffee Challenge and you decide you want to do something similar because you are a coffee roaster.
You take the idea of a 21-day challenge and create one for your customers, only yours IS different. Not just by changing the days in the challenge, but instead of the 21 day challenge including tasting different coffees like the other roaster did, you change it up. Your challenge instead includes writing in your journal about 3 key things about the coffee flavor for 21 days.
Using other creators for ideas is an easy way to come up with a prompt. Most importantly, unless you get expressed permission stay away from copying. It will actually lead you to feel inauthentic and ultimately land you back in the “Inner Roadblock” category looking for answers.
You’ve heard it before and here it is again. Consistency is the key to sustain creativity. Think about it. How many times do people accidentally get successful? Even the seemingly overnight successes like Justin Beiber were not truly overnight successes.
Beiber practiced guitar and singing for years as a child. Even after he put his videos on YouTube he had to gain a following. In short, it took Justin literally YEARS of consistency, but that’s not what we remember is it?
We remember that he just popped a video of himself singing somebody else’s song on YouTube and Usher flew to his house and made him a millionaire in one day. It’s laughable when I tell it that way, but that’s how our minds work.
Our minds want to favor the underdog. Also, our mind wants to create an easily explainable and memorable story that explains what happened for maximum recall.
It simply isn’t what happened. That is to say, people noticed him because he showed up consistently and authentically.
If you struggle with consistency, you may want to know about the course I teach on Time Management.
Here are some key actions to help with consistency:
- Schedule time each day
- Leave unscheduled time to think creatively
- Decide on an amount of time and promise to write for that long
- Reward yourself for consistency
- Take stock of what you’ve learned
It’s Work to Sustain Creativity
By now you know that “staying creative” is actual work. Although, sustaining creativity is a labor of love it only happens only if you stay in your creative state. As a result, that passionate energetic state can only exist when the roadblocks are cleared, you’ve got something to create about, and you’re consistent.