Pausing – The step you might be missing in your creative process

Beginning with mess and uncertainty and ending on the right in a single point of focus: the design

what's your creative process?

Compulsive learning…

Feeling stuck in your creative process? Well, maybe you’re at loss because you haven’t taken the time to step-back.

Let me explain. If you’re like me, you love creating new stuff. Starting new projects fuels your curiosity and love for learning. Maybe you also have this tendency when discovering a new topic: going all-in. I don’t know for you, but it seems to serve me wrong sometimes. Let me explain. Becoming a bit obsessive about a topic – there is clearly no other word to describe how focused I become about those new “passions” of mine – often leaves me overwhelmed, feeling like I’m drowning into information (literature, scientific research, experts or even podcasts & youtube videos etc.). This off mix between being more and more knowledgeable about a topic while failing at putting it into action – or badly – bothered me.

…should still be put on hold

A few days ago I decided to hit pause, feeling drained and trapped into a creative dry spell that I couldn’t get out of. I did everything but write / focus on creation for a while and going back to writing came naturally.

It got me thinking: had going all in undermined my creative process? Maybe.

how productive are you?

This next bit is definitely going to make me sound as an addict in remission but ho well.

1. Realising your need to unplug

We speak so much about productivity it has influenced my vision of creativity. I used to look at writing/reading/drawing as a hobby without any metrics in mind. But with COVID 19 and quarantine, I feel like there is this new injonction of transforming our free time into a productive one. I’m not only speaking about our instagram feeds full of new arty creations finalised or incoming, but new projects seem to sprout all over the place in my surroundings. As if boredom or doing nothing was not considered right anymore.

When I talk about my all-times-favorite topic – career orientation –, I alway say pausing – as going on a sabbatical when stuck – is essential to free the mind. Indeed, leaving the environment you usually bathe in helps you reassess your life/input from another point of view. When talking about creativity, it’s all the more challenging to pause as we cannot physically leave our inspirational environment as it is online, or should I say, a thumb away.

I remember talking about creativity as a muscle you have to train to stay on track. Well… muscles grow stronger when they rest, so maybe it’s also something to keep in mind when going on a creative marathon. Rest. Is. Essential.

2. Actually unpluging

I’m not going to lie, it’s hard to unplug (in my case at least) but it’s so efficient I wonder every-time WHY I wait to be in a dead-end to do it. Also, being away from this apparent flood of productivity gets you out of the mind-fog the screens give – which brings you so much peace.

The hardest is the first step: closing all your devices for good. Sometimes I even give it to my family to hold it for me (this is how weak I’ve become 😬). Whatever works for you, all you need to do is: make time for you to do nothing or at least something that has nothing to do with what you’re trying to learn/create. In the end, the dots will connect.

connecting the dots looking backwards

Someone far greater than me also said it in his own words: Steve Jobs. In his famous Stanford Commencement address in 2005, he stated « you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward ».

The rest of his speech – encouraging us to live and create – is history. But the core of his story remains: sometimes you have to just trust the process and life/what’s you’re trying to do will make sense someday. Pausing to assess all this and make sense of the apparent mess you’re navigating can be beneficial. It’s a bit like the design squiggle I hold dear: all this nonsense will untangle someday. Chaos is not a It’s all about letting time work it’s magic.

Picture of the design squiggle
The design squiggle

« The journey of researching, uncovering insights, generating creative concepts, iteration of prototypes and eventually concluding in one single designed solution. It is intended to convey the feeling of the journey. Beginning on the left with mess and uncertainty and ending on the right in a single point of focus: the design. »

So I will end with this ho so corny conclusion that I will try to apply to myself: pause & don’t be afraid to look for more chaos in your creative life. 

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