One of my clients recently lost his way and it nearly derailed his creative project. He works as a consultant for a high-pressure corporation (redundant?) organizing international events, orchestrating public relations videos, and even finessing promotional copy. Plus, he and his wife had their first child all while writing his first book, a book that began from an impulse much deeper than anything his corporate work touches.
But a year into writing the book he had lost his deep desire to create.
That’s understandable for at least three reasons. One, the economy: An unpredictable economy might shift your concerns to money more than meaning. Two, time and focus: You’re juggling multiple projects plus personal relationships and obligations. Three, the nature of creative pressure: You feel the pressure to be an astonishing marketer or consultant or to produce astonishing design or copy. But sometimes you lose the astonish.
Rather than have an existential melt down every Monday or Friday and think you have to change jobs or careers or relationships, try shifting your creative mindset first. Your creative mindset is a set of patterned attitudes, often unconscious, that influence how you create and how you feel about what you create. And feeling affects quality. The how shapes the what.
So if you want to be astonishing and produce astonishing work, retrieve that astonishing feeling. It’s possible to practice doing so every day.
THE SEED OF ASTONISHMENT
The first preparation to shift if not reverse your creative mindset from apathy to astonishment is to Remember Your Seed Purposes. Your seed purposes are those feelings, impulses, images or motivations that drive your best self to do what you’re doing. But you usually have to get beyond the surface motivators to remember and feel what really sparks you into astonishment again.
Your seed purposes like wheel hubs reside at a deeper center than those more peripheral yet obvious motivators like money, performance, and obligation-fulfillment. Those motivators are legitimate and pragmatic, but one social psychology study after another demonstrates that they’re not sustainable for creatives’s long-term happiness and gratification.
A direct way to remember one of your hub purpose is to create with seed intention.
An intention is not a goal. A goal is something you measure and check off when you’ve completed it. An intention is a conscious gesture to align your mind, heart, imagination, and body with whatever act you’re about to begin. You attach yourself to a goal’s outcome and either praise yourself for accomplishing it or admonish yourself for falling short of it (if not forgetting it). You let go of an intention’s outcome.
I don’t mean that you forget about audience or tribe or client or boss. That would be job suicide. Creating with tribe in mind and heart is essential and possibly part and parcel of your seed purpose. Instead, you give the preparation, the creating everything you have. And let go of how your motivation talk or website design is received. And then create anew accordingly.
There is next to “…nothing the outside world gives me in exchange for my writing that is of value to me. I do not take pleasure in other people’s praise, and I don’t believe their criticism.” – Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Ellen Gilchrist
Intention can center the mind and imagination without restricting it. An intention plants a seed, a suggestion that may manifest while creating that day or two weeks later. And, yes, acting with intention – as opposed to “to-do”-ing – stimulates more portions of the brain and can lead to actual changes in neuronal pathways.
So when you create with awareness of your hub purpose, you create with more of your self.
SEED PURPOSE PRACTICE
You can remember your hub purpose within three minutes.
Before you write a blog article or when you realize you have lost the luster or before you present to your colleagues, try this Seed Purpose Practice:
Ask yourself, what am I creating for? What am I consulting for? What am I designing for? What am I enterprising for? What am I selling real estate for?
Be receptive instead of analytical. Sip some tea or coffee or take three breaths or look out a window or close your eyes and focus on your heart or gut if doing so helps your awareness get beyond the periphery and to your hub.
A response can come in a sensation, a feeling, a word or phrase, or an image. My hub purpose often has to do with the exchange between a part of my best self and the people my work serves – clients, readers, a tribe of trainees & facilitators. I hear a simple phrase or can imagine one or more of those people receiving my work. A real estate agent reminds herself that she’s helping other people she cares about fulfill their dreams. An artist hears his daughter’s laughter. That’s the quality of life that drives his whimsical sculptures and designs.
Ask yourself your variation of this question every day. Regularity builds a new pattern for your creative mindset.
Keep a Seed Purpose or Seed Intention Log. In a computer file or Moleskine, every day write down your responses. You’ll notice patterns among your intentions.
Don’t fret if you’re not aware of any response. Just asking the question and focusing on a particular response is shifting something in that dark morass of the creative mind. It’s likely that two, three days after you’ve practiced this routine, an image or word will arise that will surprise you in a profound way.
And the client I described above – the corporate guy writing his first book – recently told me he’d remembered his seed purpose. He’s writing to save particular forests of the United States. Remembering that, he says, makes all the difference in how he feels as he’s mastering his craft, prioritizing his productive imagination, and keeping creative momentum one paragraph at a time.
And seeing the forest from the trees is, well, an astonishing perspective.
Drop in the Hut
I love to gather other people’s seed purposes. Share yours here. Share your practices, too. How do you remember your seed purposes and intentions? How do you retrieve that astonishing feeling?
See you in the woods,
P.S. This First Preparation is an adaptation to and new application of what I lay out as The
Four Preparations for a writer’s journey in my book The Journey from the Center to the Page. You might check it out if you want more tips.