The Importance of Protecting Space for Creativity
Over-work and giving too much of ourselves to others leaves no room for growth
This past month has found me in the grinder.
Maxed out in my time and energy, I sense my mind locking up and my focus splintering into a thousand pieces.
Pressure and obligation bear down as deadlines and the looming threat of failure occupies an ever growing space in my present reality.
Thoughts of creative progress, once uplifting, now shrivel and die at the feet of imminent urgency.
My otherwise curious and receptive spirit shuns serendipity to meet the need of necessity.
Something that was once so personally mine, has been claimed in entirety by others.
Exhausted, I exist now as only a husk of my full Self.
We Overload Ourselves
I may be poeticizing my current state a bit, but in the moment the feeling is very real.
I’m currently working on a client project tied to the Super Bowl that is extremely high pressure with a very aggressive and unmovable deadline. (I asked for more time but they wouldn’t push back the big game 😆)
It’s a super cool project with an extremely talented team, but to keep up with this challenging project takes all the energy and focus that I can muster. Which leaves nothing left of me for anything else.
No creativity. No new experiences. No new conversations. No new thoughts.
I’m sure we’ve all been there. Necessities and commitments of work and life fill up our time and energy to a point at which we can no longer let anything else in.
Nothing else but the energy and focus required to get us through the current challenges and meet the obligations set upon us.
It's easy to romanticize our struggles, yet the reality remains that overcommitment is a common pitfall. I've often found myself in this trap, underestimating the effort required for my goals.
Be it ambition, addiction to productivity, or just innocent, wishful thinking on the amount of new experiences and knowledge that we can fit into this fast moving life, the result is the same – overwhelming stress.
And in defense of us overachievers and “workaholics,“ our current societal landscape, with its emphasis on capitalist competition, doesn’t make seeking balance any simpler.
Value Greater than Money
Constantly straddling the line between ambition and keeping up with societal survival can blur the true value of creativity. This shift in perspective moves us from incessant productivity to embracing the joy of exploration and creation, revealing that fulfillment surpasses material success, and opens up a realm of rich experiences that nourish our true selves, independent of traditional success metrics.
Deep down, I hold a firm belief in the value of discovery and creativity that exists beyond monetary gain, although sometimes I’m in need of reminding.
Reflecting on history's greatest artists like Vincent van Gogh, Emily Dickinson and Henry David Thoreau; their work transcended immediate financial success and instead, left a lasting impact across generations. Their ideas, expressions and new ways of thinking have served to forever change the world beyond them. I’m sure very few are aware of their monetary holdings or which car or carriage was parked in their driveway.
For the longest time I wanted so desperately to find a way to make money off my passions, so that I could spend the most time exploring them. But since, I’ve realized that true discovery, creativity, and economy don’t always align. You end up chasing trends and the whims of the common denominator, and in the process betraying your true, authentic Self.
It feels like much of art and creativity has fallen victim to this mindset in the last decade or so. With the rise of online virality and consolidation of power in mainstream film and music leading to the homogenization of mainstream art, the pursuit of money and fame have more and more become the goal of our collective creative endeavors. And as a result, we’ve all suffered from it, both in lack of depth in expressions and the hollowness of exploration without creative submission.
I’m digressing here a bit, but the point is that we need to allow proper time and space to expand and create an environment of revelation without the suffocating presence of stress and monetary factors detracting from the true essence of honest and vulnerable exploration.
It’s a sacrifice in the short term, but I maintain that is it worth it.
Space to Expand
How often have you been working on a creative project and after a period of time decided you need a break so you went for a walk? And then on that break, after previously sitting stuck for hours, you’re suddenly overflowed with ideas?
Personally, it happens to me almost every time.
Add nature and that experience expands exponentially.
I’ve never had my best ideas at the desk, it’s always been on a walk or a hike, or somewhere out in a crowd. So often I’ve struggled in the confines of my office or studio for hours and hours for a solution or an idea, only to have it finally come to me shortly after breaking for a walk.
Equally if not more-so, how many times have you gone on a vacation and come back just on fire with inspiration for new ideas and projects?
Every time for me.
Yet knowing this, I often find myself in the diminishing cycle of working harder and harder to push through a task while just wasting time with half the focus and energy that I would have if I had taken time to recover.
Maybe it is a cultural thing born from our competitive society and work culture that makes us think that suffering through something is the best way to accomplish it. Time and time again though, I’m reminded that seeking balance and space for serendipity is by far the most effective approach.
Serendipity in Opportunity
Another advantage of protecting space in life comes in the form of finding opportunity.
This is one I’m extremely guilty of because I’m constantly trying to fill my hours with productivity, often sacrificing going outside of my normal routine to connect with people.
Being an introvert doesn’t help, but that’s not a good excuse.
Allowing yourself the space and energy to get involved with community can reveal new opportunities in the form of collaborations and ideas found from needs within various groups of people.
Our entire world is people. All of creative connection, inspiration and opportunity comes from the interconnection and balance of needs within our society.
So without seeking connection and taking action to be aware of what those opportunities and needs out there are, we will always be out of touch with the greater picture.
Conclusion on Balance and Presence
Difficult and exhaustive challenges can often give us a chance to reflect. We are broken down and rebuilt with the opportunity to review what does and does not work for us.
As much as I do love a challenge and revel in the pride and accomplishment of a job well done, I’m also aware of the cost.
This current stint has manifested negative repercussions in physical health and poor sleep. It’s easy to cite the mantras, “toughen up” or “you’ve got this” to push further and further, but for what cost and to what end? Especially if your deadlines and work are been decided by others, with the resulting excess product of your blood and sweat going to benefit companies and endeavors in which you have limited or no say.
For most of my adult life I’ve struggled with balance. I’ve always been a hard worker willing to accept tough challenges at work while also intensely craving space for creativity and curiosity.
That balance is something I still strive to achieve and I’m more inspired now than ever to find it.
Exciting Tech of The Week
The Creative Archetype Quiz
This edition’s mention is a bit tech, a bit creative, and a whole lot of personal insight. In collaboration with, we built a quiz geared toward multipotentialite, creative people that helps identify their creative archetypes. Based on your archetype, there are strategies and approaches that provide insight into how best to navigate your ideal creative path.
It’s an easy to take quiz, and for the effort you’ll get a jam packed PDF of insight into your creative archetype.
Give it a try and let me know if it resonates with you!!
My Creative Updates
As can probably be surmised from this article, I haven’t had much time for creative work. I still have a handful of songs that I’m excited about finishing, but they’re currently sitting on my hard-drive collecting digital dust until I can recover my energy and ambition.
I have however, been continuing work collaborating on the Niche Creator app and the above quiz that I mentioned, which I’m really excited about.
I’m greatly looking forward to returning to balance in the coming weeks and getting back to fulfilling all the different sides of my complicated creative being.
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