Creative Clarity: The How, Where and Why We Work
Each creative has a different method of creating. Getting the work done is difficult for many of us because there is no format for us to follow. In a traditional career or job there are parameters for work - set hours, expectations, duties, deadlines. When you’re self employed or just starting to set up a creative practice it can be hard to hammer out how to get the ‘work’ done, especially when you want your creativity to remain separate from traditional work. The stumbling block is learning how you work best to get the most out of your creative practice. Unfortunately there isn’t a one size fits all solution, but today I want to dive into the different ways we work and see if any resonate with you.
Disseminating how you Learn
The first step to learning how you work is to figure out how you learn. There are patterns in our life that stay with us. As creatives we believe we are lifelong learners. It only stands to reason that how we learn can translate into how we work by tapping into our innate impulses and way of iterating with the world. There are typically three main camps we can be sorted into. I know what you’re thinking here. The point of choosing a creative life is because we don't operate the same way the larger society does, but we all have similarities as human beings and though we may each be unique we can make some generalizations to help us map out the best way for us to engage with the world and our creativity.
The Four most known types of learners are as follows:
Visual Learners: If you are a visual learner you tend to reach understanding of new material by seeing it, mapping it out, vizualization exercises and diagrams. These types of learners may be drawn to visual art as it shows our experiences with the world and is primed to be experienced and understood by those who receive information visually. They may think in pictures and need visual cues for directions.
What does that mean for work: If you are a visual person, regardless of creative discipline, you may find that the best way to work is with images. Conceptualizing an idea with pictures and diagrams may help get the ideas out into the world for you to look at and fit together. Visually displaying your creative ideas will help you keep track of your creative projects, their progress and your own wonder.
Auditory Learners: If you learn best through auditory input chances are you enjoy audiobooks and podcasts to a great extent, particularly as a way of learning new information. Lectures are wonderful experiences for you and conversation is a great way to exchange ideas. They may be drawn to auditory forms of creation such as podcasts or have musical inclinations. Hearing information helps it to stick in their memory and their thought patterns may be more of an internal dialogue they hear as they think.
What does that mean for work: You might keep track of your ideas through a voice recording on your phone, or talking ideas through with another person or on your own. Hearing your creative ideas spoken out loud, explaining them and working through the roadblocks that pop up may be the best way for you to get a handle on all of the magnificent creative energy bouncing around your brain.
Writing/Reading Learners: If you learn best through academic input (that’s what I’m going with) you find textbooks and pen to paper note taking to be most effective for retaining new information. Piles of notebooks are a treasure trove in your desk and you probably have a small library of encyclopedias stashed away somewhere, or an extensive number of digital articles saved on your hard drive. They might be drawn to writing as a creative outlet and feel most at peace when their ideas are written down somewhere for them to pursue later. Their thoughts may manifest in written representations or run through their mind like a narration in a novel.
What does that mean for work: Making lists of your creative projects, word webbing your ideas to flesh them out. Whatever the method, writing it down, keeping a creative journal, an idea notebook or a note app on your phone is a great way to capture those beautiful moments of creativity and organize your creative projects.
Kinesthetic Learners: If you learn best by doing, the actual task you are learning is important to engage in for maximal information transfer. By doing the thing, creating the thing or touching the thing you find a deeper understanding of the material and how it works. They may enjoy movement as a creative outlet, find themselves tinkering or fidgeting often and have light bulb moments when they physically participate in the experience. Sculpting, pottery or coding may be great examples of where you can find thriving kinesthetic creatives as well as the world of dance and exercise.
What does that mean for work: For these types of creatives, this can look more like the classic chaotic alignment of jumping into a project and tackling it head on; feeling your way through it as you go and experimenting with the idea by doing it in all of the ways you possibly can. Fidgeting may also be a key piece of your process, pacing while thinking or working through an idea is also a common manifestation of the kinesthetic creative.
There are four more lesser known learning types that center more around the environment in which you learn best, or in this case have the best creative focus and flow. Once you’ve figured out the type of creative you are, the way you learn and journey best, the next step is finding the right environmental conditions to optimize your creative time. We’ve all had to work in environments that were not ideal for us and the way we work. To work smarter and not harder, creatives have the luxury of being able to work how and where we need to (for the most part of course). We can’t always have ideal conditions, and often don’t but it never hurts to know what those may be should the opportunity present itself to us.
Logical/Analytical Learning: These people often work better when things are reasoned out, logical in progression and just plain make sense. These work environments may be an organized desk, keeping things in a planner and to a schedule or a clean surface to create at. This is the typical ordered creative who likes to have a plan to execute and the right space and tools to do so; a controlled environment is best suited for these creative as it gives them the space to actively control and enjoy their process.
Social/Linguistic Learning: These creatives often need to talk through their ideas and spit ball their projects. They thrive in environments where they have sounding boards, other people to talk to and collaborate with others. Sitting in a social setting such as a cafe or having creative groups that collaborate and create together in the same space are environments where they thrive and find the most creative flow.
Solitary Learning: This style of creative does best when left alone with their own imagination and quiet, or a playlist designed for their creative time. These creators need space to think and sit with their own thoughts, creating for the joy and delight of the act itself, revelling in the feeling of creating. A home office, corner of a library or sound cancelling headphones in any environment keeps these creatives in the zone and in tune with their projects. Their environment is one of their own making and when they emerge they have a creation in hand.
Nature Learning: Creatives who identify with this learning environment are most at home and creative when engaging with nature. Inspiration flows to them on the wind and ideas trickle down from the tree canopy in birdsong. They may be happiest creating in nature whether that be an outdoor office in a garden space, taking walk breaks in a park or forest, swimming in a lake or bringing plants inside to surround themselves with nature to boost creative inspiration.
Getting to the Center:
Now that we’ve covered how we work and where we work best, let’s add one final layer to the puzzle - why do we want to create; motivation. This is a topic I’ve studied in relation to fitness and health and behaviour change theory; why not harness its principles to help us create too?
There are two main types of motivation:
Intrinsic: Intrinsic motivation is a drive from within. There are no external stakes or rewards. The reward comes from doing your best, beating your best or simple satisfaction in completing a goal. It comes from an inner drive for joy and delight; most creatives fall into this category of motivation because we search for play and joy in our lives; that’s why we choose a creative path.
Extrinsic: Extrinsic motivation is the promise of an external reward or validation. You may need to engage in this type of motivation, particularly at the start of your journey to form a creative habit - x number of hours on social media once x is completed, for example. Another example might be the recognition of your community or meeting a deadline. The bottom line is extrinsic means an external system is in place to help you get the job done. This motivation is often demonized, but it is a wonderful tool to help you stay on track and complete your creative goals. Eventually, the hope is that the process of creativity becomes enough of a reason to continue.
However, wherever and why-ever you work, I hope some of these resonate with you and can help you to deconstruct some of those roadblocks of expectations we place on the ins and outs of how we create to allow the creativity to flow for you and bring you the abundance you deserve, instead of fighting with a system that isn’t a good fit for you. Let us know how you work in the comments, on the forum or on our Instagram page! Let’s show the world and our creative community that there is no one size fits all to the creative life. The best p[art about living creatively is that you can make your own work and set yourself up to get the most out of your creative practice.