Chapter Five – Questions and Demands
1. Just being aware of the law of diminishing returns as it applies to your creative process should lead to some reflection. Does it apply to a specific project? Have you had an experience in which you were making great strides and then quit when those strides were few and far between? Maybe you quit because it wasn’t fun anymore, but is it possible that you quit because you misread the lack of progress? Think about it. Re-frame it. Does this help with an attempt at re-approaching the project?
2. Can you open up space for yourself – insulating from criticism, rejection and failure – to give yourself time to get good enough at your craft, to really create something beautiful? When I say insulating yourself from criticism, rejection and failure, I don’t mean that you don’t go out and get it. You need it. What I’m saying is insulating yourself from the painful effects. Can you re-frame those thing as, well, inspiring? And if not inspiring then just typical. The totally expected parts of the process.
3. Who are your mentors? If you don’t have any, work on creating a list and thinking of ways to reach out to them – with humility, admiration, and generosity of your own. And likewise, are you mentoring someone? Trust me, helping others gives your neurological system a boost. Try it.
4. Does your field allow you to separate what you do and make from how those things are received? Can you protect your relationship with your work? If so, it’s another way to prolong engagement – and that allows you to get better at what you do. Your creative process is a lifelong relationship. Are you treating it with the respect and attention it deserves?
5. If you’re stuck – can you try moving to another area so that you can lower the bar and be playful? What would that look like for you? Can you pretend you’re someone else – take on some anonymity? And can you shrink your intended audience down to one person? Even if you’re not stuck, these might be interesting and helpful approaches to try out.
6. Like the Law of Diminishing Returns, can you re-frame fear? Can you see it as a sign that you might be onto something?
7. Are you haunted by projects past? Can you spend some time really assessing each one and thinking about which ones to put on hold, which ones to dive into, which ones to put away for an extended period of time?
8. Are you committing to a decision so that you can make the next decision, or are you allowing yourself to wallow in the land of ghost motions – as Tedy Bruschi put it – for far too long?
9. Do you have too many new escape hatch projects? Can you rely on fellow creatives or your mentors – or others you trust – to weigh in and help you make a call?
10. Are you being held back by worry, perfection, and getting it wrong? Instead of worry, can you try to dive into the work itself, allowing it to become such a fertile, rich, and full place where worry just can’t fit? Since there’s no such thing as perfect, can you let it go? And can you re-frame an instance of getting it wrong into an opportunity for your smartest creative move?
11. Are your problems with your process overwhelming? Do they go deep? Is it time to reach out to professionals? I suggest a look at Bessel van der Kolk’s The Body Keeps the Score; it’s not easy reading, but these aren’t easy issues.
12. Can you reflect on your creative hunger? Can you see that hunger as such an important part of process and can you tend to it?