Creating is all fine and well and fun until we do the inevitable… turn it into a business.-Kara Andretta
And this is what beomes of passions and hobbies once and exchange of money enters the picture:
Passion, motivation, and creativity often die or become the smallest of reasons we make cake anymore.
A near-universal truth for many creators (in any industry) is that once their passion becomes administrative work and a revenue generator they lose their creativity. They feel driven by the market or what’s on trend. They feel like they MUST do their art a certain way or they won’t be successful. They feel like there is one way and only one way to monetize their art… if at all.
Also for most creatives, when you’re forced to create something that wasn’t your design, it’s sapping – this is true for food artists and designers and photographers… It drains your energy. It feels like a waste of your talents (whether you acknowledge it or not) and it feels like who you are as a creator/artist/crafter is less important than getting orders on your calendar and out the door.
But that’s not how you started, is it? You started as someone who had a curiosity about some kind of art or craft, and then began doing it with enthusiasm and even got some applause from friends and family.
And it’s certainly not how you dreamed it would end up as a business, right? Feeling like the business bosses YOU around and like your unique art or craft perspective and style aren’t wanted… Like worrying about how to do this when you have people (read: crotchfruit) that demand so much of your time, or even a j.o.b.
And even when you DO get the time to design a piece that has been rumbling around inside you, it just doesn’t come out. Like it’s stuck in there for lots of weird reasons like time, deciding on materials, or figuring out your approach, or over planning the process and your timeline…
And then, it’s just not there. You FEEL that need to create but it won’t come out and the frustration ensues.
Ah. The creative’s conundrum. (Heaven help you if you’re already in business.)
You’re not alone. All creatives, whether they end up monetizing their talent or not, have creative droughts. Times where they just lack inspiration and want to design things.
Often this ebbs and flows with life and what’s going on in your life. Here are a few common reasons creativity can come to a halt for creatives:
- Your life circumstance has drastically changed (birth of a child, death of a loved one, big move, job change) which ironically can swing the pendulum the opposite way, too, driving massive creativity.
- Your personal health declining or becoming a huge focus if you’re unwell
- Depression (again, can actually spur creativity)
- Lack of imaginative and inspiring stimulation daily
- Not giving yourself free time to just play and enjoy life
- Not having a strict schedule for things that must be done as well as boundaries around non-work times
Now, before we go too far down the “Customers kill my creativity” path, I’ll first insist that you take full responsibility for the kinds of customers you attract and the kinds of designs you agree to make. You and only you are responsible for that, so that is not part of the relevant discussion we’re having here. Agreed?
Let me tell you what could be the two biggest drivers and easiest fixes for your creative drought: free time for you, and keeping a strict schedule.
So boiled down: play and routine.
I know. Picasso probably didn’t do this. Either did Van Gogh. But they also didn’t live in the age of the internet, juggled family, outside jobs or careers, or spouses that don’t understand why they created or wanted to make a business out of it. Also they didn’t sell their art – they created to create which is a different ball game altogether. So they can sit on the sidelines while us creative entrepreneurs have a chat.
Play and routine. Seems simple, right? More play, write out a schedule.
Oh, my creative entrepreneurial Padawan, it’s not that simple. If it were, this blog post alone would cure creativity for the entire world.
The difficult part is that what it takes to begin to focus on those two items, play and schedules, is a change of mindset – and that is not easy.
Still, I will get you started with a couple ideas that may help you rearrange some of your neural pathways around what you can and can’t do and who you are and aren’t responsible to for your creativity, income, and ultimately your enjoyment of life.
Everyone thinks they have a schedule and you probably do, too. School for the kids Monday – Friday (when we’re not in the middle of a bat-shit crazy pandemic as of the time of this writing), soccer, tae kwon do, or gymnastics 3 days a week in evenings, doctor’s appointment every so often, work, your home-based business that get squeezed in at night a few days per week, obligations to others…
That’s pretty typical and pretty unappealing and vague.
What if you’re schedule looked like this:
So that you could have a set day every week that looked like this:
Yes, that’s my own iCal schedule that’s synched with my Google Calendar. And yes, I live by this thing.
