A Creative Reset: Knowing When to Embrace Change as a Designer and Human Being
Do you believe in serendipity? (No, not the John Cusack movie.)
In its simplest terms, serendipity is when a series of chance events lead to a positive outcome. Sometimes the universe has a way of placing things in your path. Most of us probably don’t even notice when some of these items align. I know I sure don’t.
Before I even get into serendipity though, I have a confession. I’ve hit a bit of a speed bump in terms of my creativity. More specifically, I’ve found writing to become a bit of a chore.
It’s odd. I love to write. That’s not the problem.
A few weeks before writing this post, I had finished another post about the importance of cover letters. Not only that, I finished it with something like 11 days to spare!
If you know my writing habits, that’s almost unheard of!
Sure, I was proud of myself for getting into a better groove with the production of my writing, but I was equally feeling a bit underwhelmed with the whole thing.
I remember finishing the post and just letting out a kind of defeatist shrug.
I was in a bit of a rut creatively. There’s nothing wrong with the topic of Cover Letters for a blog about professional development, but it just felt a bit disingenuous to who I’ve become as a person - especially as a creative.
Pushing Through Isn’t Always the Answer
Noticing the way I felt after writing the post about Cover Letters, I guessed that I just needed a new theme to write about.
'Maybe you’re just uninspired by this one topic, Mike,’ I thought to myself.
Following my intuition, I planned out the posts for the following month and landed at the theme of Web Design.
My thought was that I could merge something I was interested with and help other Architects understand the basics of how to build their own websites, blogs, or portfolios.
If you’re reading this, you might have guessed that those posts never were written.
As it turns out, pushing through the issue isn’t always the best answer. I could have written some really helpful website design articles in a parallel life if it weren’t for that pesky sense of serendipity.
There was a catalyst that led me down a completely different path. Once the momentum for the path had begun, more and more pieces fell in to place. As the path presented itself, I followed and now here we are.
I can attribute the serendipity to the work and influence of one person specifically - Austin Kleon.
Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist
If you’ve never heard of Austin, you may have seen his work in some form or another. The book he’s most famous for is a small book called Steal Like an Artist.
If you haven’t read it, it’s something you should pick up yesterday. Of all the books I can recommend, it is one of the most accessible because of how well it’s presented and how easily the points are made.
The basic theme of Steal Like an Artist, is how we as creatives can pull ideas from many different places and create something personal and ‘new.’ His second book, Show Your Work, is a book of similar format and importance geared towards creatives who need a bit of a push to share their work with the world. Austin recently published his third book in the series, Keep Going. Paraphrasing his own words, Austin ‘wrote the book he needed to read.’
Both Steal Like an Artist and Show Your Work presented themselves earlier in my life, exactly when I needed to read them. When I first read Steal Like an Artist, I was trying to discover my voice as an Architect (not that I’ll ever stop). When I first read Show Your Work, I was trying to understand the best way to share the thoughts I had wrapped up inside my head. Evolving Architect is a direct result of both these texts.
It’s the third book though, Keep Going, that I needed now.
Whether I could feel it would be helpful or I was just ready to read something to help get me out a funk, the next part of the story changed everything.
Two weeks ago, I binge read Steal Like an Artist, Show Your Work, and Keep Going in a single sitting.
As I pealed back each page, I revealed more of the picture I had been searching for. Once I arrived at Keep Going, everything was crystallized into something amazing. It was as though Austin had been writing the book just so I could read it.
Completely in awe of what I had read, I hurried to the interwebs to find that his book tour was stopping that following Friday in Cleveland, a stone’s throw away from Buffalo.
The serendipity of it all was too strong to ignore. Each book had been right there for me exactly when I needed it most. Steal was there when I was looking for my voice. Show was there when I tried to make sense of sharing my work online. Keep was here to help push me forward as I faced a creative slump.
And now their author was going to be nearby - I just couldn’t pass it up. I made the spontaneous trip shortly thereafter to see Austin speak.
It was the kind of experience I can only describe as ‘epic.’
The trip was fairly straightforward, but the path that it put me on was something more.
