“Strange,” you think. “Things were rolling along like gang busters, and then BAMM! It’s like I’ve entered some limbo state where progress moves at a crawl and my days are knocked down like tin ducks in a shooting gallery.”
You grow depressed, lethargic, antisocial and creatively uninspired. Before you know it, a month goes by, then two, then six. You might even look back on a year wondering to yourself, “what the hell happened?”
It’s a phenomenon I’ve seen in my own life and in the lives of many other promising filmmakers, actors, writers, musicians, painters etc… Invisible TRAPS that snare the muse in a web of self-sabotaging inertia.
Part of this occurs—metaphorically speaking—because it can’t be summer all the time. It’s part of the rhythm of life, and if you’re burnin’ up the track, at some point you gotta cool the engine. It’s normal and even healthy.
However, if your cold season is looking more like an ice age, you could be caught in one of the following traps of the creative mind. They’re hard to see sometimes, so let’s shine some light in the darkened corner and see what the hell might have happened.
ARE YOU LISTENING TO OTHERS TOO MUCH?
Pssst. Come here. Just between you and me. You’re awesome! Seriously, you’re one of the greatest minds to ever exist on this planet, and if you play your cards right, you’ll change the world forever.
Now here’s the rub… 9 out of 10 people will NEVER understand you!” Period.
Why? Because an original idea is scary shit to most people.
The masses want new stuff that’s similar to the old stuff they’re familiar with. They want paintings that look like photos, movies that look like video games, music with a beat they can dance to, and a burger that’s fixed the same way every time.
They want a life that’s safe, painless and predictable. Is it any surprise that your original idea is met with skepticism? Hardly.
So don’t explain yourself or look for approval. It’s not coming. New ideas are excepted only after a slow assimilation by early adopters who pave a safe road for the masses, and not a second sooner.
In the mean time, just CREATE! If you’re feeling confused and you’d like some honest feedback, ask your gut, your instincts, the universe, your calling to a higher purpose and the intentions in your own heart.
These sources offer solid feedback oh, um, I’d say about, 100% of the time.
ARE YOU AFRAID OF BEING SEEN AS A FRAUD?
Creative minds question everything—especially themselves. They’re critical of their own abilities and often sell themselves short. I’ve witnessed amazing artists who wouldn’t show their work because they truly believed it was awful.
The problem is, they succumb to negative internal dialogue that says, “others will think I’m a fraud if I show them too much.” The mind switches from “creative mode” to “survival mode”.
This can be especially paralyzing if you’re following a well-received piece of work. You’ve proved your skill, and now you’re sitting in the shadow of your former accomplishments asking the question, “what next?”
After all, you’re only as good as your last film. Right?
I’ve literally had someone say that to me. So I’ll tell you what I told them. “That kind of statement reeks of low self-esteem and egotism. It paralyzes the creative mind with perfectionistic thinking and neurotic behavior. It’s self-defeating, self-sabotaging bullshit.”
At least I think that’s what I said… Maybe not. But I will next time.
Anyway, we all “fake it” to some extent, and what others think of us is not only unimportant, but also none of our damn business. Seriously, who cares? Everyone’s a critic, and as the old saying goes—Opinions are like assholes, everybody’s got one.
So stay positive, get over your past work, and don’t be afraid to fake your way through the next project. Chances are, you’re better than you think.
ARE YOU CONFUSING IMAGINATION WITH CREATIVITY?
In my office sits a small, wood-framed, black and white picture of Albert Einstein. A quote is scrolled across the bottom edge that reads, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”
Now, I’m no Einstein, and I love the quote, but I’d like to extend a topper with respect…
“The ability to take consistent action is more important than knowledge and imagination combined.” — Ben Juhl
In fact, the act of “being imaginative” doesn’t require anything more than to dream, scene, transform and combine ideas in our head. Our thoughts might free-float into new perspective ways of thinking, but nothing happens ’til creative action (creativity) steps in.
Creativity is something you SHOW, and you’re not being creative until you DO something!
So the quick and easy way to avoid this trap is to take action first, foremost and always! Then, like a three year old in a grocery store, tell your creativity to “catch up and stay with me!”
ARE YOU CONSTANTLY MOVING THE TARGET?
Let’s say that you’re locked in a concrete cell and your only means of escape is a large hammer. Would you sit and try to think of a clever way to use the hammer other than it’s intended purpose? Would you pound on the lock, then the hinges, then the wall, then the ceiling? Or would you pick the most vulnerable spot in the room, and hammer your ass off till the bounds gave way?
The answer is pretty obvious, right?
Not for the creative mind. By nature, we tend to reevaluate the situation, rework the plan, change our approach and find a better way of doing things.
This can be a problem when you’re working with a team and you’re part of the “business planning”. Most people want find a target and head in a focused direction.
Your creativity can be a huge asset to the team, but if you’re not careful it can really gum up the entrepreneurial machinery. If you constantly reevaluate, rework or change the plan, people will get irritated. Chances are, they’ll withdraw their support, and your creative ass will be left wondering. “Why isn’t anyone listening to my incredible ideas?”
K.I.S.S. — Keep it simple stupid! Don’t over-think the goal.
Here’s the sobering and painful truth: More than your creative ideas, people want consistency that stays focused on the goal. They want passionate energy that’s heading in a solid, committed and predictable direction.
Boring right? Oh well, just something to think about next time you want to change the game plan.
ARE YOU INDULGING IN TOO MUCH ADDICTIVE GARBAGE?
It’s no secret that creative minds sport obsessive behaviors. So I’m not going to waste time napalming this article with supportive examples. If the shoe fits, wear it. Otherwise, you can take note of the previous four traps and skip to the end.
It’s an exciting and romantic notion to live a creative life of whimsy and success all while indulging in drugs, alcohol and late-night partying. What an awesome dream!
But the reality is much different. Do a quick YouTube search of “sober celebrities”. You might be surprised at how many names pop up.
Contrary to popular belief, the overwhelming majority of “successful” artists work their asses off, completely sober and free of the usual addictions. They workout, eat right, research, write, maintain their alliances, manage their business, make time for their family, keep a positive attitude, and get the sleep they need to kill it the next day.
They want uncommon results, so they take uncommon action.
Does that mean they don’t cut loose and have fun once in awhile?
MUCH LUCK AND HAPPINESS
I really hope that shining some light on these areas might help you on you’re road to success in whatever artistic venture you’re on.
These may be issues you’re faced with—maybe not yet—maybe never. I’ve run my paces with all of them at some point, and the ability to dodge these traps can save you years of depressing struggle as an artist and a creative.
The point is to help you avoid the traps before you step in them—before they become a problem.
If it looks like people are getting something valuable out of this post, I’ll follow it up with “Five More Traps of a Creative Mind”. Otherwise, I’ll move to a more serving topic.
I’m still new to this article stuff, so thank you for your patience as I stumble through it as gracefully as I can.
Thanks so much, and stay creative.