I’ll admit, it wasn’t easy to get myself into this habit – I used to pride myself on my “Fly by the seat of my pants” kind of lifestyle. That is until things started falling apart and I felt like I was simply putting out fires in my life and business because I had forgotten things, mismanaged my time, became exhausted with all that I needed to do but deprioritized because others asked for my time, and I had no documentation of all things I was already supposed to do… And worst of all, it drained every last bit of my want to create things.
Don’t get me wrong, creativity is embedded deeply in my DNA so while my brain was vehemently opposed to creating anything my heart broke. Creator is who I was, am, and without the drive to create I felt empty. Part of my soul was missing.
There is science behind why schedules work to help fix that, and it’s because of a cool little thing called “open loops”. To easily summarize open loops, it’s bunches of things your brain wants to remember because they must get done, but knows it’s the only place those to-dos and responsibilities exist so it can’t forget them and it consumes vast amounts of energy and focus to keep those important loops open. Of course there’s nothing left for something non-urgent like play or creative flow.
Loops must be closed for the brain to relax, and creating a schedule of the important things you must do and keeping it in a secure and efficient spot is the single best way to ease this. If you have routine tasks, set them up as routine in your electronic calendar (and yes, I suggest electronic and not handwritten – it’s more efficient, saves time, and prevents many instances of human error that are easily caught by the visual screen not mention simple to rearrange).
Try using a super tight schedule and keep routines routine. Don’t shift them. Take home-based cake decorators (my main squeeze) for example. Necessary operational cake tasks are the same each day of the week: bake Monday, torte/fill/ coat on Tuesdays, cover and begin decor on Wednesday, etc… My students will tell you how IMMENSELY altering using my Murphy’s Law 8 Day Cake Week schedule is… Seriously, life-altering.
Last suggestion and a super strong one… Remove all requests of your time from others that run contrary to you being able to pursue your passion and goals. I’m not talking about 2-year-olds that need you for just about everything – they get their way ’cause dude, they’re 2. But your 7-year-old can make their own lunch. Your 10-year-old should be doing their own laundry. The school PTA does not actually need you because someone else will step up in your absence. Your other half can make dinner for the family because they are human and grown-up. Your friend or cousin who often wants your help with this or that WILL do just fine if you say you are unable to help. If someone isn’t dying (or needing you to be able to literally live) you can say no and you should. Drop the martyrdom of believing you’re so needed by others and thinking that you’re selfless for ignoring yourself. That is pure ego, and it’s not honorable (and I’ll expand on that in another blog post).
Play has been studied in both children and in adults and it is a crucial component not only for happiness but for imagination, problem solving, joy, neural growth (and yes, adults were meant to continue to grow intellectually until they die), and CREATIVITY.
Ever notice how children just have the craziest ideas and imaginations? Stuff we wouldn’t even think of as adults? Unbridalled ideas that know no limits?
Ever wonder why we lose that as adults? We stop playing. When children stop playing because of routine and institutional school regimens they lose that, too. School systems that start children later in life (Scandinavia) and that insist on play more than academics at earlier ages, have better scores and emotional outcomes for their students than their counterparts in places like the United States.
There is so much to be understood and gleaned from these studies it’s ridiculous!
But the human brain wants play! It wants freedom! It wants to grow and explore, and have fun!
This is our biology, and ignoring has negative repercussions like loss of creativity.
Play. Just let yourself play. Hobbies (having nothing to do with your creative business). Sports. Board games. Nature. It all counts.
And if you’re really ambitious you could synchronize these two things and intentionally SCHEDULE your play time, just like with little kids. Schedule you time, and make it a non-negotiable in your life. YOU get to enjoy YOU on YOUR terms and in YOUR way. And no one is allowed to get in the way of that.
Radical ideas, right? Not so much. It’s just science 😉 Use it to begin rocking your cake career and more importantly your life.
Need a simple guide to saying “No” without feeling bad and being respectful of the other person? Try this: https://www.grammarly.com/blog/saying-no