Since graduating from college seven years ago, I’ve had a unique career path that has had its share of twists, turns, and detours. From spending time as an intern for a few short months, to taking a break from it all to try my hand at full-time entrepreneurship before returning to full-time work and managing consulting projects as a side hustle, I’ve learned a great deal about what it means to manage my own creativity.
In that time, many of my peers have expressed interest in learning how I’ve been able to work full time and build a creative brand — often by sending me emails or DMs for coffee dates, happy hours or phone calls. And while I am completely flattered and would love to meet with each person individually, I’ve quickly learned that scheduling coffee dates, happy hours and even boozy brunches to casually “pick your brain” about a variety of topics can be time-consuming.
Enter: creative preservation. The idea of creative preservation isn’t something new — and some would say that it is even a form of self-care. However, in an age where we are constantly tethered to our timelines and inadvertently scrolling for likes, comments and feedback on our latest social media posts, the act of taking specific care of how we create these assets can often be thrown by the wayside. Now more than ever, I am learning that it is vital to make space to intentionally tap into my creativity and maximize it without the need for immediate validation.
The act of preserving your creativity is more than just a protection of intellectual property or getting paid what you’re owed, it’s the proper management of time and how you choose to channel it toward things that will push you in the direction of your dreams.
To my fellow creative strategists, content creators, project managers, and side hustlers, here are four ways that you can purposefully practice creative preservation:
Listen to learn, not to always respond. For someone like me who loves to engage in conversation, this can be a difficult task- but there is so much to be gained by just listening to others share their story without providing any immediate feedback. By attending events like Creative Mornings, TED Talks or other academic lectures, there’s an opportunity to learn and become inspired by others’ creativity when you may find yourself in a creative rut. This is also another way to build relationships with others who may share your similar creative interests.
Make time to create, even if it’s only for yourself. News flash: creativity doesn’t always have to come in the form of a 10-second Instagram story, a 1,000-word Medium post or a 280-character tweet. Those are all great, but they are simply ways in which to promote your creativity. A few months ago, I was having a very difficult time finishing one particular blog post about something I was experiencing in real time. Everywhere I turned, I saw creatives that I admired publish a blog post or send an email that made me feel as though I wasn’t doing enough. The truth is, I was too busy worried about what everyone else was doing and not paying attention to the lessons and opportunities life was presenting to me just to create for the hell of it. Not for likes, shares or social media engagement, but to get back into the habit of being diligent with the gifts that I have been given.
If you want to pick my brain, you’ve got to pay. Don’t get me wrong I love catching up over mimosas, croissants or coffee as a way to get to know somebody new or even to catch up with an old friend. However, if your ultimate goal is to get my opinion on how you can execute your idea, then that is what I like to call creative consulting and there is a fee for that. So many times, we can make the time to meet with strangers so they can pick our brains, often for their own benefit. And while every 30-minute coffee date or happy hour doesn’t need to come with a bag attached, if you consider yourself to be a thought leader in a particular area, you must be able to discern a conversation from a consultation.
Finally, unplug and recharge purposefully. The Internet isn’t going anywhere. Several times a year, I take a 30-day break from scrolling on social media so that I can get back to me. Particularly during this time of year when we’re being encouraged to “finish the year strong” and “make the fourth quarter count”, we can become easily overwhelmed and let imposter syndrome take a leading role. Spoiler alert: no one has the authority to police how or when you choose to execute your creativity. It is completely up to you how you choose to end 2018 and walk into the New Year, so you should never feel obligated or pressured to “hustle hard” to the finish line. Your health and wellness should always be a number one priority, and if that means taking a month off from the timeline, don’t let FOMO get in the way of that.
Creative preservation doesn’t have to be a major production that everyone gets a front row seat to witness. What matters most is how you choose to feed your creativity even though no one may be watching. As we look ahead to 2019, I challenge you to practice one of these four ways so that you are giving yourself the necessary space to activate your creativity in a way that not only others can benefit from, but you can as well.