Happy 2019! I know it’s technically mid-Jan, but I figured most of us were busy holidaying and enjoying some down time and might only be getting into the swing of things now. I hope you’re all rested and excited about the year ahead, I know I definitely am. Having said that, I always freak out a little bit at the start of a new year because I have this bad habit of putting a lot of pressure on myself to achieve great things each year, and so feel a bit of panic and anxiety worrying about whether this will or won’t happen. So I did have a little freak out, I have to say, but I’ve moved on from that now and am looking forward to what 2019 has in store for us all.
Remembering your creative purpose
I’ve written about this heaps of times before, but over the last few years I’ve struggled A LOT with creative block and burnout. Just when I would think I was getting over it, it would strike back and I would find myself treading water yet again. This was particularly rife last year, I could feel the build up of the past few years really starting to wear me down. Going into this new year I wanted to find my spark again, and get to the bottom of why I still kinda felt that block.
I listened to a really great episode of one of my favourite podcasts, Andy J Miller’s Creative Pep Talk. It was about defeating burnout, and there was a part where Andy lists some strategies for moving past it. One of them is to remember WHY you are creative in the first place - your ultimate creative purpose. According to Andy, your purpose is the spark that fuels your creativity. Listening to this, I realised (in a dramatic heart stopping moment) that I couldn’t define what mine was anymore! I’d lost sight of it! All of a sudden it made so much sense as to why I’d struggled so much with creative block and burnout, because I wasn’t really working towards a greater purpose. Yes I’ve made things I’ve enjoyed and been proud of over the last few years, but in general I still felt a bit aimless about what I was doing it for. Like I said before, I felt like I was treading water.
So I tried really hard to define my creative purpose, but I didn’t truly believe in the answers I was coming up with. I wrote so many things down, but nothing felt genuine. Then I had a little bit of a panic spiral (gotta love a spiral!). If I no longer had a purpose for being creative, was there actually a point?! Cue mega emo phone call with my boyfriend about what the fuck I’m doing with my life and how everything is horrible and I’m just going to throw in the towel and get a job in data entry from now. Lol sorry babe.
After talking it through I started to think about what my original creative purpose was before my career really took off, before I started getting clients and found myself running a full on business. My purpose back then was to celebrate everything handmade, to keep handmade techniques alive, and to show through my work, and by positioning myself as a commercial designer, that craft has a valid place in the contemporary design world. When I thought about it, I realised this is still my purpose at heart. Even though I feel like I’ve achieved my purpose, it’s still what drives me at the end of the day. I’d just lost sight of it in the whirlwind of running a business, hustling, networking, the social media success trap, and all of that other noise.
I guess I’m telling you all of this because if you’ve started your year feeling a bit lost, blocked, or without direction, don’t panic. I suggest reminding yourself of what your true creative purpose is. Think really hard about it, have a few panic spirals and emo phone chats if you need to, until you remember. It will help direct you to a starting point for the year, and you can use it as a roadmap to get you on your way.
I’ve have always been an advocate of setting some goals at the start of a year. I personally need them to give me direction and help keep me on track as the year begins, especially because the first part of the year always goes SO fast, and all of a sudden you’ve blinked and it’s June and you haven’t even got started yet! Your goals don’t have to be set in stone though. I think it’s great to be open to new opportunities coming your way, experiencing things that change your goals, and simply just making it up as you go along. But I do find it useful to have at least a vague road map to work from. If you’re keen on some goal setting to get you pumped up for 2019, here’s some tips you might find useful:
5 TIPS FOR SETTING CREATIVE GOALS
1. Start with a review of last year. What did you love and what were you most proud of? What didn’t work so well for you that you could ditch or change/improve on in the new year? What new skills do you want to learn this year to build on what you learned last year? For me, one thing I was proud of was starting the Real Talk project, and I loved getting some fresh inspiration from my trip to Mexico, which made me want to prioritise travel more in 2019. On the down side, I realised that client management gave me the most stress out of anything last year, and that I had become quite a reactive maker - only creating when I had a client job, and not for fun or experimentation. So, improving in these areas is going on my goals list for sure.
2. Split your goals into areas that are relevant to you, so you can focus on each area separately and not get overwhelmed by how many goals are stacking up on your list. Mine ended up falling into the following categories: career, personal creative growth, and bucket list goals.
3. Can you list a few actionable steps towards achieving each of your goals? What actions can you start to take that will help you work towards them? For example, I’d like to make more time for creative experimentation and fun making, so to work towards this I’m going to try setting aside specific periods in the week for time consuming but important things like client meetings, business admin, emails, studio maintenance etc so that the rest of my time is free to simply just make stuff.
4. Remember that you can’t achieve it all right now this instant. But you can choose a couple of things to get started on right away to keep you motivated and get the ball rolling. I always choose something as my January project to focus on, so I can at least start. This year it’s to revamp the Real Talk project and start to design a line of mini pinatas that I’d eventually like to sell.
5. Remember that goals can change, as can your circumstances. While I think it’s really useful and inspiring to set goals, try not to feel like you’re locked into them. Keep some flexibility about you and treat these goals more as a guide, not something set in stone. The last thing you want is to start the year feeling any pressure, you might lose motivation and stop before you’ve even begun.
I wish you all an amazing start to 2019! Now, let’s get started!
All images: Kitiya Palaskas
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Real Talk is an online wellbeing project for creative people, curated and edited by me with contributions by Katie Holcombe. Through a monthly newsletter we share original articles (like this one) and exclusive curated content that we feel will compliment the topics we’re discussing. Things like TED talks, podcast episodes, videos, wellbeing exercises, worksheets and many more inspiring resources. Sign up to our newsletter to get your monthly dose of Real Talk and be empowered to improve your wellbeing so that you can lead your best creative life!