Inspiration

Dealing with the Pressures of Constant Creativity

You’re a human being, not an idea machine.

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Web design and development can be a fun and highly-rewarding career. If you’re a freelancer or part of a remote work environment, you might get to work from home. If not, you may work at one of those cool offices with a beer tap. Either way, it’s a pretty good gig.

Best of all, you get to be creative for a living. Personally, there’s nothing quite like the rush I get from turning a concept into something the world (or a small portion of it, anyway) will both see and use.

Still, there are real challenges to face. For example, there will be times when you have a pile of work to do and not nearly enough time to do it. In some ways, it can be a nice problem to have. But it can also add to your stress levels and lessen the quality of your work.

Today, we’ll focus on a side-effect of being way too busy: The expectation and burden of being creative all the time. It’s something all of us will face at one time or another in our careers.

We’ll explore the realities of a creative drought and highlight some ways to help get those juices flowing again.

Life inside a pressure cooker

Many times, we are asked to juggle multiple projects at once. Each project has its own specific timeline, budget and technical challenges to deal with. Add to that any number of unexpected tasks that may come your way. Is it getting hot in here?

While outsiders may look at what we do as some sort of professional playdate – we know better. Situations like the one mentioned above can have a serious effect on your ability to be creative and, left unattended, your well-being.

During my career, I’ve had moments where I’ve literally panicked over a seemingly insurmountable pile of work. And with each new email came another worry.

You’re not a machine that can simply whip up multiple brilliant ideas on demand.

Attempting to aggressively attack everything at once led to a severe creative blockage. It seemed like everything I tried to do was a multitude more difficult than usual.

In some ways it almost seems unfair. Yes, you’re a talented and creative person. But you’re not a machine that can simply whip up multiple brilliant ideas on demand. You’re human and some days that extra mojo is hard to find.

Take the power back

The great news is that you do have some measure of control. You have the ability to bring order to the chaos. Let’s take a look at some ways to bring that creativity roaring back to life.

Get out

One simple step is to get up out of your comfy office chair and give yourself some time and space to breathe. Sure, you have a lot of work to do. But sitting there and forcing yourself to keep forging ahead can often be counterproductive.

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Stuck on a work project? Take a coffee break. (Images: Rawpixel/ siraphol)

It almost doesn’t matter where you go. Even walking over to the next room is at least a small change in scenery. Personally, I like to head outside for a few minutes to clear my head. Sometimes, I’ll take a quick drive over to Starbucks just to have a brief interaction (albeit at a drive-thru) with someone who has nothing to do with my job. Just the act of doing something different for a few minutes can help to clear your weary head.

Turn on some music

If your work environment is an appropriate place for listening to music while plugging away, by all means take advantage of it. Hearing your favorite artists can help you to relax and inspire you to create.

Music, of course, is very subjective. Personally, I find that listening to Radiohead helps to rekindle my creativity when going through a bit of a struggle. Whatever you choose to listen to, make sure it sets the right atmosphere for your work. Music should help you focus on what you’re doing – not distract you from it.

Focus on one thing at a time

Attempting to work on multiple projects at once can really hinder your creative abilities. The more chaotic your mind is, the harder it is to properly focus on the task at hand.

Instead of trying to do it all at once, carve out blocks of time in your daily schedule to focus on a single task. You’ll give each project the full attention it deserves and your mind will be in a much better place. This can lead to a smoother creative process.

Look at the world around you

Inspiration is all around you and can often be found even when you’re not actively looking for it. Take a step back from the pressures of work and spend a little time doing something you love.

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Too much email? Go outside. (Images: /)

Go to a park and soak in some nature. If you have children, spend some quality time with them. Even if you don’t have a lot of free time, spending just a little of what you have the right way can recharge your creative batteries.

Be yourself

We’re all unique and inspired by different things. If none of the above works for you, then do something else that brings you joy. Read a book or binge-watch a favorite show. Well, maybe binge-watching isn’t the best thing to do when you have a pile of work with your name on it – but you get the idea.

The cure for a creative funk is to take that pressure off yourself for a little while. So whatever that means to you, go ahead and make it happen.

Managing the weight of expectations

When others find out that you’re a creative problem-solver, they’re going to come to you often (and maybe recommend you to their friends). While it’s truly a compliment, it also creates a level of expectation (both in you and your client) that can feel hard to live up to.

Speaking from my own experience, there have been times when I’ve questioned whether I was up for the challenge. When you’re in a creative slump, it’s natural to experience some self doubt.

The key is to stay confident in your own abilities and approach things in the best way possible. The right approach will help you to channel your creativity and point you towards success.

Featured image: venimo


About the Author Eric Karkovack

Eric Karkovack is a web designer with well over a decade of experience. You can visit his business site here. In July 2013, Eric released his first eBook: Your Guide to Becoming a Freelance Web Designer. You can follow his rants on Twitter @karks88.