If you're a creative professional, already somewhat established in your field and if you have quite some assignments; after some time you might feel you get stuck. This is often the case when you have a number of assignments to do and limited time (sound familiar?). You resort to tried and tested ways of working i.e. you're getting into a routine. You are delivering quality work, your clients are still enthusiast about it. This is a good thing, obviously, but there's this nagging feeling inside you that you are no longer satisfied. You have this feeling you are stagnating. Go there often enough and even your clients might notice that your work has lost some of its sparkle. What can you do about this? Let's explore...
Photo © Kevin ConnorsTake a look at these acrobats. Let's suppose one of the top girls did something that caused her to fall down. Would that be a mistake or a failure? The real answer is: you can't know. To the world mistakes and failure look the same: she fell to the floor. So only she can tell if it was a mistake or a failure. And that can have major consequences for her work and her life. The same goes for you. Being aware of the difference between a mistake and a failure can do a lot for your life. Care to explore this topic a little deeper? Let's go...
So you say you're a perfectionist? Well, I've got news for you: you're not. You are an imperfectionist! Think about it: don't you always find the things that are wrong in any situation? The "not good enough" things? In your work, in your life? So instead of looking for perfection, you are actually searching for anything that's NOT perfect about it. You are seeking imperfection. So how do you feel about your work like this? About yourself? Not too good? I wouldn't be surprised, because I've been there myself, and it's not a nice place to be. So is there something you can do about this? Well yes, but it requires a change in your outlook. Ready to have some fun with this? Read on...
One of the requests I get very often during briefings is to produce "something original". However, it is very rare that the client actually wants something original:
(Concise Oxford dictionary of current English, ©1991)
If you were to produce something truly original, you could be almost certain that the client is going to reject it. They'll probably come up with an existing work as a reaction and ask you if you can make your work more like that. So what do they really mean when asking for something original? Let's explore what going on here in a bit more detail:
You often read: "stick to one thing and become the best you can be". This seems to make sense: in a competitive world like ours, the person with the best skills in a certain field is best equiped to get the job. So why should you even want to be a generalist instead of a specialist? There are a few good reasons for this, especially when you operate a one-person business. Let's explore these reasons in more detail:
The professional world we live in is completely different from the one our parents knew. In the days of old, most workers had a fairly simple job description. But these days are long gone, specifically in the creative professions. Take mediamusic for example: you were either a composer or an engineer. But these days - for example in writing original soundtrack music - it's not uncommon to be composer, arranger, recording artist, engineer and producer (in addition to doing marketing, management, etcetera!). So you need to keep a lot of balls in the air at the same time. Also you need to be both creative and productive at a high level. So how do you keep your brain from getting fried? How can you stay on top of all your projects, current and those that are still "incubating"? Here are two great methods with related (free!) software:
In both music and filmmaking there's a lot of 'conglomerate influence' leading to choices that are safe more than anything else. Unfortunately this also leads to these productions being bland, uninspiring or in the best cases somewhat disappointing. It gets worse when the budget gets squeezed and the production is "made on the cheap". Think corporate-video-dictated-by-the-clients'-managers, for the worst case scenario. But this also applies to major feature films or pop music productions as well. This is all fueled by fear: film- and musicprojects cost a lot of money to make, so "the suits" want to minimize the risks. Understandable, but also wrong in most cases. Lets investigate some evidence for originality:
Isn't inspiration something that "comes out of the blue"? How can it be managed then? True inspiration, the "lightbulb-moment" can't be manufactured. But it is the result of the things you've done and thought up to that moment, so you can certainly do things to manage your inspiration and to quicken the flow of ideas. But let's first assess that there are two kinds of inspiration. The first kind is the inspiration you use for your day to day work as a creative professional: the ideas you need for the current project. The second kind of inspiration is the reason you chose your line of work in the first place. The "everyday-kind" of inspiration is a challenge in itself and will be covered in other posts (like this one), but for now let's concentrate on the second kind:
As a media professional you probably use rather complicated software, with tons of features. This is because over the years the programmers put in many new features to cater for as diverse a group of professionals as possible. Most of you however don't use all of these features every day, since many are not needed for your regular projects. In the rush of completing your work, you probably restricted the number of features you use in your regular projects. But in a rather simple way you can use your everyday software to give your creativity a boost! Here's how: