Picture this scenario: you’re at your desk at 2 AM, sitting in front of your laptop, staring blankly at a project you know won’t finish itself, and it dawns on you that you’re undeniably, hopelessly stuck.
As a creative, I feel like I’ve been in this situation more times than I care to admit. However, it’s also worth mentioning that I’ve miraculously pulled myself through those dark times, time and time again. This excruciating but also incredibly rewarding phenomenon now has a name and it’s called GRIT.
Grit is just as it sounds: hard and rough, but also tough and resilient. Coined by psychologist and researcher, Angela Duckworth, grit is a positive, non-cognitive trait based on one’s perseverance of effort and passion for long-term and meaningful goals. In a nutshell, it’s your ability to stick it out ‘til you reach your goals – even if it means failing numerous times.
Sounds simple enough, right?
However, for creatives like myself, grit is a little more complicated. In the industry I work in, I’m expected to come up with fresh, new ideas on a daily basis. If you think about it, it’s essentially commercialising something that’s supposed to be artistic and inspired, and then putting it through something of a manufacturing process.
Unlike the manufacturing of products, however, automating the creative process without seeming lazy or unoriginal is incredibly difficult. In fact, any sign of repetition in the creative world is frowned upon. With so much pressure on creatives to come up with unique, innovative concepts continuously, it’s easy (inevitable, even) to feel burnt out. What’s worse is that creatives themselves don’t realise that the mind’s ability to constantly come up with new ideas is a finite source and it depletes faster than you think.
With that said, here are a few things that work for me whenever I don’t feel like my creative self:
1) Resist the urge to clean.
Have you ever gotten the sudden urge to clean up your room before actually getting to work? Well, you’re not the only one. While it might seem like you’re being productive, distractions such as cleaning your room or organising your desk are just you trying to attain a short and unsatisfying form of accomplishment in lieu of actually achieving anything. Don’t do that.
2) Choose the right workspace for you.
Having a nice, productive workspace is important because it sets the mood for how you’re going to work. It’s different for everyone: some find it easy to work in a cafe surrounded by people, while others prefer to work in a quiet space. Find a space where you feel calm and inspired.
3) Give yourself a grace period.
Tell yourself that 2 hours of inspired productivity is better than 8 hours of mediocrity. The creative working environment and condition should be formed around your ability to get the most out of your creative agility as opposed to your work ethic.
4) Continuously feed your creative mind.
Being a creative is a full-time job. You have to make sure you’re constantly consuming content, reading different materials, watching films, and have a relatively active social life. Think of all these as different sources of creativity which you can draw inspiration from.
5) Be nice to yourself.
This is something creatives tend to forget. When you work in such a fast-paced industry, it’s easy to feel pressured and even easier to feel burnt out. Instead of beating yourself up when you miss the mark, acknowledge your mistakes, learn from them, and try again.
At the end of the day, creative grit comes from within you. It’s a purpose that finds itself rooted in every little thing you work on, whether it’s a message of truth or compassion, a need to show the world your larger-than-life ideas, or just to help people develop a different perspective. Regardless of whatever your purpose is, remember it will always be your greatest source of creative grit.