There are many challenges you will face if you choose to work in a creative industry – being creative isn’t something you can also turn on and off like a tap. Luckily we have the benefit of Otegha Uwagba’s Little Black Book, which is a handy little toolkit for women working in the creative industries – it’s pocket-sized! Let us know how you plan to use these tips in your creative work in the comments below!
from Chapter Two of Little Black Book by Otegha Uwagba
GETTING YOUR MOJO BACK
‘Show up, show up, show up, and after a while, the muse shows up, too.’
– Isabel Allende, writer
Everyone struggles with creative block from time to time, and finding that your ideas come less easily at some points than at others is pretty much part and parcel of doing creative work. Still, when your livelihood depends on your ability to generate ideas, going through a creative dry spell is far from ideal. Whether you’re dealing with a seemingly impenetrable brief, or having trouble going from idea to execution, here are a few simple strategies to help you get your work back on track.
LOOK OUTSIDE YOUR GENRE
Your best ideas won’t always come to you when you’re sitting at your desk, so get out there and find fresh sources of inspiration. Whether it’s going to a talk, reading a book, or travelling somewhere new, putting yourself in a position to absorb information from outside your usual frames of reference is great for sparking new ideas, and developing work that reflects your own unique range of inspirations.
DON’T SURROUND YOURSELF WITH YOURSELF
Don’t be afraid to open your work process up to others – if you’ve hit a wall, talking things through with someone else can really help. It’s a simple but often overlooked truth that a fresh pair of eyes usually helps you look at problems from a different perspective. No woman is an island, so open up to someone whose opinion or judgement you respect.
On a day-to-day level, simplify your to-do list to make it more manageable. Chances are you’ll find you don’t have to do everything right now, and it’s always better to do a few things well than many things badly. Be ruthless in figuring out what you can delay, delegate (if you work in a team), or skip altogether.
ACE YOUR SPACE
Creating the right conditions for inspiration to strike is crucial to doing your best work. Your working environment has a huge impact on your mindset and creativity levels, particularly if you regularly work from home – it needs to be somewhere you’re happy to be in for hours on end, day in, day out. It’s also far easier to get in the zone (and out of it when your workday’s over) if you have a dedicated workspace, no matter how small. Whether you’re working from home or based in an office, make sure you’ve got these basics sorted.
Some people swear by organizing their desk every morning before getting down to work, in the belief that a tidy desk equals a tidy mind – or at least helps. Kondo (for the uninitiated, this means declutter) your workspace using desk drawer organizers, folders and filing cabinets, and treat yourself to some cute desk accessories to elevate your workspace beyond the mundane. Muji is a great option if you like your stationery minimal, and cheap.
Recreate the mood-boosting properties of the great outdoors by sprucing up your workspace with some greenery. If a continual supply of fresh flowers is too much hassle for you, go for an easy-to-care-for succulent such as aloe vera, which has the added bonus of purifying the air around you.
Ensure you’re working in a well-lit environment – if you can work somewhere with plenty of natural light, all the better.
Make your space unique
Adding some personal touches to your workspace by pinning up a few pictures, postcards, or inspirational quotes can do wonders for keeping you motivated when you’ve hit a wall.
Your workspace should be as conducive to comfort as possible – if you’re uncomfortable, you won’t be able to concentrate properly, particularly on those days when you need to put in long hours. Make sure your computer screen is at the right height, and that you’ve got a chair with good back support. If you use a laptop, get an external mouse instead of relying on its touchpad; over time that can strain your hands and wrists.
Music can go a long way towards creating the right ambience for your workspace, so experiment a little to see what works for you. Or you could take a leaf out of writer Zadie Smith’s book: she listens to ‘brown noise’ (like white noise, but more soothing) as she works. Unconventional, sure – but it’s great for drowning out distracting thoughts and sounds, and you might find that avoiding music with words or a distinct melody while working is less distracting. If you work in a busy office, make sure you’ve got a decent pair of noise-cancelling headphones on hand for those times when you really need to power through.
CHANGE YOUR SCENERY
Don’t forget to mix it up once in a while. If you usually work from home, try to spend one or two days a week working in a different environment, whether it’s your local library, a dedicated co-working space or a chilled-out café (check out the Appendix for some freelancer-friendly workspaces around the world). If you work in an office, try working in a different part of the office or from a communal area. Staring at the same four walls day in, day out has a tendency to make your mind stagnate, so switch it up!
BREAK IT UP
If you’re feeling truly stuck, step away from what you’re doing; forcing yourself to power through will only lead to mediocre work. Either focus on another task for a while, or stop working altogether and come back to the original block a little while later. Completely immersing yourself in work 24/7 doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll produce your best work, or even more of it.
Try going ‘screen-free’ by switching off your phone and laptop for a few hours of each workday. You’ll be surprised at how much more you can get done without the constant distraction of digital technology at your fingertips. Often your best thinking happens with a pen in hand, so put the screens away and go old-school.
CUT THE CRAP
Every now and then, take the time to consciously evaluate the work you’re currently doing, and weigh it up against the kind of work you ultimately want to do. Which projects or aspects of your job description do you find most stimulating? Once you’ve worked this out, make a conscious effort to slowly recalibrate your working life to incorporate more of this type of work. This could involve discussing your role and career development with your boss, or doing more work for certain types of clients. Making a long-term commitment to streamlining your work output so you’re doing more of what you find interesting will likely get you feeling more inspired in the long run.
Posted on July 17, 2017 by Andrea