The Character Trait Ruining My Creativity
I haven’t been very creative lately. This tune is so familiar that I worry I’m starting to sound like a broken record.
But this time the cause of my creative block was pretty clear.
In my generation and among my friends, not being good at making decisions is an acceptable flaw. From the major to the mundane, it seems like almost everyone is “bad at decisions.” Myself included.
If I’m meeting a friend who is especially known for being indecisive, I’ll put in extra thought beforehand or even do a little research (aka Google “best restaurants in…”) before we meet.
I’ve realized that the ability to make a clear decision is a strength. It’s a valuable trait that you and your friends will appreciate.
What’s With the Indecision?
I could speculate on why I and so many millennials like me are indecisive – we’re worried about making the wrong choice, we hold others’ preferences above our own, we’re simply trying to be polite – but this post is about art and the creative process.
And even though I realized indecision is crippling, I hadn’t realized it was also crippling my creativity.
One way indecision has very clearly manifested itself in my art block is in media choice.
Without classes, deadlines, teachers, or even any obligation to create art, I’ve tried to figure out what helps me continue creating. Being inspired or being around other artists help. So does trying out new media.
I get excited over new materials and new art supplies. It’s fun to try a new or relatively unexplored way to create. I did it with digital painting. And then again with watercolor pencils.
But media-hopping hasn’t done me any favors. I end up wanting to try them all and wanting to be good at all of them, but of course, I’m not. And since I’m hopping around so much, it’s only a matter time before I abandon that medium in favor of a newer, shinier one.
Why the serial media-hopping? Is my Do I just have a short artistic attention span?
When I realized I was blindly jumping around from media to media, a funny thing happened. The clear solution was to choose one medium and hone my skills of expression through it. But my inner self rebelled. I didn’t want to choose one – how restrictive! How limiting!
It’s taken more time bumming around and being artistically unproductive for me to come around.
Related Tangent on Decisions
Recently I’ve been hearing a lot of talk on minimizing decisions. One article (or rather one idea in several articles) has been circulating on social media. The catchy, attention grabber is this:
“Why Successful People Dress the Same Way Every Day”
If you haven’t seen it, the idea sounds interesting, right? The point of these articles is that we face thousands of decisions every day, and the less time we can spend on minor decisions, the better.
Eliminating or simplifying your decisions helps you avoid “decision fatigue.”
The articles go on to explain that many successful people wear a predetermined set of very similar clothing every day so that choosing what to wear becomes a non-decision. Obama and Steve Jobs are a just a couple examples.
Not worrying about what to wear in the morning means less energy spent on insignificant decisions and more available energy for the more important decisions you’ll face later in the day.
Tying it Back to Art
Deciding on which media to use became such a hindering decision for me that I didn’t go through the trouble of creating any art in the first place. And even after I’d chosen a medium, there was the content matter to consider.
Which of my ideas was the best? Which could I execute well now? Which is the most important? Has the most important socio-political message? Would be most beneficial to my art practice? Would look good on my website?
And maybe you can see how my indecision led to a paralysis that stemmed up the creativity altogether.
The Practical Part
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, so if you purchase a product through my site, I’ll receive a small commission.
Peter Bregman explains the concept of decision fatigue in his book Four Seconds. He goes into more tips in the book, and another in this article.
These are his three tips for making decisions:
1. Make minor decisions routine.
This is where wearing the same clothes comes in. We have to choose what to wear every day. By having a preset wardrobe, you can eliminate that morning decision.
2. Set rules for unpredictable decisions.
The unexpected decisions are harder to make. However, you can set rules or guidelines for yourself to make this process easier. If Wednesday night is your time to relax, don’t accept any invitations or extra work that would impose upon your evening.
3. Set a time limit for difficult decisions.
Some decisions are major, life-changing, super serious, or whatever you want to call them. They don’t fit your “rules” and they require major deliberation. That’s where a time limit can help.
Do the necessary research, but if you’re stuck, give yourself or your team a time limit. You’ll make a decision simply because you have to.
The Importance of Choice and Commitment
I just need to make a choice and do it. Creativity will follow.
So in the spirit of choosing, here are my decisions:
- I’m going to focus on scratchboard and color drawing materials.
- I’m going to do mindless art at least once a week
- I’m going to leave myself time to warm-up, whether that’s figure drawing or simple phone paintings.