One of the best parts about owning a business called “Low Hanging Fruit Communications” is I get to work with people and organizations who are just starting out. People at the beginning of their journey are optimistic, joyful, and vibrant. Often they put off so much positive energy it’s possible to start feeling more hopeful just by standing next to them. It’s a joy.
Eventually, that first burst of enthusiasm and inspiration wears off and fear and doubt seep in. Plans that seemed obvious now are riddled with difficulty. The money doesn’t flow. No one seems to “get” what you are trying to accomplish. It’s here that most people start to worry that they’ve “wandered off the path”
Nothing could be further from the truth.
It’s just that for most people the creative path is not an interstate highway–it’s a mountain trail. Sometimes the walk is easy and beautiful, but more often it’s uphill, windy and a bit dangerous (and amazingly beautiful).
Want to get the most out of your creative journey? Take some advice from backpackers.
Do your best ideas come to you when you are in the shower or driving to work? Are those the only bits of “down” time you allow yourself? If so, you might be missing out on all kinds of brilliant ideas because you are so busy pushing work out into the world, you’ve not left time to let inspiration drift in. Sometimes all you need to do to get unblocked is to stop long enough for the next idea to come.
If this whole argument sounds vaguely familiar, it might be because I wrote a whole post about it a couple of weeks ago. Normally I try to wait a little longer before I repeat myself, but in this case, the message is important enough to cover twice.
The world is full of feedback that’s easy to miss when you’re talking. Once you’ve slowed down and quieted your own thoughts, you’ll find yourself immersed in all kinds of messages, ideas and connections you didn’t notice before. The key to whatever problem has slowed your progress can often be found in this feedback you weren’t picking up on before. For some, all you need to do is listen. If you’re like me and don’t trust that you’ll remember what you’ve learned, a small notebook, a voice recorder and a camera can help you capture key insights.
Take a Break
The more resistant you are to taking time out to play, the more critical it is for you. Work is important, it can even be fun, but it’s not all there is to life. If you don’t make time for pleasure, idleness, tinkering, and discovery –without practical application– you will have little to draw on when your work calls for a creative solution.
Not sure how to get started? If you have children (or know people who will lend you theirs) hanging out with them and following their lead might be all the inspiration you need. If kids aren’t really your thing, take a look at your adult friends. Do you have one who would think nothing of choosing to play disc golf when he’s “supposed” to be installing a dishwasher? Go hang out at his house for awhile.
Not ready for full-court frivolity? A process that injects an attitude of playfulness into your work might be a better match. Go visit Maryann Devine at smarts & culture and ask about the Society of the Secret Play Date. I’d tell you more, but well it a secret society.
Do it Again
For most people the creative parts of the brain are a little like the plumbing in an old house. Just because you unblock the flow today, doesn’t mean it will stay unblocked forever. The key is to notice when the ideas start to slow down, or when work that used to be easy becomes a struggle. Instead of wallowing in fear that you’ll never have another good idea, focus on opening up the pipes.
One More Thing
I’m putting the finishing touches on another resource for finding and following your path. Those of you on my “first to know” list will get an e-mail about it on Saturday morning. If you’d like to receive that e-mail and be among the first to check it out, click here to add yourself to the invite list.
Update: The wait is over! Click here to check out the LHF Greenhouse.
Can’t wait to see you there!