I knew as soon as I was on my way home that I needed to change something to get me out of my head and back into my creativity.
Enter the Creative Reset.
The creative reset was inspired from both specific passages across all three of the books as well as the chance events that threaded together quite the experience for me personally.
I can’t explain it, but it was as if the universe knew that I was struggling with inspiration and pushed Austin back into my path in a profound way.
I had a sort of ‘Eureka’ moment once I realized how the message could be applied — not only to my work, but to everything.
This Creative Reset is only an adjustment to the path we’re already on here at EA, not the forging of a completely new one.
I’m not a completely different person, just one who could recognize that the path I was on would lead me somewhere just ‘fine,’ and not somewhere amazing.
Finding New Inspiration, or Rather, Recognizing My Actual Inspiration
After I started to map out a lot of what was bugging me creatively, I started to apply the same focus to another area of my life — those things that I draw inspiration from.
The fun and interesting fact of it all is that I actually pull inspiration from a wide variety of sources. I began to imagine a pie chart. I then started to add pieces of the pie based on gut reactions to anyone I could pinpoint as a recent inspiration. I learned two very important things from this exercise.
I started thinking about entrepreneurs, fitness experts, thought leaders, and writers first. Then I considered Architects and even a superhero for good measure. This struck a chord with me because I could recognize that I was pursuing many avenues outside of the profession of architecture for inspiration in order to find balance and harmony throughout my life.
Those who inspire me should inform what I write about and how I write it. I don’t mean that I should copy them. Rather, I mean that I have to pull from what interests me and write about how it has helped me evolve as a creative and as a human being.
It was really liberating to take a hard look at the creative influences around me. When you sketch what you’re thinking, regardless of the theme or topic, something connects your thoughts in a much more organic way than just writing them down.
As an Architect, I probably should have recognized this earlier, but ‘better late than never,’ I suppose.
The Best Mental Health Week Ever.
So then I took a bit of time.
As it turns out, taking time off to recover from everything going on in your life can be very helpful. Some might call it a vacation. Who knew?!
I’ve taken vacations before, but nothing like this.
Last week I had the opportunity to really take a ‘Mental Health Week’ for myself. I basically did whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. Every day I slept in and recharged my energy. Every morning after I woke up I went for a walk. I exercised and walked some more.
Then I realized I could take it one step farther. I took a day and a half and cleaned out my garage and completely rearranged my office.
I separated my office into two zones (at the suggestion of Austin Kleon). One side is for digital production. I’m writing this post on the computer in the photo. On the other side is for ‘crafty things’ - making, drawing, building. Nothing digital lives on that side of the room.
If you look closer at the photos here, the details of the room, you’ll notice that the space is relatively organized with splashes of my personality throughout.
One one wall, a poster of the Evolving Architect logo. On another wall, you’ll find another, much different poster of the members from the Justice League. Opposite that wall is a poster of the Fallout 4 Leveling system. Mr. Freeze guards my computer. Several design resources mark the end of my crafty desk. You’ll find an inspiring quote here and there as well as a lot of natural light.
Lesson Learned - When the universe speaks, listen.
Evolving Architect is Evolving again and I couldn’t be happier with the changes.
After inviting all of these moments into my life, I can really see why a creative reset might be just the push you need in your own creative life to avoid stagnation.
For EA, this Creative Reset is only an adjustment to the path we’re already on here, not the forging of a completely new one.
There are things that are inherently going to change for the foreseeable future and things that will stay the same to maintain some consistency.
The biggest item to remain will be the 2019 Content Schedule. Come Hell or high water, I will do everything in my power to maintain the schedule itself. However, the types of content themes that we’ve been diving into over the past few months will change.
Or rather, my approach will change.
Moving forward, the posts will be geared towards my direct experiences as an Architect, Designer, Creative, and Human Being. I’ll still be teaching everything I know, but teaching it through the lens of practical applications and personal experiments that help build up my life incrementally.
My hope is that you’ll be able to take these lessons to reinforce your life both professionally and personally - and most importantly, that you’ll have fun doing it.
If you’re looking to shake things up a bit, don’t be scared. Look change in the eye and say ‘hello.’