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Mini Series: Investing Effort

Often energy and effort are used interchangeably when referring to giving your all, or your best to something. However, I would like to take a moment to differentiate the two before discussing how we can invest effort into our creativity.

For the purpose of this discussion energy is any act of participation or contribution to a practice or task; effort is the level to which you choose to give that energy to participate or contribute. Whether you half-ass something or go full tilt, you are devoting energy to the practice, but the effort levels vary.

Onward! Investing effort into the creative practice is probably the single biggest factor in creative fulfilment out of the key pieces we’ll discuss this month. No matter where you create, what you create, how you create, when you create, and with what you create, the amount of effort you put into those stolen moments, those tight spaces, and the knockoff supplies determines the success and enjoyment of your creativity. We all put effort into our daily lives, especially our careers, families, friends, and homes. We want to make the most of that time, of those moments. My question to you is: why does investing our efforts in our creativity often get less priority than those other facets of life?

One may be wondering how to invest such effort into your creativity

Take it Seriously

This does not mean validating perfectionism or crippling procrastination. It does not mean suffering for your art or that you must turn it into a viable business. All this means is that you give it priority, and when you are taking the time to create, you give it your focus and attack it with the same gusto that you give to other important aspects of your life. Taking your creativity seriously means choosing yourself, backing yourself, taking up space in the world as a creative force. Writing is my hobby. When I sit down to write I do not allow the mental clutter of all of my other to do’s to interfere. I sit down to write where I am comfortable, where I can focus, and I give my best effort, whatever effort I have left in the tank, and I try to do the best job I can do whether that be for a blog post or a novel. Take yourself seriously. When we do that, when we take our creativity seriously, we give our best effort, because what we are really doing when we invest our effort into our creativity, is invest our effort in building ourselves.

Recognize its Positive Impacts

If you feel like you just can’t give your last bits of effort or your best bits of effort to your creativity, try to remember all of the positive impacts your creativity has on you and your life at large. When we invest in our creativity we invest in ourselves. The effort we put into a piece is effort we put into self discipline, craft skill, persistence, dedication, consistency, perseverance, resilience. We are building ourselves through the lessons we learn while exploring our creativity. The more effort we put into our creativity, the more fulfilment and energy we get back. When we put minimal effort into a project we are passionate about, we don't get the return on satisfaction, fulfilment, or joy. We only cheat ourselves when we reduce our efforts. By recognizing the positive impacts our creative practice has on us, we feel less guilt around giving our effort to a productive cause.

Make it Manageable

Having said all of that, I can appreciate the grind of a long work day, the drain of caring for others, and the desire to just rest. All of this is completely valid, and listening to your body and your brain is important for self care and mental health. However, when you do choose to sit down and create, to invest that time and choose to give your energy to your creativity, make sure your effort level matches your outcome expectations. If you want to sit down and paint the Mona Lisa but only want to give 10% of your energy, that might look like a lopsided smiley face on an otherwise blank page and you’ll come away from that session feeling like you should have, could have, would have, given more effort to the process. If 10% effort is all you have to give, that’s fine, that’s wonderful even, because you are making your creativity a priority, but you need to then change your expectations of the outcome. I do this by tailoring the creative experience to the effort level. If I have lots of effort to give I’ll pull out one of my novels. If my effort looks a little low I’ll pull out a colouring book. Either way, it’s making the investment of effort proportional to the expectation which gives you the creative outlet without taking more than you can give.

Daydreams and Brainstorms

This is probably my favourite way to invest effort into your creativity. Effort does not have to be 100%. I often find myself on the grinder at work or waiting for glue to dry, and in those moments I have these little off shoots of effort that need something to do. I allow them to brainstorm and daydream. This takes minimal effort, but it is a smart way to invest effort into your creativity. This small amount of effort on your part generates ideas, solutions, and schedules to help organize and inspire your creative sessions. I keep a journal on me at all times where I can jot down ideas and little pieces of phrases or notes that pop up throughout the day. If I were to sit down to brainstorm or daydream I would be 0% successful because I find that when you try to divert effort into those ethereal practices, you end up trying to force an organic process. For efficiency's sake, let the daydreaming and the brainstorming go on in the background and tune in with those wisps of effort once in a while to see what’s cooking.

The only way to get anything out of a practice is to put something in. What we put in is effort. Whether you go all in everytime or give what you can, managing expectations and taking yourself seriously opens the floodgates for effort to flow through your practice. However you choose to invest your effort, know that you have the most control over this investment currency. Time can be interrupted, spaces can be changed, and funds can fluctuate, but the level of effort you give is a choice you can make the most of or let slip through your fingers.

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