Many bands get started by playing cover versions of the hits of other bands. The good ones go on to create their own style and write and play their own songs. The great ones end up being covered by other bands.
So ask yourself: in your creative work, are you still playing cover versions - that is, accepting the rules and models set by the work of the people you admire? Or is it time to take more risks and see what happens when you follow your own lead?
ACTION: What would you do if success were assured? What would you create? Of course success isn't assured...but it IS possible. Consider taking a step toward creating what only you can create - whether or not it fits the usual models.
2: Two (or three) heads are not always better than one
There has been a lot of emphasis on collaboration and teamwork in creative projects - maybe too much. Certainly when working in Hollywood I experienced repeatedly that too many cooks spoil the broth, especially when they all act like celebrity chefs. And has there ever been a visionary committee? At the same time, there are plenty of examples of projects that would have benefitted if a solo creator had listened to input from others.
Writing on the Bloomberg Business Week site, Robert Sutton pointed out, "Drawing a hard line between "individual" and "group" creativity...is pointless. What really matters is that the two modes mingle as the creative process unfolds."
ACTION: The best solution is balance. Are you giving yourself enough time to think about your projects and your future? When you create something new, do you get input from a variety of people? These days the internet makes that so much easier - you can call on your Facebook friends or Twitter followers, for instance. If a survey format would work, SurveyMonkey.com offers a free version.
3: Solve problems using the...
Our minds seem to be uncomfortable with anything that's incomplete. One method storytellers have for keeping your attention is to begin a story and then cut away from it to another strand, knowing that in the back of your mind you're waiting to hear how the first one finishes.
You can benefit from this drive by combining it with another - namely that our minds keep working on a problem even when we're not consciously thinking about it, even as we slumber.
ACTION: Just before you go to sleep, state your challenge something like this: "The best solution to my problem with (whatever) is..." or "The missing element in the story I'm writing is..." Then go to sleep. When you wake up, check whether any new ideas come up. You can also do this at the start of the day and check in the evening.
4: In a bad mood? Here's what to do
We all have days when we have a hard time being positive. I think sometimes the best thing to do is to go along with a bad mood for a while rather than fighting it (as long as we don't take it out on others). However, it's also useful to know how to bring ourselves out of such states. Here are three methods, as shared on the PsychCentral blog by Margarita Tartakovsky:
- Get outside into nature. Even a park will do. You can also bring some plants or a small indoor fountain into your environment. (My note: Going into nature works for a lot people, but for others a few hours in a museum or art gallery or movie theatre helps more.)
- Listen to music, but instead of going for happy songs right away, start with tunes that match your mood, then gradually switch to ones that promote a more upbeat feeling.
- If you find you're having a lot of bad mood days think of the mood as a person or object or animal and in your imagination ask what it wants or needs. The answer might be more sleep (I find 20-minute naps useful), or being open with someone about a situation that is making you uncomfortable.
ACTION: The next time a bad mood strikes and you can't or don't want to ride it out, try one of these methods. (Of course I'm not talking about severe depression - for that, get some professional help.)
5: Why haven't you finished it?
In item three above I mentioned how the human mind craves completeness. Despite this, at the Alaska Writers Guild Conference there were a number of manuscripts that had been "nearly finished" for quite some time (sometimes several years). Why don't we finish?
Perhaps we don't have an ending we consider strong enough; (rare)
Or we genuinely don't have the time (even more rare, especially if we are wiling to turn off the TV and limit internet time;)
Maybe we fear failure (very common). If it's not finished, it can't be rejected. Of course it can't be successful, either. The fear of failure, whether or not we are conscious of it, overpowers the need to complete and the possibility of reaching people with our work. This isn't restricted to writers, of course; there are plenty of people with nearly finished inventions, collections of paintings that could be exhibited, etc.
ACTION: Do you have any projects that have been nearly finished for quite a while? If you've realized it really isn't a good project or you have totally lost your passion for it, declare it dead and move on. Don't let it clutter up your mind.
Otherwise, make a list of what you need to do to finish it and schedule the time to do it.
If fear of failure may be the issue, build in some safety walls. For instance, if it's a book, commit to finishing it but give yourself the option of not showing it to anybody. When you get to that point, consider showing it to one person you trust to be honest but constructive. Once they've given you feedback and you've made any revisions, consider showing it to a couple more people, and so on, until you feel confident enough to send it out into the marketplace (e.g., self-publishing it or submitting it to agents or publishers).
6: And a quote to consider:
"We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down." [Kurt Vonnegut]