Breaking creative blocks

First, we need to define “creative block” here, so to make sure that we are talking about the same thing.

A creative block is the feeling you have in your gut when facing a blank page.

A creative block is the chaos in your head when you can’t move forward with your project and you are not sure why.

A creative block the tiredness you experience at any point of your work, because it’s just too taking too long, carrying too much, resonating too little.

A creative block is where you are ready to give up, because it’s too hard, too draining, too expensive, and too lonely.

There are several things I do when I hit a creative block.

  1. Spending quality time with my peers. One or two people I trust who are good listeners and good conversing partners. Talk. About anything. Then add my work process. Talk. Let the real problem and the things I really want to talk about emerge by itself.
  2. Spending time with myself, doing things I want to do. Things that either relax me or stimulate me. Like watercoloring or learning Spanish. Give your ideas time. If you are searching for it too desperately, it’s not gonna come to you by itself.
  3. Free writing. From my experience, you don’t have to do it with paper and pen. Typing works too. Just write. Just type. Ramble. Say anything that comes to mind. If anything interesting comes out, mark it. And keep writing or typing. At one point my brain will turn to saying “ok now I’m really excited about the points that came up just now. So let me go and work on them. Will come back for more free style writing! Thank you and bye!”
  4. Doing the things I instantly want to say “no” to. I know myself well enough now, that I know I should do something when I don’t want to do it. I get alerted whenever I want to say “no” to things. And that excites me. So I will have to do it. Such an activity will unblock my creative process. It always has.

So which one would you like to try the next time when you encounter a creative block? And what do you do when you feel stuck in your creative process?

A happy leader

Giving makes you happier than gaining and taking from others. That’s probably why becoming the parents who take care of their children makes themselves happier people.

To create is to lead. It’s to start something new, go down a new path for the first time, where nobody else has set foot on. (The Practice, Seth Godin)

That’s a scenario where being a leader doesn’t require having followers.

Therefore, creating something that’s your own and sharing what you made to the world will make you a fulfilled, and happy person who leads her own life.

Can you think of what you want to do exactly to achieve this? Something worth thinking about.

But be mindful: there’s only “want to”, no “ought to”.

How to save the life of a marketer

Save the life of a marketer? From what?

There’s only one thing that’s very dangerous for any marketer — a bad product.

In recent years, with the rising of social media marketing and viral marketing, brands start to create “persona” to attract customers. Paid ads, loud and aggressive marketing interrupt everyone’s feed. It doesn’t matter what you are reading or watching. The “personas” are dry and fake; the ads invades people’s private sphere — their phone or laptop screens.

The customer as “fish in the sea” — bad product was built from the wrong basis. Even if the best marketing was used for such product, it’s going to be not only a waste of resources, but it’s also morally questionable for marketers to persuade people to pay for such a product — a product the marketers themselves don’t have faith in.

If we are ought to change the marketing, we need to save talented marketers from bad products that don’t serve anyone, that don’t solve any problem.

If you are a marketer but you are working on a bad product’s campaign, don’t despair. Listen to your customers and understand what they really need. If you can, help with the design of this product to make it better.

Or quit and find a better product to market for.

These are the two ways to save your life.

The secret to surviving the new market place that you might have overlooked

“The customer is always right.” Well, that time has passed.

What was true before as the golden role of customer service now seems to be over simplified and one-dimensional.

Today’s relationship between a product/service provider and the customer has changed very much from a few years ago.

The product and service itself is still important. Yet there are something else rises up to the center of the customer’s attention — customer experience.

The multi-dimensional experience.

From the moment of encounter to getting-to-know phase, from buying process to user experience and customer support, the complete experience of a customer decides whether the product and service is successful or not.

We’ve entered a new era of B2C business. Anyone who ignore the customer experience will be eliminated from the transforming market place.

Remember, the complete experience matters equally.

More time and more money? Pay attention to this

Guess what it is.

Grand goal? Endurance? Persistence?

They are all important… but there’s something that are in front of our eyes the whole time, but we sometimes choose not to see them.

When we talk about our work, our encounters with our clients and partners, what always seem invisible but crucial?

You have your goals set, plans made, ideas validated and you have started working on achieving them.

You encounter roadblocks and you overcome them; you have problems and you solve them.

