Being creative and can be one of most joyful experiences a person can have. It can act as therapy, it can occupy the mind in a meditative way that blocks out the other stressors in your life and there is nothing quite like seeing other people enjoy your art.
That being said, making things is not always smooth sailing. From writer’s block to not feeling good enough at your craft and sometimes failing to get the joy you were hoping out of something you are making, being a creative, can actually be downright infuriating. So with that in mind I have created a list of my top ten tips to help reduce these problems as a creative individual.
1. Create without Judgement To often when trying to create something the biggest obstacle we come across is our own minds. People often feel they cannot come up with ideas, and while sometimes this may be true, in my experience the reality is not that people cannot come up with ideas but that they are too quick to dismiss the ideas they initially come up with. Putting ideas on the rubbish heap before you even start can be a killer to creativity. An idea does not have to be fully formed or even good when you start, in fact some of the best pieces of work started as really rubbish ideas that were crafted into good ones. The best way to tackle this problem is to create, at least in the starting phases of creation, without judgement. Make something and do not judge it, just create, save the judgement until later down the creative process when you can become an Editor which leads me onto…
2. Being an Editor, not a Artist So if we are initially creating ideas without judgement we are going to end up with our first draft. Now is the time to judge. Some of the elements of your creation may impress you and make your proud, whilst others will disappoint and will not be up to your standards. This is where editing is vital. We can identify what works and what does not, adapt, change, cut and add, recreate and develop our initial idea a piece we can truly be proud of.
3. Mistakes are to be sought out, not hidden from To often in life we fear mistakes and failure. Such fears are dangerous, particularly in the creation of art. Why is this the case? A couple of reasons. First, we often learn much more from mistakes than we do from success. With that in mind it is easy to see how we can improve as artists from mistakes. Second, mistakes can actually sometimes be the cause of great creative decisions. A mistake will often produce something we could not have imagined from out heads alone and can push the boundaries of your artistic expression. So do not fear mistakes, instead, seek them out and welcome them as part of the creative process.
4. Practice, Practice, Practice Creativity is a muscle. For it to be improved it needs to be exercised regularly and have its boundaries pushed. The more you exercise this muscle the more you will improve as an artist and the easier you will find creating things.
5. Create in other Styles and Mediums Whether a musical genre, an artistic style or medium, a form of writing or a genre of fiction, creative people will often pigeonhole their way into one particular specialism. This within itself is not necessarily a bad thing. As artists we often strive for our work to stand out from the crowd and be recognisable and one of the most effective methods for doing this is to dedicate our art towards a particular medium or genre. However, there is a lot to be gained from writing and mastering other mediums and genres. It can improve our technical ability, give us new methods and techniques for approaching our art form and even give us ideas to try when we go back to creating in our main medium or style.
6. Learn new skills Just by creating in other styles and mediums you will be learning new skills but you do not have to stop there. Mastering new skills and techniques can really help expand the possible creative choices available to you as well as help you to complete projects much more efficiently. If you’re an instrumentalist, learn to sing so you can see how your songs sound with a good a voice to them, if you’re a writer why not learn a certain type of meter or poetry that you have never tried, if your film maker why not take some acting classes so you are better able to communicate with your cast on set. The options are endless and they will improve your ability to do your craft.
7. Be open to Criticism It can be hard to takes criticism for our art. After all, the creation of art can require us to be venerable and when someone criticises the product of that vulnerability it can feel like the criticism is very personal. However, if we want to be better artists we need to realise that criticism is one of the most useful tools for helping for progression. So, first make sure that you get your artwork in front of people so they can criticise it; work cannot be criticised if it is hidden away. Second when people tell you what they like and do not like about your work, listen. Realise the critique is not a critique of you personally but a critique of the work itself and listen to the criticism carefully, even if in the end you decide you do not agree with that persons conclusions. You will find that due to the help of others that you will identify problems with your work quicker and your work will improve greatly.
