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The Creative Flow – Girl Interrupted

July 16, 2018

A film came out in 1999 called ‘Girl Interrupted’. I didn’t watch it then and still haven’t, neither have I read the book but there was something about the film’s (I didn’t know it was a book first) title that has stuck with me all these years.  I would sum myself up as being that girl – not the film/ book girl, just the interrupted girl.

I think slow.

I am easily distracted and daydreamy but I’m ultimately very disciplined and never truly forget my obligations.

I can’t meditate when I’m sitting still, I have to walk – walking meditation and my brain work well together.

I also think fast.

I am easily distracted and messy but I’ve also got tonnes of energy to burst through that chaos when necessary.

I can’t focus when I’m being talked at or when people try to re-direct, re-prioritise or otherwise turn my virtual boat around.

I often think that’s why I’ve ended up working on my own but it isn’t really, I work on my own because I just like it. Working alone doesn’t stop, cure of otherwise fix any of the above, in fact in many ways it makes it worse as I have to overcome all of the above to keep my business moving and grooving (and my pay coming in).  And I have been doing that for ten solid years…

It’s probably not a good idea for a business owner who IS the business to admit to such failings in public (if indeed they are failings), let alone on their own business blog, a blog that their customer, prospective and existing, their suppliers and industry peers read and review but I don’t care much for convention and I am willing to take the good with the bad and share this anyway as I know I’m not alone in having a slightly anti-business way of going about things and anyway, I think I owe it to my customers to explain why I can sometimes be away with the fairies so to speak…

I’ve had a period of a few months, probably 7 or 8 in total, where I’ve felt like my own creative flow has got mixed up and as a consequence I’ve ended up missing things, getting a bit lost and being otherwise inefficient. What happened to me is that I went against my better judgement and allowed customers to change the way I generally did things.  It seemed a good idea at the time but has since turned into a bit of a nightmare for me which I think matters as I am the one trying to solve the problems creatively.  While all of this might sound a bit cryptic the bottom line in terms of learning for me has been just how important it is for me to hold firm in my boundaries and explain to customers why – something that I didn’t even know how to do until this last 7-8 months.

For me, with my brain in my body in my family with my current energy levels, knowledge and personal power I have learned that the best way for me to be productive, creative and efficient is to create my own space and work through that without too much collaboration or constant input.  I’ll explain that a bit more so as not to be misunderstood.  If you engaged an artist to paint you a picture you’d expect to sit with them and discuss the piece at the beginning,  you might want a process update if the project is taking a while but you would probably not discuss the fine detail of the process along the way – how the paint is made, why one canvas was chosen over another etc.  Less still would you expect to challenge the painter, change your mind about the paint material and even provide the paints to the already-started painter.   That’s not exactly what’s happening in my case but it is somewhat true.  In any case what it does is change the painters role from that of an artisan to that of a teacher and teaching requires less creativity and more process skills than pure experimental artistry and as such, the result is less creative and more consciously constructed.  I have certainly been feeling that a bit lately.

I expect it is true of many creative folk that when closely and critically observed, their creative edge drops off a little.  In some cases of course, this doesn’t matter, the end result doesn’t have to be groundbreaking in terms of innovation or finish but in other cases it can kill a project.  I’m willing to accept that maybe I am more sensitive to this than others,  I do have a hard time keeping my brain on track anyway thanks to my ADHD tendencies – but I also have demonstrated the capacity for immense creativity and vision and so it quite possibly shits me more than it would the average chemist when I produce something that I know to be only average instead of exceptional.

Now before I come across all doom and gloom I have to say that not all of my work, all of the time is super creative.  I might need a period of ‘hands-off’ time to get myself into the groove but then subsequent tweaks and changes or alternations are much more process orientated and so discussions, collaboration and contact are more welcomed and helpful but every now and then what I need in order to get something really good cooking is a bit of space and freedom to get myself into that ever illusive creative zone.  I have the discipline I just need the permission to create the space.

I really wanted to share this now because I’ve worked with a lot of different clients over my time and I appreciate that some people want a rock-solid process driven time line with regular contact and incremental progress while others are totally laid back to the point that they could easily be forgotten.  Most people fit somewhere in the middle of course and I tend to be able to manage them the best and they to manage me.  This is also why I don’t take on every client that asks me, sometimes I just know that I’ll not be what they need, it’s like chemistry tinder – swipe left and move along x

One thing I’ve learned both about myself and about running a business over the last ten years is that while we, as business owners and professionals do grow and become better skilled and equip to deal with the challenges of our working life, to pro-actively manage ourselves,  pick our customers better and plan our work flow with more insight and patience we are still uniquely us – good, bad and indifferent  and that the essence of us will always win out in the end so we ignore it at our peril!  I have learned a valuable lesson over this last few months about how I work best, as a consultant, for my clients and it is only because I’ve been getting it wrong that I’ve had that opportunity but now, in order to respect myself and to preserve my energy, creativity and enthusiasm I need to take back control.

I accept that I’m always going to feel like a girl interrupted while running a business and that customers, being a pretty big part of any business need to be given appropriate time, effort and access – I’m not advocating for clients to drop their R&D brief’s off at an undisclosed location and leave them with me for 6 years while I ponder them in complete silence, that would be weird, unhelpful and completely impractical.  I’ve learned to use that adrenaline, need for connection and fight to keep myself on track, build some structure and routine into my week, organise myself better and keep work flowing but the other part of me knows that I’m only going to produce my best, most amazing work when I take control of and direct the projects that require my full creative input and that sometimes, that also means saying ‘no, I just need a little space to do this. Trust me’.

I guess for me, the moral of this whole story is to trust yourself, that if you are a consultant or a brand owner or another creative professional it is not only right to say ‘give me some space’ every now and then, it’s essential and probably to the benefit of your clients in the long-run.  I think a little part of me still feels that this side of me is a bit of a failure, that we are always supposed to be there for people, to help them,  listen and indulge them but thankfully that little part of me is no longer going to be sucking the air out of the creative side of me.  There is a time and space for everything and yes, now I do trust me as I work towards being the uninterrupted girl who creates magic.

Amanda x

 

 

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