Dialogue for the A-ha! Moment
I just learned another way I sabotage my creative process. I had been invited to my friend’s 50th birthday party over a month ago, which gave me plenty of time to decide on how to design the birthday card. As a calligrapher as well as a graphic designer, this is an important part of my gifting ritual. But, as is usual for me, I left it until the same day as my paid work takes precedence. Because of this deadline, when I sat down to design the card, I felt a little panicked as I was juggling so many balls that day on my To Do list while simultaneously feeling performance anxiety that the card HAD TO GET DONE. This is a common sabotage trick artist’s play on themselves. Sometimes the deadline crunch can work in our favour… we may pull it off and find an exciting conclusion at the finish line. But more often than not, I’ll end up having to settle for something that woulda coulda shoulda been fabulous with a little more time.
How I set myself up for failure:
1. Leaving a project to the last minute. There’s something to be said about this because it forces one to focus – quickly. But I also noticed that some good ideas about how to design the card inventively were rising up to the surface while under pressure, which were demanding my attention and wanting further exploration. That insight came around 2:10 pm and the party was at 6:00 pm.
2. Finding excuses not to start the creative process. At around the same time, I realized I needed better paper and got angry with myself because paper should be a given – something readily available at any time when inspiration strikes. These distractions can also include wanting a colour I don’t have or spending time looking for a particular pencil or calligraphy pen. I then took a trip to the local art store to buy the right paper. But all was not lost – while I was working against the clock, being away from the process gave me distance to think up a couple of ideas about how I was going to approach the card design. Still, another 20 minutes went by. Tick tock.
3. Not taking time to experiment with layout roughs before execution. This is the crux – finding the right layout approach that fits the specific person receiving the card. This is a time of setting up the aha! you are working towards finding that causes a spark to ignite the creative process. This is the place artist’s live for. The juice in the creative process. This is The Zone, taking time to work out the right layout to determine the approach. This is followed by deciding on colours, pen tools and calligraphic styles. Equally important is pushing the envelope to invite the aha! moment. THIS is the fuel that ignites the SPARK in the creative process. Rushing the process will only sabotage the creative process. Why? Because if we’re constantly being reminded of our fast approaching deadline, the spark is short-circuited. Instead, the artist needs time to explore options as inspiration unfolds. To be open to the unique solution which has not been done before. But all was not lost. An idea that hit me when I was out getting paper was – because my friend was a Leo – I’d design the calligraphy around an animal print – and consider adding a lion’s tail to one of the fonts for dramatic effect, in a Leoine fashion.
I’m still not satisfied. A day later, I’ve had a few more a-has. I now want to design a font that is regal like the lion – large and proud – with a more defined lion’s tail as a flourish to which I can add an animal print. Then add gold to give it drama in true Leoine fashion.
I ended up running out of time and relied on a tried and true method to design the card (on the right). Today, I’ve learned the price I pay for running late yet one more time. Rushing to completion compromises the joy, the vision and the aha moments that arise as the creative process unfolds. Instead, The lesson I learned is that to do good work, one must take the time needed to do it. If it’s truly creative work, you don’t know where it will take you on the journey. And that mystery is what deepens the creative process while keeping us curious and open to possibility.
Laurie Kingdon | Creative Director
p.s. The only way you get “a-has” is by doing, then letting go. The best aha’s I get are when I’ve stepped away from the work – whether it’s taking a shower, going to the gym or simply riding my motorcycle. The trick is to catch those flashes of insight when they arise.