Nick Exposed

A Creative Community Hosted By Photog/Designer Nick Mayo

Creative Innocence

A couple of weeks ago I was having a conversation with a close friend when the topic of personal creative expression came up. My friend, like many others, had found them self in a bit of a creative rut. A paralyzed state that most creatives, if not all, come across time and time again. I myself have found this to be a repeated pattern throughout my life. I would consider my self to have been a creative from birth in a wide variety of expressive forms. The moment I was allowed to have crayons in hand I was creating personal masterpieces on any “canvas” I could find, many surfaces of which were not to my parents liking.Β This continued in various forms until around the age of 12 or 13, when I made a mental shift.

It was at this age I started sharing my artwork with class mates and friends. I suddenly had a new status of popularity, with requests coming in for a drawing of this or a sketch that. At first I loved the attention my art was getting, as I had only ever received praise from my parents for my creative endeavors. My amusement quickly perished as requests continued to come in, feeling as if I now had a duty to impress and please my new fan base. It was at this point I became paralyzed within my own craft… I lost my passion and wasn’t finding it anytime soon. In fact it wasn’t for another 3+ years that I picked up sketching and designing again, in which the process seemed to start all over again.

Up until this last year I had no clue as to why I was finding myself in these ruts. How could I be so enthusiastic and full of inspiration one week, yet paralyzed and drained for the next week.. month.. year? It took turning my creative passion into a career to figure it out. I noticed as I took project after project my energy level started to decrease as it had in the past. I was entering into this phase yet again, however this time I couldn’t afford to let it happen being my income was on the line.

What was the solution?… More work! It’s true this was the key to keeping my energy and creative enthusiasm. The catch is, it wasn’t client work. I simply started adding personal projects on the side. I started creating for the simple sake of creating, and it was like a shot of expresso to my inspiration. I was finishing my client projects with extraordinary results and enjoyed it the whole way through… well besides the inevitably tense moments of brain farts in big projects that happen whether Im inspired or not.

A personal project I did for fun during a hectic design schedule last summer. The very next day I was inspired to make a piece that landed me a new client.

It has taken me a long time to realize it, but now that I have it has awaken my true ability, which is only just beginning. Obviously I still do the work and designs I do with my studio, but then theres the stuff Im creating just to express my own creative vision, for no one but myself. To just be a kid again, and let the imagination run butt ass naked through the fields of creativity, is true creative innocence.

Far to often we get so caught up in pleasing others, whether its for our jobs, or because were looking for approval from others, we forget to please our most important audience… Ourselves. When we do that our art loses its artist and becomes an unattached piece that we will never be able to connect with.

Ever since I’ve embraced this idea, my creative life has flourished in many ways. Its this reason why I choose to take on the challenge of creating each and every day for no one other than myself. However, I do love that you all can enjoy the journey with me, as its always better with friends πŸ™‚

What about you? Can you relate to being in a creative rut? Β Was it because you lost your creative innocence? What personal projects are you creating solely for yourself?

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32 thoughts on “Creative Innocence

  1. Up until recently, I never thought I had any artistic ability. After I purchased my DSLR and started to actually learn and practice photography, I realized I did have an artistic side (I’m an engineer and very left brained). I started a 365 project and I too, have had days where I didn’t have any clue what to shoot, so I ended up shooting the mundane. But keeping it going has forced me to see things different, and to enhance my creativity, I believe πŸ™‚ I really enjoy your posts, they are a help to my creativity!!

    • Thanks Jeremy! Its true we can start to feel the pressure even when the project were working on is for ourselves. The best thing to do in that instance is think back to the wonders and enjoyment we had the first time we picked up our DSLR. The first few months were all about experimentation, and if you were anything like me you just couldn’t get enough. Seek to enjoy that experimental and enthusiastic stage again and you’ll be rejuvenated once again.

      365 day projects are definitely a challenge like you said, but you hit it dead on when you said they force us out of our creative comfort zones in order to see differently, and enhance our creativity!

      You do fantastic work my friend, keep it up! Im glad to be on this journey with people like you πŸ™‚

  2. OMG Nick!! This is brilliant. And, explains what I’ve been doing and feeling for the last 12 years of my life. I can’t believe how much this applies to me. I never found the answer as to why I always find myself discouraged, tired of it all and even depressed. Until now. I have given up on so many things because I’ve had this perpetual rut all this time. And it always happens as soon as I find success in what I’m doing – meaning when people start to pay attention to what I’m doing and ask for more. Rather than being happy about it, I just want to hide from it, because it wasn’t fun anymore. And you’re right, oh my God you are so right, when I look back it is definitely because I revert to trying to please others after any amount of success came my way. That goes for my photography, blogging, designing….everything. I have GOT to stop doing that and allow myself to express myself, creatively, no matter what else is going on. Perhaps then I can really enjoy any form of success that comes my way, and life in general! I can’t believe you wrote this today.

    I hope you’ll forgive me for my windbag comment – I’m having one of those “a-ha” moments. I’ve been struggling with this for all these years, but could never come out of panic mode long enough to understand why!!! UGH!!! Thank you SO very much for this.

    • Sarah, no apology necessary! I write this because I know it applies to a lot of creatives. It’s funny, we are taught that obtaining success is everything, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Its as they say the journey not the destination that matters. So once we loose sight of our journey we lose all enjoyment and energy towards the success. Now I am in no means saying that Success is negative, and we should definitely reach for success. However happiness in success is only a short lived high, hence the saying 15 min of fame. If we don’t have another journey after we hit this so called Success we lose momentum, and often have to tumble back down the hill from which we came before we realize were back on the journey again. The beauty is the process of Creating for the sake of expressing our personal creativity is a long lasting.. if not never ending journey being our theory on personal creativity is constantly changing. Success comes in to play with this, but its no longer the focus.

