Creativity and Self Criticism
When confronted with a demand for creativity, two of the greatest obstacles you will face are self-criticism and a lack of motivation. These are two very treacherous roadblocks, and if allowed, they will follow you throughout your entire career.
Luckily though, there are strategies we can employ to counteract these two productivity killers.
Being self-critical isn’t always a bad thing – the ability to fairly evaluate our own work is important if we ever hope to grow and make progress. However, allowing our critical voices to become too dominant can easily step over the line into draining our self-confidence. The longer a project drags on, the more room is allowed for self-doubt to creep in, further sapping our energy and patience.
But, how can we deal with our self-doubt and prevent it from taking over?
The first step here is to simply learn to worry less. When we become so hyper-focused on relatively minor details, or when we look at our list of things to do and feel overloaded and stressed out, we lose the ability to think smoothly. Our concentration suffers as a result.
People are less effective when they find themselves wound too tightly, so relaxation will give you the ability to step back from a problem and find a solution more easily.
There are lots of different techniques you can employ to help yourself relax the next time you feel yourself start to tense up under the pressure.
Give Yourself an Attitude Adjustment
Do whatever is necessary for you to improve your attitude as a professional. Maybe redecorate your office, go to more networking events, check out a trade show – whatever works for you personally to make your professional outlook a little more positive.
Improving your attitude is very much a “mind over matter” problem. You can only do it once you make the decision to do it, but making the decision to improve your attitude is perhaps the biggest obstacle. You just have to realize that optimism is a choice.
Keep Your Self-Criticism Constructive
Think back to your art critiques in school. Everyone would gather around and talk about what the artist did well, and what they could do better. In every situation, much like in those art critiques, try to think about what you could do better rather than focusing on what you did poorly.
As mentioned above, being critical of ourselves is not a bad thing. It prevents us from simply skating by, and keeps us on our creative toes. However, be sure to keep your criticism constructive. Otherwise it only serves to tear yourself down.
On that same note, remember to target your critiques. Even positive, constructive criticism is still only useful if it is targeted. You will need to develop a clear vision of what you want the project to be, and then analyze your work effectively in order to know when you are on the right track.
Lack of Motivation
A lack of motivation can be the result of numerous different factors, including creative frustration, boredom with your work, anxiety or a general sense of disinterest in a particular project. Unfortunately, the projects which we want to pursue professionally are oftentimes not the same ones which ignite our personal creative passions.
There are a few things we can do to breathe creative life into our work, even when there are other projects we might rather be pursuing.
Find a Mentor
The pros and cons of mentorship has long been a hot topic of debate among professionals—especially freelancers. For example, Andy Rachleff, executive chairman at Wealthfront, Inc. shared the following, “Some young people think they don’t need mentors. They chafe at the role of protégé. Taking on that role means they must admit they don’t know much.”
However, most professionals agree that the benefits of mentorship far outweigh any perceived negative connotations. One of the often-overlooked benefits of a mentor is motivation.
As a COO, Monica Eaton-Cardone has become a highly sought-after business leader. Not only does she work to inspire her own in-house team of creatives, she also offers insight on how leaders can help spur each other on. Eaton-Cardone commented, “…my job is to be a coach, to inspire passion and innovation.”
If you’re stuck in a creative rut, consider connecting with a mentor.
Find a Source of Inspiration
Your personal source of inspiration can be anything from a treasured memory which has always served as a creative catalyst, to a fantasy world you dream up. Whatever that source of inspiration is for you, channel it and hold it in your mind, trying to keep the picture as vivid and clear as possible.
Creative individuals find inspiration in lots of different places, from the people they know to the music and sounds they hear.
Relate the Project to Your Passions
So, you might not love the project you are currently involved in. However, in almost anything you will do in life there is the spark of something to love. Find an element of the project – no matter how minute – which you can relate to your personal passion.
You might even be able to find ways of sneaking your own personal flair into the project. For example, if you are working on something visual, maybe there is a certain color palette of which you are a big fan and you might be able to work in.
Seek Other Outlets
There are a variety of ways in which you can vent your creative energy – paint a picture, write a poem, pick up a musical instrument for a few minutes, or even simply grab a piece of paper and doodle.
If you feel like your creative energy is starting to wear thin over the course of a project, try setting it aside for a few minutes and employ one of these other creative outlets to revitalize yourself and keep the juices flowing. Think of it like charging a phone; work can sap your creative batteries, but switching gears for a few minutes can recharge them.
It’s not always easy to keep yourself focused and positively involved in creative ventures, especially when those are more “work” than they are “play.” However, it is totally manageable as long as we have the right tools.