A couple of months ago I moved to Paris. WOOHOO! Since then, my life has changed completely. My daily routine, my habits and my point of view are different now. This new start, as you might call it, has brought me many good things and I am just starting to wrap my mind around this completely crazy past few months. I think, I have been very lucky with how everything worked out. A couple of tears have been shed on the life I left behind but I am almost insanely happy. Right away I found a job, which has given me the opportunity to improve my language skills and meet some lovely people. The first step becoming a Parisian has been made! One of the biggest challenges, besides learning a new language, was taking up a job which has nothing to do with what I have been trained in. I have been working for 10+ years in print design but since a couple of years, I haven’t felt quite at my place. Since I was not sure, I wanted to stay in my field of expertise forever, I also started to study Cultural Sciences to have a second qualification I can depend on if necessary.
Creativity on sale
The main reason was, that I found my job was blocking my creativity. The passion I once started out with a long time ago was gone. Most people outside the design industry think we are all like Don Draper just coughing up one brilliant idea after the other, brainstorming with other creatives, pushing a couple of buttons on our computer and then call it a day. Well, for most of us it’s not like that. In most jobs, you don’t have much space for creativity.
Today the client knows exactly what he wants. He only needs you to realize his thoughts and make a printable file of it. Mostly his ideas are fixed. Only few will respond to nicely put critique or proposals you give. You can’t imagine how much of my time I have spent, beating around bushes to point out that: ”yes, your idea is very good but maybe we can even improve it by…” Does this sound familiar? RAISE YOUR HAND IF YOU KNOW CLIENTS LIKE THIS!
Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to know what you want, but if you hire an expert, why don’t you let him do his work? Of course, not all clients are like this. Over the years, I also had some positive surprises of clients who come to you with brilliant ideas, so amazing it blows your mind. These are the straws your clutching to bring you through the day. But is this the job you signed up for? When I decided to make my living as a graphic designer, I did this out of passion. I already knew it would never be as glorious as we see it in movies or series like Mad Men because I did an internship before. Being a reasonable person, I also knew, I would never make big money. When I decided to do this, I did it despite the warnings of family and friends, to rather get a ”proper” job.
Last year I have read an incredibly good book, Justs Kids by Patti Smith. Her passion, courage and willpower to make things happen, even under hard circumstances have left me deeply impressed. This book has made me think of my own passion which I already believed to be lost. I don’t think it is completely gone but it’s buried deep under rainbow colored handouts, blurry pictures, and a Comic Sans overkill. All the things they taught us at design school, the rules for good design they pointed out to us – I broke them all. I broke them to have a pleased and happy client, to get him what he wants, what he believes to be a perfect layout.
I know other designers can probably handle it better than me. I had the opportunity to work with some great creators. Even after a hard day at work they go home and find the energy to work on their own projects. Over the years, I myself did this less and less. I was lacking inspiration and motivation. This might be a general problem in the creative world or a problem of the stressful and hectic time, we are living in. It is important to take care of your passion as Jen Carrington wrote in her brilliant post about A Life of Freedom:
passion projects can be essential for our happiness
Now, after a couple of months away from this crazy world, I can look at it from a different point of view. I have put enough distance between us and I somehow miss it. I want to be creative again but in a different way. Creative in a way that makes me happy and is not sucking out my brain.
I am not quite sure of how I am going to make this happen and what it will look like. I am sure though that it can be done. I am starting with small steps. My first project will be my blog. The time is long overdue to bring this baby into better shape. Next I will do some small projects just for me, without any pressure. I am thinking about some wall art or decorative DIY for my apartment. I will keep you updated on my progress. DO YOU WANT YOUR PASSION BACK? Besides singing this new mantra all day, you can take some other steps, which I hope, will lead you in the right direction. If you find yourself in a similar situation, here is what’s helping me right now to get back on track:
Books inspire me. You can read books like the one by Patti Smith, I mentioned above, that will give you the needed push to make things happen. Books that give you examples of creative work or the needed knowledge to translate your ideas into artwork. Any kind of novel will do as well because they transport you into a different world and trigger your creativity. Books are even used for therapy – ever heard of bibliotherapy? Check out this article if you want to know more.
• Get outside
I mean it! Right now! Just after you finished to read this of course. Taking a walk instead of sitting at your PC all day will break up a fixed routine. The fresh air will make your brain cells work again. I use this time to get to now my new hometown and take some pictures, which was one of the creative things I was missing. Photography is just a hobby for me, but I haven’t been practicing for a long time.
• Make a mood board
You can easily do this on Pinterest. Collect typo, colors, pics, just things that make you smile. It could be a quote or a nicely arranged dinner plate (food can be really inspiring). I take these pins to make a style board in Photoshop, so I can move everything around, add some text or delete combinations that don’t work. Check out my mood board if you like.
For me, this is a thing that always worked. My mom always said, write everything down so you will remember it better. And I am at an age now, where I understand what she meant. How often do you have a brilliant idea, just to forget it 10 minutes later? Now I always make sure to have the possibility of jotting it down right away. I got a big notebook at my side when I am working on my computer. This one is a bit chaotic because I will write things down just how they come to my mind. On my computer, I use the Apple notes app for more systematic notes which I order by topic. I also put in pictures and links. This one is connected to my cloud, so I can add things on my mobile when I am not at home. In addition to this, I have the LISTATIC app on my phone, which I use to make lists. For example, when I get a tip of what to discover on one of my walks around town, I put it on my Paris list.
• Change up your workspace
Try to sit in a different place. At your home, you might try a different room or redecorate your habitual space. Make it inspiring but not distracting. I personally don’t like clutter, others work best in some kind of chaos. If you like peppy colors and motivational quotes you might try some kind of mood board on your wall. I rather stick to the non-colors like white, black and shades of gray. That gives me room to think. Whatever works best for you is the motto here, because it depends on your working routine and on your personal style. When you feel clogged up at home, you should go to Café and work there. Sometimes working at home can be difficult because there are so many distractions like uncleaned dishes in the sink or a ridiculous tv show, you don’t even know why you’re watching. As soon as the weather gets warmer I will try our balcony. I think it’s the perfect place for me to work.
• Surround yourself with other
Work of others can inspire you and to have someone to discuss your ideas with can open your mind to different perspectives. If you are like me, this is a challenge itself. Since I am an introvert, I am always in trouble to make the first step. So I am open to advice. I know the opportunities to meet like-minded people online are endless but I am a little bit lost here and I am as shy online as I am in real life.
Have you ever been in a similar situation at work or in life in general?
I would like to hear about it. What are your tips to rediscover creativity?