You generate new ideas despite it’s difficult and frustrating as hell.

Still, something still so small are still causing troubles. They are everywhere and they really frustrate us.

Because if we fail to see them, we’ve got to redo our work, and the setback can mean days, weeks, or worse.

They are called “details”.

No matter whether you think you are a “big picture” person or an executioner, a dreamer or a producer, you are a fool if you say that you don’t need to care about the details.

Even for trials, details are significant indicators to whether something might work or not. Every designer should know that.

Some details might really don’t matter that much. But the ability to pay attention to detail is a must have. Because you don’t know which one detail is more important than others when you are in the flow of creating.

Time is the most valuable currency. Lacking of attention to details turns out to be extremely costly.

So if you want to be productive and rich, you know I’m right.

Stay committed to the process– Use the power of symbols

A symbol of commitment is like a ring, or a wedding ceremony. 

And the action of commitment is to commit. In fact, it’s keep committing. 

It’s keeping a state of committing. 

But why do we need a ceremony or a symbol for a commitment like a wedding or a ring for a marriage?

People say wedding is a declaration. It’s not for yourself but for others. The ceremony and the ring you carry mark you as an individual who has entered another social group from the groups of the singles.

But do they mean anything to you?

Commitment is for yourself after all. Really.

The wedding is like all the other ceremonies in life. It’s a rite of passage.

To you, as an individual who gets married now, this ceremony doesn’t mean that you personally, internally are committed already; it means that from this point on, you will behave committing, and start to be committed, and keep being committed.

The ring serves as a reminder to yourself of your commitment — being committed — this status. 

It’s the reminder of your wedding — that rite of passage, the monumental point of your life, where you’ve received that symbol of your status.

The ring is less about your partner who gave it to you than about yourself. Just like the ceremony.

That’s to say, if “you are having the wedding for yourself, not for others,” you can choose your own ceremony for yourself and your partner, and your own reminder of your commitment status.

You can even choose two different “tokens”, like the ones they use in the movie The Inception.

A bracelet. A keychain. Or even a golden tooth (if you think that’s pretty enough to be “romantic”). As long as it can endure a longer period of time, easy to take with you, and serves the purpose of being a physical reminder of your commitment.

Better to think about your commitment fondly when you look at it.

And since carrying a symbol of commitment is so powerful, you might consider choosing one for even your other endeavours, like your commitment to become a creator, an artist, or an outspoken person, an activist.

Don’t say that you don’t need a reminder.

Everything that worth doing takes a long time. It takes so long that you will forget you are still doing it or why you have started.

And the things that you don’t need to commit your time and energy to don’t need to be done at all.

Creative juices not flowing? No time to create? Try doing this first

Not having enough time and not having the right idea are the two big roadblocks for the creatives.

As someone working in the creative fields, we expect ideas coming and hitting us in the head. The working process is like water flowing from the faucet. 

“Just do it.” They say. 

But nobody tells us how. Like it’s all going to happen by some magical power. No intention of yourself. No decision to be made.

“It’s not in my hand,” the artist says, “God put it in my head and He holds my hand.”

It’s a nice picture. But it’s also just not how most of the creators and artists work.

We think we don’t need time solely designated for creative work. Because when it’s time, the process is going to carry out by itself.

We think we don’t need to make decisions to prioritise. Because of course the creative process has the priority — when its the time for it.

But if we, as the creators, don’t intentionally make the decision to prioritise the work, we won’t be able to have the time we need to produce, to deliver the work.

To prioritise means intentionally to do something first, to give it more attention and time.

It’s a decision to be made.

Making such decisions is actively taking responsibility in our creative lives. Even if we are the receiver of Godly creations of arts, this is the only thing that we shouldn’t stop doing.

Prioritise so that you have the time for the space so that ideas can come to you as they will.

What hinders your creativity the most?

Since I call myself a writer, I’m ashamed to say that my most prolific time of writing is when I was in school.

We had two writing classes per week. Every class was 90 minutes long. We got a writing prompt at the beginning of the class, and we spent the rest of the time conceptualizing and composing. 

When I was in college, I changed my writing routine to every Friday afternoon for two hours. My reason to only have two hours per week was that I had other classes to focus on – my college major was not Creative Writing. So two hours of writing was all that I deserved. 