8. Complete your projects Not completing creative work can be a real crux for many artists. I myself used to start and develop songs, drawings, poems and stories only for them to end up hidden away in a draw in my room or in folder deep in my computer documents. Now you do not have to complete every idea you start, it is good to either realise an idea is not worth any more energy and should be placed on the scrap heap or that maybe the idea should be shelved for a while for you to come back to later and complete with a fresh perspective. However, it is vital that you do not let this become a habit you see happening to the majority of your ideas for one key reason. Firstly, each particular phase in the development of a piece has unique features and skills, for example in a painting there is the inception of the idea, the drafting process, maybe a research phase, there is the drawing of the outline, the mixing of paints, the base layer, the shading, the highlights and so on. With each phase in the development of the painting is the use of a number of different skills and techniques. How can you develop as an artist if you only ever get good at coming up with an idea, sketching and drafting but never actually seeing an idea through to completion? By completing projects, you can ensure you become well versed and practiced in all the key areas of the creative process.
9. The 90% Rule Hank Green, for those who do not know, is an American entrepreneur, musician, educator, producer, vlogger, and author who is probably most well known for the YouTube channel he and his Brother (John Green) post to regularly: Vlogbrothers. In a video he says the key to his productivity is the 80% rule. This means he aims to get his work ‘80% of the way to as good as’ he ‘can make it, and no further’. His reasoning for this is because…
Hank then goes on to describe how you will never know if you are going to hit ‘the bullseye… that is what the 80% is about’ but ‘you will never really know where you are going to hit until you actually throw the dart and if you spend a tone of time thinking about how you’re going to throw the dart and you never throw it, you might be doing a whole lot of work that isn’t actually helping’
Now, personally I do not believe for creative work that the 80% rule is high enough and therefore I prefer to use a 90% rule and yes on some pieces of work, I do I aim for 100%, however, it is important that you do not let that target of 100% get in the way of you producing more creative pieces. You learn a lot more from creating multiple pieces that are not 10% than you do trying to get one piece to 100%.
10. Do it for the Love Too often I see people get so wrapped up in their creative work that they have completely forgot why they decided to become a musician, artist or writer in the first place and what is the point in doing creative work if we do not love. So always try to remember whenever you are trying to apply these tips, Love you work, Love being a creative and Love your art.
There is a compliment that many musicians with any level of skill have heard and secretly cringed at. It is a compliment which to many may not seem that problematic and in fact is often said with kindness and born from inspiration. But to many a musician it can feel minimising at best and demeaning at worst. So what are the fateful words that have such a rift between their intention and reception. That fateful phrase is…
‘Oh, you are so talented!’
While non-musicians may be sat their slightly bemused by such a statement I can guarantee the musicians that have read this have just turned a mild shade of purple, possibly with steam coming out their ears.
Ok so maybe I exaggerate; I am sure plenty of musicians see these words as the kind compliment they are intended to be, and even those who find those words frustrating like myself will admit that hearing such words is hardly a reason to go insane. None the less, what is it about the praise of talent that causes musicians and creatives such annoyance?
Simply it comes down to what talent means both in its definition and how society views it.
In understanding its definition, we can quickly see how a term such as talent could cause certain musicians to foam at the mouth. I can certainly tell you I did not come out my mother’s womb holding and electric guitar playing Van Halen’s ‘Eruption’. I myself didn’t actually touch an instrument until I was 15, and I would never say I had some natural inclination towards music; In fact I was told by my neighbours, friends and even my family that I sounded awful on a regular basis for the first three years of playing, but that did not stop me practicing every day, that did not stop me learning songs, mastering chords and moving repetitively up and down scale shapes day in, day out.
And that is what gets us to the crux of what makes the praise of talent feel so demeaning. It ignores the hours of hard work, the constant practice and development despite criticism from those around us, the pure effort and the blood, sweat and tears poured into our craft.
There is however something a little more insidious and damaging about the assumption that creative ability is innate that many do not consider. Those who praise talent will often wax lyrical about how they wish they could do what creative people do and how they wish that they possessed the natural ability to play, sing, write or draw. What they do not seem to realise is they are perfectly able to. If they are prepared to work hard nothing can stop them from mastering creative skills. The dangerous thing is that by perpetuating the myth that creative abilities come from some inbuilt genetic code or divine blessing and not from many hours of hard work, we could well be putting off a whole group of people, young and old, from taking up a creative craft because they truly believe that they do not possess ‘the talent’.
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