The fight to get out from the professional frame
We know that kids are more creative than adults, although adults understand more about creative processes. While creative processes are everywhere, adults continue to follow their normal path, a less creative path, especially when working in the professional environment.
In this article, I invite you to reflect on how much our professional mindset puts us on a less creative path. I’ll guide you through a project where I could escape the normal forces — the professional forces — that keep me from being more creative.
The task: create a digital image of a map using Photoshop
As a graphics designer, my original goal was to use Photoshop to create a map of an area. What did I do? I ended up playing with porcelain clay:
I wrote playing because of the feeling when considering the idea. Why I didn’t think that working with porcelain clay was more like a design process based on experimentation and learning? No, the first thought was about playing and wasting time.
The alternate route that I was able to take allowed me to reflect on the hidden force that pulls me to do things the way I do, with the knowledge that I have. It’s subtle and fast and that is why I wrote this reflective writing.
But this pull force does not come only from inside us. Have you ever considered checking with the customer about the possibility of taking a different path? If the timeframe is urgent, they will kindly ask you to not bring that up.
Before I narrate the struggling events fighting this force, I am obliged to honor the tool that gave me strength in the fight. It’s The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron.
The Artist's Way
NONFICTION The Artist's Way The Artist's Way Morning Pages Journal The Artist's Date Book (illustrated by Elizabeth…
This book is a 12-week program that will teach you to uncover your hidden artist. Her approach to fixing the situation — what she calls the artist’s block — involves taming your critic self, the one that can potentially harm your repressed creative person. The book allowed me to understand how important it is to give space to an inner artist that is usually blocked by a professional self.
Through the next sections, I will guide you through the stages of this big battle.
Stage 0 — the common path
Let’s first consider my professional self. As the client expected a visual map, the following was the initial sketch that I did: start with a digital map from above and put it in Photoshop to add information on top of it.
Stage 1 — synchronicity
One idea that Julia talks about in her book is synchronicity. It relates to an open-minded state where you are able to read signals, from the environment, that can influence the course of your project. The children’s example of this is when they look at clouds and see animals of all kinds.
In my findings, the solution to synchronicity depended on allowing more time — much more time Once I bravely expanded the amount of time available, I started to consider options such as playing with porcelain clay. To my surprise, it didn’t take much time to have this idea.
Stage 2 —uncharted waters vs the known path of Photoshop
But it’s not like I saw a beautiful map made with clay waiting for me. The struggle was about allowing myself to play with porcelain clay accepting that I could be wasting time.
At this stage, I was also considering what I would be doing otherwise — why I am not using Photoshop. The problem is that I knew how fast I was with the digital tools that had experience with.
Playing with clay was like navigating uncharted waters. I had to force an unprofessional process that sounded like a bet or a gamble — that involved dealing with an unknown and amateur artist. This is something else I learned from The Artist’s Way — to be nice with my hidden artist, to give my hands to him, to accept his flaws.
Stage 3 — shopping time
After accepting to “play with clay,” my next problem was shopping. At the shopping stage, ideas like the following were bubbling in my head:
- This makes no sense!
- Wow, I didn’t know that clay was that expensive!
- Such a waste of time!
- Why am I in the children’s section?
Luckily the shopping effort was saved again by The Artist’s Way and how I was prepared to tame a force that would typically take over when money was involved. At this stage, I knew that I had a critic regulating the money flow. I’ve told myself to consider how much I used to spend on beers, for example.
After I have invested less than 3 dollars for one kilogram of that “expensive toy,” I was able to move on to the next level — to play.
Stage 4 — actually playing
At this stage, I was bombarded by thoughts such as:
- This is what playing looks like.
- Yes, this is a fake process.
- This time-wasting effort will undoubtedly yield results — an ugly and unprofessional work.
- Not even Photoshop work can fix this.
Stage 5 —something different ahead
The next day, with the clay stock running low, I felt pressured to experiment with modeling at a smaller scale. As usual, a negative force comes out saying that:
Modeling smaller objects would produce even worse results!
But things came up the other way around, to my surprise. Because I could not use my fat fingers, I had to use objects to support the modeling. It was impressive to see how the object looked much better and was done much faster with much less material.
I laughed and I was impressed. And being impressed initially prevented me from realizing that I have found a technique, a new knowledge.
With the new skill and tools, then things started to flow. I was using a pencil, a knife, and even my fingers to roll sticks. On the left, a beer mug, a beer bottle, BBQ in a stick, and a plate with falafel on it. On the right, a breakfast kit.
Playing at the new scale was fun. At that point, I felt that I did a good job.
Stage 6 — random art meets the professional
Towards the idea of completing the map, I felt it was amateur work that consisted of abstract art that would not be applicable to the project.
This was a moment that I was uncertain how to bundle the results.
To my surprise, and thankful for the time allowed, I have remembered that I could do something about it — that I could finish up with the Photoshop magic and take from there trusting my professional role as if he was given the project at that stage.
The final result looked better as I allowed my digital skills to collaborate with the earlier process:
This was a journey that reached an end because of a conscious process where I was trying to control the forces of my critic — not an easy task. When allowing more time, I had moments of synchronicity with fresh ideas coming my way. But as these fresh ideas would show, again, I had to tame the standard response.
I hope that this story serves as a reflection about how our professional side comes our way. Although this story is real and may help you reflect on these challenges, I strongly recommend following the process from Julia Cameron’s The Artist Way. In my opinion, it is a crucial book for all professionals, especially adults that learned too much.
My name is Marcio S Galli — I am a Brazilian entrepreneur, a former employee of Silicon Valley companies like Netscape, AOL, Yahoo! and Mozilla. Please visit my personal web site at mgalli @ mgalli.com.