      Im soo happy you were able to draw inspiration from my words today! It sounds like we will be on a similar journey from here on forward, and for that I am grateful!

      Thanks again Sarah, for a beautiful comment full of renewed life πŸ™‚

  3. I totally agree that when we practice our art for a living our creativity ends up being dictated externally. It becomes a job rather than a passion. Self-assigned projects are a great way to get back in touch with what made us love our art in the first place. Nice piece.

  4. great reminder to everyone! we have to take time to work on our own projects to feed our creativity, and collaborating with someone who has a different field or work can really help as well. thanks for sharing your thoughts and encouragement.

  5. Nicely put Nick. It’s a bit of an “aha!” moment for me as well. One difference, though – I’m still trying to get my stuff noticed. I have friends who appreciate it, but I’m a little slow on the uptake otherwise. Thanks for the thoughts.

    • Hey Sharon! Im glad you liked the article. And dont get me wrong I have tons of work Im looking to get noticed as well. But then theres the work I do strictly for me. If it happens to get noticed in the process of things then great, if not Im still satisfied πŸ™‚

  6. That’s right. Keep plugging at it.

    Lisa Dabbs covered this same topic in January. She also posted a great short video featuring Ira Glass with it:

  7. You write, “Far to often we get so caught up in pleasing others, whether its for our jobs, or because were looking for approval from others, we forget to please our most important audience… Ourselves. When we do that our art loses its artist and becomes an unattached piece that we will never be able to connect with.”

    This is exactly why I started my blog a few months ago. Thank you for this inspiring post.

  8. Lisa on said:

    Nick your blog posts are very inspirational! I wanted to share something that I heard the other day .. The founder of Spanx (she’s the newest member of the billionaire club) told an interviewer that every week while she was growing up, her Dad would ask her what she failed at that week. When she had tried and failed at something she was greeted with a big high five from her Dad. If she had nothing to report he would be displeased … This meant she wasn’t trying enough. She learned early on that failure was a good thing … It meant she was trying … And you can’t succeed if you don’t try!

    • Hey Lisa! Wow what a powerful story! Its so true, it takes the willingness to be vulnerable to failure to hit large levels of success. Thanks for sharing, I was truly inspired by the story πŸ™‚

  9. timmay on said:

    Nick – yup…what you said! Being a landscape architect in an engineering world, I find that creativity, or embracing the lack of it from my counterparts, is a daily struggle. Funny how my engineer friends, and others for that matter, can zap a creative opportunity so quickly, easily, and routinely if allowed. So it is that now exercising creativity becomes a part of everyday life, from bouncing out of bed in the morning to falling back there at night…and what is done in between hopefully exhausts all the creative resources (and that includes the challenges of people, place, and pleasure occurrences). Blogging, daily photographs, and all those “collection” projects I now seem to do has been a great therapy (lol). “Following” other Creatives – you and the many folks we both follow – has been a true inspiration. Nice post…remindful and thought-provoking for sure.

    • Well put Tim! I love what you say about personal projects being a great therapy hahah.. so true! And yes following the creative work of others is great inspiration, something I work into my schedule each morning! Thanks for the kind comment πŸ™‚

  10. Another brilliant piece Nick. We, as humans, have a tendency to turn the things we love, the things we are passionate about, into obligation….and we also do this to the people we love. We then lose the joy we felt when we first encountered it. It doesn’t have to be this way. As you point out, exciting ourselves…pleasing ourselves through our work…is a great way to maintain that passion. Some may see this as selfishness, I disagree.

  11. I like your line “To just be a kid again.” To have a sense of wonder about everything is truly a gift that we have as children but it is eroded by time and understanding. We cannot return but wonder and creativity can also be found in understanding.

    • To be a child at heart is a personal goal of mine. Its being free from the limitations of life, either falsely self-imposed or those implied from others, and living in a truly creative mindset! Thanks for the comment Bassas πŸ™‚

      • To be a child at heart… I think I am getting closer to that goal, letting the world go and being one with oneself and nature sure brings the true real things to life… like in my hummingbirds. The smaller you see the world the more world there is to explore and find understanding. In liking yourself and your true gifts… makes life so much easier!

  12. Your words are a truism that rang the bell of my creativity! It took me many years to realize this. I still have to be in the mood to put watercolor to paper… but when it happens it is like I cannot believe I just did that! It is the same with my photography, which is still in the infantile stage, but with each click I can see some promise for another day! The praise I seek is from my inner self, my soul is very lucid at those special moments. It is what feeds the creativity! I love your words and your works of art. Thank you for stopping by and for your kind words. I will be following you and looking forward to your next creative post!

  13. You are spot on Nick. Personal projects keep me going. As far as clients are concerned, I think the problem there is due to the fact that whether for money or free, you are creating something that essentially belongs to someone else. They get to decide on the end result, and sometimes you have to make changes you know are wrong, but it is what they want. At least with personal projects you have something that good or bad, is 100% you.

  14. Pingback: Graphic Shadows « Nick Exposed

  15. Christy on said:

    Awesome stuff Nick! Last year I worked through Julia Cameron’s Artists Way – have you ever read it? It’s about doing the work, set aside time, and just doing – creativity will always come. I was also hugely inspired by this TedTalk – it’s a must see if you haven’t watched it.

    • Hey Christy! Thanks for sharing, I had not heard of the Artists Way book, but will definitely have to check it out. I enjoyed the TedTalk, and its definitely a creative new way of looking at the process. I agree, as long as your present with tools in hand each day, eventually you’ll have that burst of genius creativity flow through you. Thanks again for sharing πŸ™‚

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