It’s been three years since I graduated with my M.A. I had been struggling with writing all the time. Much more than before. 

I didn’t call myself a writer. Not when I was not published. Not when I didn’t have a writing schedule that could make me feel my “flow of inspiration” and “water spring of productivity”.

Now I do see myself as a writer. Because I write regularly anywhere online, and I have an audience.

Someone reads my story and likes it. That is good enough for me to keep writing.

Writing is creating, and self-caring for me. The creative aspect of it sometimes serves the opposite purpose of self-caring.

To be completely honest, it stresses me out.

It stresses me out because it’s “supposed” to be in some way. Like the girls are supposed to be obedient and the boys must be tough. 

Creativity starts personal and private. What’s personal and private is subjective. What’s subjective is never limited to being in some “supposed-to-be” way.

It’s that simple.

So yeah, I started conceptualizing this post by making the following list:

What does not hinder your creativity:

  • gadgets
  • big chunk of time
  • endless resources
  • huge pool/endless information

What actually hinder your creativity:

  • perfectionism
  • impatience
  • inflexibility/stubbornness
  • lack of confidence

But I’m just going to let all of this go for now.

Because:

Despite it’s true, that we don’t need gadgets, a big chunk of time, much information to be creative, and it’s true that we need to work on our perfectionism, impatience, stubbornness, and lack of confidence, the only way to be creative and keep being creative is by simply doing it.

Doing it without considering the word that carries tons of weight — “be creative”.

That word can make things really difficult if you put that on your shoulder.

“I’m a creator so I need to be creative and I have to keep being creative…”

No. Just create. And create some more. 

Find your time. Enjoy your time to create and work on your craft.

Find your audience who appreciate your voice.

That’s enough. Do your work, and have fun.

So my conclusion is this: what hinders my creativity the most is the burden of the word “creativity” entails.

The secret to success – what “Better Call Saul” teaches solopreneurs

I’ve been watching “Better Call Saul”. Currently at the beginning of season 3.

Jimmy Mcgill is the odd piece that doesn’t fit anywhere in a law firm.

Doing bits to rip people off in bars and the streets for many years, he entered law with an already established value system – he doesn’t play by the rules. When he’s “being himself”, people who are traditional lawyers who hold things seriously and the law sacred dislike, even despise him. Considering he’s capable to be a good lawyer, this value system makes him perfect for flying solo – starting with entrepreneurship. 

But what he has that is considered “useless” among the serious lawyers – showmanship – is what makes him successful as a solo practitioner of the law. 

When someone is good with people, she understands what other people feel. She knows what they want and what they desire. She knows what they need.

That’s why she can say the right thing to get other people’s attention and trust.

She will get their business.

But don’t ever forget, if the ability to empathize and “showmanship” is all she’s got, it’s not enough.

Saying the right thing and doing a good show can only get her this far.

Only when she’s able to DO the right thing and DO it well and KEEP DOING it, can she keep these people’s business. 

Jimmy Mcgill has the work done. And he got it done well. 

Again and again. 

That’s why the elderly love him. If it’s not Jim’s own change of business direction, I don’t think his clients going anywhere.

(Well, I will keep watching. Of course, his business clientele changed… as we all know…

Don’t tell me what happens next…)

I’m learning so much from Jimmy’s experience so far.

Empathy, showmanship, real ability to do good work, AND good customer service are equally important for entrepreneurship — especially for solopreneurs.

Stationary lovers don’t write much (usually)

When I was in high school, I noticed that the girls who are obsessed with stationaries, like colorful pens and stickers, notebooks, and washi tapes, are usually not the ones with good grades.

I know I am generalizing here. But that was my observation.

Now in my work, I keep noticing a similar phenomenon. The majority of the people with the fanciest equipment, gadgets, software, and setup, produce the least content. They seldom get so far as to ship their work.

If they do, their work is not of good quality.

Most people I know with great talent and who produce amazing work constantly are those with the simplest setups. They might take their good content to another level by deploying professional devices. But they produce their gold-quality content first, in the simplistic way that they are used to.

We only have a certain amount of energy to focus on something. What we need to do is to ignore the shiny objects like fancy gadgets and new software, and only focus on all the energy on producing every bit of our content.

Those shiny objects do make your work better.

But you need something good, to begin with, in order to make it even better.