Divorcing yourself from your creativity

In my endless quest to discover the meaning of life, I recently started a new position with a longtime Seattle lighting company. Things are getting off the ground slowly but surely, but most importantly I now have a steady paycheck and am not living off that scary, I don’t know when I’ll get paid, freelance life.

But I love working in this industry. Love is a word we use to describe things we become attached to, but there are consequences. When applied incorrectly in this industry it can cause severe depression, loneliness, and of course, spontaneous Tinder profile creating.

Recently a fellow creative and I were talking about our work, and she confided in me that she doesn’t feel like her work is appreciated or understood. I don’t think there’s a creative person alive that hasn’t felt like that at some point. As people whose job it is to literally create things, we become passionate, invested and fall in love with our own work. We become so close to it that we feel like we are pretty much married to it (two words: pre-nup).

So we hashed it out, because that’s a common, relatable struggle. The one thing I think I’ve realized after (insert large number here) years on earth is that as a creative, I can’t get married to my work.

I realized I need to divorce myself from my creativity.

When to separate your life from your work

About a month ago, I felt inspired, and surprisingly productive so I decided to do something that I’d be too lazy to do and procrastinate until the sun turned into a red giant (I’ve been listening to a lot of Neil Degrasse Tyson lately). I decided to paint my bathroom.

I picked out a color that I thought was nice on the color swatch, but when I actually put it on my walls it looked ugly as shit. Picture a green apple that’s been chewed up, spit out, then put on a paintbrush and smeared on a bathroom wall.

I failed, I made a bad decision, but as invested as I became into doing something cool with my bathroom, I needed to take my ego and emotion out of my initial decision to go with that ugly green color. I have to do it again.

Whether it’s creative work you’re doing for yourself or doing for others in a professional environment, it’s important to know that you don’t have to tie yourself to your ideas or your work. You can emotionally detach. You can be like the George Clooney of creative ideas.

When science is kind of like art

Science and art on the surface don’t have a lot in common. But they are very similar in one, perhaps most important aspect: they both seek to find solutions to a problem.

In our field, the problem is typically how to solve for the human psyche. As creatives, we must understand how people work in order to produce work that resonates with people. And often times, that means throwing out a lot of theories, testing your hypothesis, and formulating a solution that you think works best.

Scientists, from all my years of experience in that field (and by all my years, I mean zero years), do not seem to have the same emotional attachment as we do. They know that theories and ideas are just ends to a mean. They can do a lot of work, and if it turns out to be wrong, it can suck but at least it’s not heartbreaking and they can move on.

I don’t care if 100 of my ideas get shot down (okay I do a little), but if there is one out of 100 that really works, I’ve done my job.

When you stop treating your work like your loved one, you will find that it’s not so much holding on to your ideas that counts, it’s about treating them all like Tinder profiles, swiping through each one until you find a match that you kind of like and maybe want to hold on to for a while. Just don’t get too attached to it.

Producing your best work means not getting emotionally involved in the process. Your brain, and your heart, will thank you.


Originally published at www.ldavidwrites.com on August 27, 2016.