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For passionate, driven creatives, this is what I think the creative work cycle tends to look like:
We work and work and work, and create and create, and keep taking step after step toward the thing we want, and THEN (typically only when we reach the point of burnout) do we give ourselves a tiny moment of rest to recover from our prolonged forward progress.
It hit me last month that this cycle seems to correspond on a larger scale to the yearly calendar itself.
We expect ourselves to be productive and motivated for 11 months of the year and THEN when December rolls around, we tell ourselves we’ll slow it down to enjoy the holiday season and then we’ll crank it right back up in January with renewed focus and energy, right?
Well, I see a few major flaws with this plan.
First, December doesn’t actually end up to be very restful at all, does it? There’s holiday shopping AND tying up lose ends from the year AND finishing up any projects/deliverables before “time runs out” on the year.
So actually taking it slow just turns into MAYBE a week or two when your inbox ebbs a bit more than usual, but very few of us actually use that time for true, deep recharging of our creative batteries.
Yet we expect ourselves to come back to our work in the New Year with extra-ordinary focus, clarity and motivation. We think the magic of the calendar will grant us super-human energy and a sudden surge of self-discipline.
In my experience, moving from a state of rest (if we can even call December a time of rest) back to a sudden state of creative production is jarring. It’s why so many of us either find ourselves already burnt out again by the end of January OR we discover an immense amount of resistance when we do come back to our work.
We WANT to slide effortlessly back into productivity, but our bodies and our minds just aren’t ready for it.
Why is this?
I think it’s because we often miss a crucial step in the creative cycle, one that provides a foundation that will make our creative production more effective, more sustainable, and, yes, even more enjoyable.
This hidden part of the cycle is what I call RENEWAL, and it’s when we use the insights and energy gained during times of restful reflection to get re-aligned and re-ignited BEFORE we dive back into the deep end of our work.
Rest alone will not bring us sustained renewal, nor will the turning of the calendar; we have to do our part to help transform these things into fuel that propels us forward.
So, this month I'm going to ask you to
Color Your Soul with RENEWAL.
I want you to join me in designating January our month of PRE-production. It's the Red Carpet, the pre-game, the primer paint, the pre-party to what is sure to be an AMAZING 2017... if we prepare for it.
Let's take this time to shake off the remnants of last year’s autopilot, re-align our values for the next 12 months, and get re-inspired to approach our work with renewed motivation.
As the saying goes:
"If you change nothing, nothing will change."
Let's also take some of the pressure off January to be some magical answer to what didn't work so well in 2016. If we want this year to be better than last year, we have to do the work to define what that looks like.
This is an important state of mind that's important to cultivate, not just at the beginning of the year, but any time you find yourself trying to transition from a state of rest to a state of creativity.
Throughout the month, we’ll focus on these three sub-themes of renewal: NOVELTY, VITALITY and ALIGNMENT.
renewal is novelty.
Part of the downside of moving straight from rest to productivity with no go-between is that we often find ourselves slipping right back into the habits that got us to burnout or overwhelm. We WANT everything to change, but inevitably we bounce back to what's comfortable because we don’t carve out time to set those intentions. Novelty is about introducing some of those new, unexpected elements to take you off autopilot and inject new life into your surroundings and daily activities.
Renewal through novelty is about opening yourself up to new feelings and experiences in order to approach your life and work with a new sense of excitement, alertness, and motivation.
renewal is vitality.
It’s not enough to catch some residual energy off of the flipping of the calendar. If we want to renew ourselves and actually replenish our tanks, we need to have an understanding of what makes us feel energized. A lack of energy is the greatest deterrent to creative production.
Renewal through vitality is about understanding what makes us feel strong, capable and charged up so we can cultivate habits that facilitate such a state and use them to sustain us throughout our creative production.
renewal is alignment.
Last but not least is alignment, which is, in my opinion, the most important part of renewal. Alignment is about identifying where in your life you're drifting away from your values in order to pull yourself back to that core foundation. It's about getting centered and intentional before you hit the ground running.
Renewal through alignment is about feeling reinvigorated by a return to your deepest core values. It's about marking the beginning of a new chapter of growth by checking back in with who you are NOW, what you care about, and what you desire for your future in this moment. Through alignment, you're able to make sure your efforts moving forward are effective in living out your most vibrant life.
If I’ve learned anything about creativity, it’s that it doesn’t just get going when you tell it too; it needs some coaxing.
The same is true for motivation too. Let’s not just expect it to fall in our laps -- let’s make it happen.
Hopefully, by the end of the month, we can start to move the cycle of creative production to look a little more like this:
Allowing more time for rest, space for renewal, and moving through the cycle more often -- not just once a year.
Looking forward to a month of renewal and setting ourselves up to take our story from 2016 and improve upon it.