Finding your best creativity practices aren’t easy. What makes creativity even harder is learning to finish that work that you started. Read how you can keep your best creative ideas intact.
Did you know there’s an invisible graveyard of half-baked, abandoned ideas buried in the two inches of tile between the interior and exterior of your shower? That’s right. That’s where most people leave behind their best creative ideas — the challenging stuff aka, the good stuff. And what about that once-inspired stack of sheet music lying on top of your piano or the new product sketches you promised your boss last month? Don’t worry. You’re not alone. At some point, we’ve all abandoned some of our best creative ideas because they either seemed impossible, improbable, or just downright too hard to.
So how do you push through fiery obstacles and make sure your best creative ideas find their way into the world? How do you keep going when it’s easier to quit? With practice and intention. And, if anyone tells you it’s easy, smack ’em because they are not being honest. Whether you are a writer, a designer, an artist, an entrepreneur, a musician, a stay-at-home-mom, or any one of the thousands of creatives in the world, the fact remains that carrying an idea through to completion is not for the faint of heart but the fierce of heart. Why even bother? Because history shows us, and everything in us affirms, that the creativity payoff is the best feeling in the world, and the ratio of suffering to success is well worth the chase.
Here are five ways to help you ignite your best creative ideas:
1. Decide to move your best creativity through it, not around it.
It takes courage to begin your best creative work but the depth of that courage is revealed is in the discipline of continuing. The best creative work involves persistence. Moving forward through a creative work, and not around it. To sticking with it and not abandoning it, is the true test and reward of the creative. It’s in those plate-smashing-head-in-hands-Looney-Toon-sized-tear moments that your best creative skills are being built.
It’s when the fun part is over, random variables descend, and fatigue confuses our initial hope, that it’s easiest to move on to something easier, or shinier. But don’t. Practice the art of pushing through until persistence becomes a habit. Making the decision to bulldoze through to the other side of the concrete wall in front of you will take you to the place where breakthroughs happen and where your best creativity rewards the tenacious heart.
2. Fall in love with the creativity process.
When expectations live in close proximity to reality, sticking with a problematic idea or project becomes easier. Creativity is a process, not an event; an adventure, not a carefully plotted excursion. If you’re looking for a creative formula or map to get you safely from point A to point B, it’s time to adjust your sails and recalibrate your creativity perspective. There’s nothing safe about the seas you’ve entered, nothing predictable.
In fact, just about anything can happen in the throes of your creative journey if you are open to it. By understanding and honoring the pure magic and beauty of the creative process, and the time it takes for true discovery, you ignite grace — grace for yourself and for the unknowns that can and will arise. And, when your heart and mind can taste grace, confidence and courage begin to edge out panic and distress. Author Natalie Goldberg says of process, “Trust in what you love, continue to do it, and it will take you where you need to go.”
Some of the best places of creativity involves embracing the journey and the struggle to go from point A to point B. Something as simple as sitting in silence and solitude might trigger some of your best creative thoughts.
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3. Track down, tap into truth.
Robert Frost captured the heartbeat of all creative disciplines when he said, “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader.”
If we enter the creative realm expecting a careful solution or a practical end, we frustrate our best artistic creativity and the joy of discovery in the process. However, when we do the work — the digging, the risking, and the truth telling required of us individually — then the outcome will be original and satisfying.
When a work is honest and articulates a vulnerable, newly tilled heart space within in the artist, then the story, art, music, or idea that emerges resonates with others. If you are at your wits end and can’t conjure the next step in your process, walk away for a while and fill your mind and heart with music, rest, nature, prayer, or even laughter. Even taking the time to just color a page, people watch, or drink a cup of coffee can do wonders for your heart.
Then come back to the work and venture to those deeper places confidently — candle in hand — into the unexplored caverns of your heart knowing that’s where the rare, embedded gems reside.
4. Befriend impossibility.
Every great innovation is birthed through a series of mishaps, failures, and emotional belly flops. Imagination pioneers such as Walt Disney and Steve Jobs pushed through creative walls that nearly broke them to bring what appeared impossible into the realm of possibility. If you’re blocked creatively, flip your thinking upside down and inside out. Introduce a random variable, or go down a treacherous, wild path that makes you break out in creative hives. Befriend impossibility don’t dismiss it.
Ask “why not?” when you come to a mountain. Go where impossibility leads and get comfortable with perspectives that stretch — even contort — the well-traveled paths of comfortable thinking. Soon, the impossible will intermingle with the plausible and fearless creativity will become your standard operating procedure. As Disney said, “You get an idea, and you just can’t wait. Once you’ve started, then you’re in there with the punches flying. There’s plenty of trouble, but you can handle it. You can’t back out. It gets you down once in a while, but it’s exciting. Our whole business is exciting.”
5. Fear one thing only: regret.
Be afraid, be very afraid — of regret that is. A brigade of fears will rise up to obliterate your best ideas. You’ll come face-to-face with self-doubt, real and imagined critics, and will have to duel with a million distractions. Face each one of those fears and slay them like the cold-blooded, joy-sucking dragons they are. However, there’s one fear you should never wipe out as a creative and that your fear of regrets.
Let that fear grow, loom, and pin you down with teeth the size of Ponderosa pines. The fear of collecting regrets is healthy for anyone. Life is short, and creativity is hard but nothing is harder than living with the regret of not pursuing an idea or finishing that book, song, play, or unique soul expression. A healthy fear of regret chases us to that terrifying creative summit, dares us to jump, and watches us fly. Feel like quitting? Don’t. Remember, it will be the regrets, not failures or mistakes that so often issues the mortal blow to the artist’s heart.
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Toni Birdsong is an author, a blogger, and owner of Birdsong Creative, a branding and web agency outside of Nashville, Tennessee. She’s been riding the creative white waters professionally for more than 25 years, including The Walt Disney Company where she was an Imagineer.