I go insane if I can’t paint.
That’s what my colleague Brett Superstar said when I asked what’s inspiring his creativity during these days of crisis. As a writer, I lacked Brett’s clarity. I struggled with my creativity until I had the privilege of interviewing him and other adidas creators for this story as a follow-up to part one of How to Create During a Crisis.
Writing the story was a game changer. These musicians, painters, dancers and designers inspired me and reminded me that creativity isn’t a duty – it’s a joy.
Even so, it’s still hard to find the time and space for creative endeavors, particularly during a time when our home space and workspace are often the same. How do our creators do it? Where do they get their inspiration from?
What changes have you made so you can create in the current environment?
I’ve found that my full-time job and my side business are competing for desk space. I combat this by using my desk for my work during the week and then on Friday evening I transfer all my design projects to the desk space in preparation for the weekend. This is a clear indication that I have switched into design mode and gets me excited about creating over the weekend!
I have been trying to spend the time I would otherwise be using to commute or socialize in a productive and positive way by painting more and exploring other creative outlets.
I’ve built a schedule around creation. It is not as formal as it sounds. I just make sure I have separate time for work, family, and creation. So, I force myself to do a little every day and not be consumed by my work.
I’ve always loved building furniture. But when COVID-19 presented itself and our worlds became much more insular, I turned back to another interest of mine: creating steampunk light fixtures from parts I’d found. This hobby has allowed me to work on a smaller scale as we find ourselves at home.
When I was younger, the product mattered to me a lot more than the creative process. It wasn’t fun to write in those days. Over time, though, I’ve erred in the other direction. Now I’m enjoying the process so much that it’s not always easy to figure out when I’m finished. I wondered: Which matters more to these artists?
When you’re creating during a crisis, what’s more important to you: the process or the product?
The end result is always more important when I’m creating anything. If I have an idea or vision that I want to make, my process immediately turns into a huge party of ideas. The process for me is just a bunch of mistakes that I keep fixing until I get to 75% of what my initial vision was.
During a crisis, you need to give yourself additional time because your mind will be jumping between different thoughts. The process then becomes more relevant. The end result will turn out to be your sweetest reward and will motivate you to create again.
The process. Art is never perfect in my opinion. It’s subjective. But if you can remain consistent and intentional in your process, you’ll build the muscle for excellence.
Though I’m a stickler for my creative processes and use them to streamline my workflow and ensure consistency, the finished product is always the most important element. An artist needs to be flexible with changing timelines and willing to change a process to ensure the final product meets my and the recipient’s expectations.
How could I not feel inspired when I find out that fellow members of the #hometeam are DJing, customizing iPad cases and making steampunk lighting fixtures? So what inspires them?
What motivates you to keep creating?
If I don’t make something or try to exercise the ideas in my mind, I would lose it. No one can put the fire out once it’s lit.
It brings me great joy to give life to older, often discarded parts. Often these parts are meticulously engineered and are incredibly intricate. I love to celebrate them in new ways that draw people in and see them in a new way. There is a very simple and fulfilling pleasure to creating light where it wasn’t before. There is magic in bringing a new piece to life and lighting a previously dark corner of your space.
I often get inspired by craft and product. I use Instagram a lot to follow local creators. I am also a big book nerd, so I spend a lot of time researching and reading about the latest trends in the industry. But if I had to name an interior designer whose work I love it’s Emily Henderson.
I am overcome with boredom if two days are the same. I need new challenges and experiences every single day. The learnings during the creating process are the fuel that keeps you going and the end result is the reward. Being surrounded by a diverse environment gives me new ideas and motivates me to keep creating. That’s why I like travelling so much. That’s why I live in a country with a different language and culture than my own. And that’s why diversity in the workplace is so important for innovation – it forces people to think differently and be open to new ideas.
My motivation is knowing that I’m better mentally and physically when I create things. When I paint it lets me meditate on my thoughts and feelings and process the stress and anxiety that can be gathered over the day, weeks or years. I’m also motivated by knowing that if I don’t paint, no one else will do the work for me, so if I want to share my work, the only way that will happen is for me to spend the time and make it.
It’s hard to fall asleep some nights because I keep thinking about new ideas to try. These projects are all up to me and how I want to spend my time and I don’t have to wait for anything to get going on them.
One thing I love about this community of creators is that they won’t take no for an answer. Whatever your fears are, whatever’s holding you back from your creative project, these creators share the same advice: Start. Now.
What advice do you have for people who are struggling to be creative during a crisis?
Put your phone down (and not in your pocket) and start something. Even cleaning your workspace is “something.” Just start.
Step outside your box and try something you’ve always said you wanted to do but haven’t had the time. Pull out the guitar you wanted to learn to play, write the short story you always talked about writing or whatever it may be, but just use this time we have during this crisis to turn a negative into a positive.
Give yourself a break! These are exceptional circumstances and there is zero expectation that you will show up in the same way that you do on a “normal” day. Listen to yourself and it will show up how it’s meant to in this moment. I have recently enrolled in some calligraphy and watercolor courses – totally outside my comfort zone! But trying something new has a way of changing my perspective and makes me more creative and excited to work in interior design.
Don’t wait for that inspired feeling to get started. You might work on a project for hours and still not feel inspired, but when you look down, you’ll see progress. Even if you’re like me and sometimes have to paint over it the next day, it’s not wasted time. You’ve learned something new, added to the history of it and your work will be better for it.
Start with something small, something easy. The first project I did in this time was cutting the bottom hem off some shorts, leaving a raw edge. They’re my favorite shorts now. And then I shared them on Instagram and got a good response. People want to see what you’re doing right now and we all desperately want to see positive things. Why not try something new and post about it?
Creation is like working out sometimes. You’re tired, you’re busy, you aren’t good at it (yet). There are a million reasons not to create. Just take the first step and start. And come back tomorrow and create again.
Since beginning this story, I went from not writing to working on existing pieces to beginning something entirely new to me: flash nonfiction, which is a very short essay format.
The essay is about my experience of the pandemic, but the act of writing feels like an escape from that very thing. It allows me to control and shape my experience in ways real life doesn’t and continually surprises me with thoughts I didn’t know I had until they appeared on screen. It’s been fun, frustrating, exciting and deeply rewarding.
So, if you’ve been struggling to create during this time, why not take a jump and try some of the great tips above.
Learn more about these adidas creators:
Aaron Limonthas: Instagram: @limon_live
Ed Musho: Instagram: @edmusho.design
Brett Superstar: Instagram: @brettgsuperstar
Stefanie Berenguer: YouTube
Todd Stansbury: Instagram: @toddstansbury