This is my first post in what seems like forever. I took a hiatus to focus on getting some ideas from my mind to paper. During that time I learned a lot about my creative process (as trite as that sounds), what triggers my imagination and habits that dampen it.
Writer's break at Barnes & Nobles, Town & Country Center.
But now my summer of leisurely reading and writing is over. My savings has been depleted. It’s time to get back to work. So I’m headed to Los Angeles, very much in the same manner I ventured off to New York City after college–without a job and without a plan b.
I know I want to work in scripted dramatic television and feature films. That is certain. What I don’t know is what position will be best for me at this point in my life and career. Do I try my hand as a freelance writer? Or do I get back on the corporate ladder as a development assistant? Or is there a hybrid position that will allow me to have one foot in the cubicle and the other in the coffee shop?
No matter where I end up playing the game again, I have to implement a new game plan–built on everything I’ve learned this summer. I can not go back to career as usual. I have to define and live out what it means to be the most consistent and productive creative individual no matter where I find employment.
Here are a few plays I’ve got to institute in the next chapter of my career. Feel free to borrow any that can help you in your cubicle or whatever corporate field you play on.
TAKE TIME ON THE SIDELINES It may seem counterproductive to approach re-entering the workforce by setting aside down time. Isn’t the way to success spending every waking moment dedicated to the job? Well, that could make me productive, but I wouldn’t be at my mental best. Creativity isn’t a wishing star that comes whenever it wants. It’s just that special. But not that random.
Like many people, I get creative when my conscious mind is at rest and my sub-conscious mind has a chance to peek her head out. So by purposely giving my conscious mind scheduled time outs, I allow my sub-conscious (aka my sub) mind to be active with ideas I can capture.
Practically, what does this mean? It means I’ll have to schedule breaks in my day to walk away from my desk and my computer. Give my mind a break and a chance to be brilliant. It means that instead of staring at a question or problem for hours. I’ll write my challenge down and do something mindless like wash dishes, listen to a favorite playlist or people watch.
Most senior executives have the luxury of taking mental breaks during the day. My new position may not allow it so easily. But I’ll have to find a way to sit on the sidelines for a breather should I end up in a cubicle again. I’ll sneak them if I have to. The truth is, if I want to stand out as a creative executive, I will have to.
HUDDLE AFTER EACH PLAY Remember when your parents or teachers used to ask you a million questions after you read a book or went on a field trip? It was annoying but it was an exercise in good thinking. In John Maxwell’s “Thinking For a Change“, he highlights “reflective thinking” as a habit of exceptional leaders. (Click the link for the other eleven habits.)
Sometimes we let brilliance pass us by because we are too busy to take time to analyze our daily experiences. We rush through meetings, finish one article–start another, watch a film classic without taking the time to figure out what we liked, disliked, what inspired us, infuriated us, etc.
I’ve found myself coming up with a slew of wonderful commentary this summer when I take the time to reflective on an experience. After a coffee date, a church service, my favorite television show–I take a few moments to jot my initial thoughts down in my notebook. I never intend to write a lot, but I always do.
And then comes the best part. Well, not right away. But some time in the future, in the middle of a conversation with someone, I pull a comment from my reflective thinking and sound wonderfully profound and intellectual. My comments are met with, “Wow! I never thought of that.” or “That is a really good point.”
This reservoir of insight will come in handy at department meetings or at awkward business cocktail parties. Not only will it brand me as a person of value on my team, it will also set me a part from my peers.
STAY WITH THE RIGHT TEAMMATES I’m a likeable person. I have a silly spirit that makes my conversations animated, whether I know you or not. I’m happy to make friends with almost everyone. But I will be making a special effort to find co-workers who place a premium on protecting and nourishing their creativity.
The funny part is that I knew individuals at past positions who did just that. They read a book during lunch. They took a stroll around the block after a meeting. These were often the same people that other executives went to review a draft of a power point presentation or ask to sit in on a brainstorm. I never put their relaxing work habits together with their exceptional performance.
It’s always good to have kindred spirits around you in any environment. At your job it’s particularly important to align yourself with people who will encourage your ambitions and push you to succeed. I usually find these persons at my church or in my family. But this go round, I’m going to look for them on the job.
Stay tuned for my journey to find employment in Los Angeles. I’ll be sure to share any adventures in my quest to be a stellar creative and a rising executive. If you have any, feel free to share them too.