One of the ways I keep myself motivated is to hop onto YouTube and watch other artists work. One of my favorites is Aphonso Dunn. In a video of his about freestyle drawing, he said something profound:
I like that! It has since come in handy when I get stuck or blocked with my writing or drawing … I try to relax my tensed-up brain and begin looking for some fun … and it works! Thank you, Alphonso!
Being creative is hard work, and I’ll bet that many a self-publisher has found out the hard way when they’ve had a flash of brilliance, then sat down and tried to write it out for other people to read.
Being creative is both a whole lot mental and a whole lot emotional. You can have all the know-how in the world, but if your heart isn’t in it, it won’t happen. And your heart can be all into an idea, but if the ol’ brain isn’t trained and ready to work, it won’t happen either.
It’s easy enough to watch someone else doing what you’d like to do, and think, Oh, I could do that, and I’d do it better! Then you get a reality check when you try it yourself.
Like any other endeavor that appeals to us, the more committed to the task we are, the more we’ll get out of it. And just like life, our attitude going into it will make all the difference. Work hard, for sure, but enjoy and savor the experience.
To all the self-publishers out there, putting together any book – much less a fully illustrated children’s book – is a daunting task, whether you’re writing it or illustrating it or both. Your excited heart and brain can get easily overwhelmed with just knowing that all you need is something absolutely brilliant and unique that the world has never seen before … that kind of pressure will halt you in your tracks.
Instead, try this approach … put pencils to paper, or fingers to keyboard, and just begin … just begin and see what comes out of that pencil or keyboard. You might get a pleasant surprise.
Creativity can’t be demanded or forced. It needs to flow … even when you’ve got deadlines and time frames to work within. It’s not about just daydreaming the hours away, hoping that flash of brilliance will strike like lightning out of the blue. It’s about approaching the work with a relaxed, what if attitude.
Absolutely we need good work habits. Some days we have to work when we really don’t feel like it. But when we tense up, because we’ve got to get it done!, creativity stops dead in its tracks. Now we’re in big trouble, staring at that blank screen or paper, and the harder we try to come up with what’s next, the more it eludes us.
The dreaded block is a horrible experience for both writers and artists. Like a Chinese finger puzzle, the more you squirm to get out, the more entrapped you become. Yikes!
There's only one way to get out of one of those ...
When the flow of creativity stops, don’t tense up … relax and wait …
It’s counterintuitive. The secret is in the waiting, and waiting well can be learned.
Waiting well means knowing when the tension is coming on, and choosing to just relax instead.
Waiting well means not just sitting and staring at a blank page, and trying to force creativity to come. Instead, invite creativity by beginning to freely doodle or just write whatever pops into your head.
Sometimes waiting well means walking away and doing something else that's not creative for a while. Some of your best ideas will come while you are washing dishes or cutting grass.
Alphonso’s suggestion is brilliant … train yourself to approach and anticipate your work with a playful attitude.
Like I said, it's counterintuitive ... our culture trains us to buckle down and get it done, but you can snuff out your own creativity like that. Life is about balance ... we can neither work nor play constantly ... but we can certainly play at working!
Let's choose to wonder and experiment and explore ... when the ideas start flowing – and they will! – grab hold of the best one and have at it. Get it done, for sure, but savor and enjoy the process ... and expect to have a lot of fun doing it!