April 21, 2012


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An Accidental Creative in an On Demand World.

the accidental creative

Those of us in the business world who are considered “creative” face a lot of challenges in what we do. We are often misunderstood. We sometimes misunderstand ourselves. We learn to approach work in ways that seem intuitive, but often impede our ability to create. It’s this problem(and many more) that The Accidental Creative by Todd Henry addresses. It’s a guide book—breaking down our fears, habits and misconceptions. It also outlines tools and methodologies to enhance our creativity.

While there is a ton of great content in the book, I’ve focused on five points that I think are particularly relevant to those of us in the design profession:

1. We need to stay out of the trap of “good enough”.
I do it. I bet you do it too. You’ve got 10 jobs on your plate. There isn’t enough time to get them all done the way you’d like. So you take the path of least resistance.

… over time this dynamic can tempt us to gravitate toward doing whatever will get approved rather than taking risks and exploring as we’re creating. We do less than we’re capable of because we don’t want to deal with the consequences of disapproval at the end of the process.

Sometimes this is a pragmatic choice that makes the most sense. The problem is that it all too easily becomes habit. Your work (and your creative abilities) starts to suffer. It’s the trap all of us in the Create On Demand world fall into at one time or another.

2. Our introversion can become a liability if we allow ourselves to become too isolated.
Introversion is often mistaken for being anti-social. It’s not. It’s merely a definition of how a person derives energy. Introverts draw energy from solitary behavior. Extroverts from social interaction. A simple explanation, but generally true. Many creatives lean towards introversion.

We sometimes begin to see the act of maintaining a relationship as an obligation that pulls us away from our important work, rather than as an opportunity to stretch ourselves, explore new possibilities, and take advantage of collaborative opportunities with our team.

I know for a fact that my introverted leanings help me gain clarity on understanding deeper meanings in my life and work. It also helps me focus as a designer. But I am sometimes guilty of viewing relationships as distractions from work—and thus missing out on what they have to offer.

3. We should be mindful of what information and media we absorb. It’s our mental nutrition – and we eat a lot of junk food.
They say you are what you eat. The same could be said for our watching, reading and listening habits. How mindful are you in what you read and watch? Is it stimulating and diverse? Or is it merely comforting?

Purposefully structuring stimuli in your life through the practice of study enlarges your framework for understanding the world and allows you to synthesize more appropriate solutions to your creative problems.

I can say that this is one shift that I have successfully made in the last few years. It was an awakening in lifelong learning that came about when I realized that my work and my choices in entertainment just weren’t doing it for me. I wasn’t feeling stimulated. I wasn’t growing. It has a price, though. You have to commit time to it. That’s part of what this blog is about for me. I want to share the good mental food with you—and this book is good nutrition.

4. Beware the trap of obligatory living.
Just like the trap of “good enough”, we can fall into a habit of just marking time. Meeting milestones. It has a feeling of achievement, but it’s ultimately empty for a creatively driven individual.

Many of us spend much of our personal and professional lives in obligation mode—we maintain a system that someone else invented, or simply maintain our relationships, reactively doing what we have to in order to get things done without building capacity for future work. These are symptoms of obligatory living.

I think as we get older, we allow our life to fit into grooves. We go into cruise control. It’s only natural. Our pressures and obligations grow. Health. Career. Relationships. Family. Children. Parents. Life gets more complex, not less. The problem arises when you are a creative person and you have to feed the beast. The beast needs change. It needs challenges. It needs growth. It’s in our DNA. We neglect it at our peril.

5. We have to work hard to find our true voice.
I am just now starting to realize how to use my voice and express myself rather than using my talents to express my clients. It’s a strange journey that has pulled me full circle. I started out in art school, but struggled with clarity and meaning in my fine art work. I didn’t know what I wanted to say, or lacked the ability to express it. I moved into graphic design because I was damn good at it. I still am, and I love using my brain to solve business problems and create compelling visual solutions. But it is for them. Not me. Now, at the ripe age of 38, I am feeling the compulsion to express myself through other mediums.

Having a grasp of how to apply our deeper passions to the work we do is the significant difference between doing work that’s simply good and doing work that’s brilliant.

You can’t phrase it much better than that. Using discipline and focus, applied through the proper choice of medium can lead to spectacular results. And that’s the primary motivation for a creative isn’t it? Brilliance?

I’ve read a lot of “creativity” guidebooks and “how-to” guides, but this one is the best I’ve come across in a long time. I think its because of Todd’s background as a professional creative and because it has been written recently—it addresses the strange new pressures that we face in this technology driven world. The speed of change(and everyone’s expectations) is accelerating. It will become even more important to cultivate discipline in order to navigate these choices and make the best ones for ourselves.

You can buy The Accidental Creative here.
Check out their company and book website here.

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