The long dreary haul of winter. After the holiday lights are put away and the excitement of a new year and new beginnings dies down, I feel like hibernating until spring.
However I've found being stuck indoors DOES have one advantage -- it allows me to finally get working on all those creative ideas that have been rattling around in my head all year. I may grumble about being stuck inside but with fewer distractions outside, I've found winter can be my most creatively productive time of year.
Here are some tips on going from winter-blahs to creative power-house:
1. The fear of public humiliation is motivating AKA Create Accountability
This is the biggest one for me. If my clients don't get their projects on time, I hear about it. The kids don't get dinner, I definitely hear about it. I don't finish my goals for my personal creative work...crickets.
It's so easy to let personal projects get pushed later and later when no one is holding you accountable. There's just always too much to do. While I fantasize that I'll get caught up next week, the truth is that next week will probably end up just as hectic as this one.
Find someone to share your creative project with and help keep you accountable. This could mean getting a "creativity buddy" (think gym buddy -- just more fun) who has similar goals, telling a supportive friend or partner, or using an scheduling program that sends reminders. Sometimes even just a friendly, "So how's that project going?" helps get me off my duff.
2. (Try to) Create a Creativity Schedule
Whenever I read about successful creative people one thing stands out. They don't try to squeeze their creative pursuits in between running errands and dropping the kids off. They make creativity a priority. They actually set aside time and focus.
Of course like most things, this is easier said than done. Most my dedicated creativity time is weekends in the time between the kids falling asleep and me falling asleep. Some days this is not a very long window. However, that gives me a few hours to play with and just knowing it makes it easier for me not to let other activities creep in and take over that precious time.
Setting a clear (and achievable) goal for the time is important as well. It's a lot harder to "write a novel" or "build a website" than it is to "edit dialogue in chapter 2" or "organize the portfolio images."
3. Find Your Tribe and Get Feedback
We've come to think of creative people toiling away alone at their easel or typewriter, but in reality the lone genius is more the exception than the rule. For one of my friends, finding the right group made the difference between having a great idea for a kid's book and publishing that book to awards and critical praise.
While everyone's experience isn't so dramatic, groups are wonderful for creative feedback and support. It speeds up your learning curve tremendously as you learn from others. And if you're struggling with something, it's likely you're not the only one. When you're in a fit of creative despair, there's nothing like hearing "me too!" or even better "I had that last month but then I..."
And then there's invaluable feedback. It can feel scary to share what you've been toiling away on. However in the early phases, I find that just showing my work to whoever is nearby doesn't elicit the type of feedback I'm looking for. I'll ask my husband what he thinks of the website's color scheme and he'll try to be helpful and point out that the links aren't working. It's hard for an outsider to understand the underlying components of building the final project. Once the project is completed, outsiders can (and will) give feedback but when it's still a work in progress, it's most helpful to hear from other people who understand the process.
4. Be Gentle on Yourself and Keep on Going
I have a suspicion that any person who has ever conceived of a creative project ends up feeling secretly disappointed at the end. I'm pretty sure Michelangelo looked up at the Sistine Chapel and just saw details he wished he could fix. It's easy to dream how revolutionary and genius your idea is...until you actually do it. I love this quote from Ira Glass on why our own creativity disappoints us:
"All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it's just not that good. It's trying to be good, it has potential, but it's not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this."
It's frustrating but the only way out is to keep producing, keep working and keep moving forward. Talk to someone a couple steps ahead of you in the process. See how they stayed inspired and developed. But mostly, just keep at it.