Tag Archives: process

Use Your Intuition Every Day for Business Success

When I work on a client’s materials, I am both consciously and unconsciously melding a lot of data… Consciously, I remember the things the client has told me, how I perceive their personality and energy in relationship to what they want to create. I know what goals they are trying to achieve and/or what the various impressions are that they can make on their target market and how that might relate to their ideal work/clients/ROI. I may just be making a logo, but living in the back of my mind are many pathways for all their other materials, whether or not I ever get to design them, because no element exists in a vacuum.

Unconsciously I am also reading the energy of the business and the bond between the person and their business. There are probably also personality cues I pick up on that I don’t even register.

All this blends in my process, and it’s so fun to see it play out so differently from client to client as I intuitively narrow down and hone in on options, rule out directions, and juggle my working process to fit the person I am working with. Sometimes I just know a color is wrong for the person… I feel energy on letters and their unique combinations in various fonts and can see them almost like a new outfit on a person, and can “see” how it is right or wrong for the business and its aims.  In the back of my mind I am also registering design trends to some degree, and ruling things out just for the mere fact that they “feel” dated.

These are things that designers do all the time, and it amazes me how much of an influence time has on our process and instinctive skills. I can concentrate several hours of work into one or two simply by trusting my gut, and leaning into all the study I’ve done over the years. Following my intuition has been the best business skill I’ve learned for keeping myself and clients happy. I think it especially takes my client satisfaction up several notches, because my work is focused — not on maintaining my own ego — but on really paying attention and finding the ingredients that really fit the client.

Delivering something beautiful doesn’t matter if it doesn’t actually fit the purpose, need, or doesn’t “wear well” on the client.

I pride myself on being an intuitive designer, but I won’t deny a goodly amount of it is just part of the artistic/creative experience… The other half is being good with people and learning how to adjust your methods for the sake of collaboration, something essential in a service-based business.

How have your own processes, internal monologue, and methods evolved in your work? Do you ever stop and notice just how much you have to internalize and then refine to do your work? Can you see your years of experience or intuition at play? Do you trust in it, and when you do, do you find that it carries you further than you could have imagined? How does it help you in making your customers happy, and keeping them knocking on your door?


Round-About Resolutions for a Perfectionist

I don’t really make new year’s resolutions (maybe cuz I am worried that using the term “resolution” will jinx me somehow), but if there was one thing I would focus on improving in 2012, it would be to reach out to others more for feedback in my endeavors and to experiment more publicly. (Okay, okay, it’s a resolution.)

I am a huge perfectionist. I get it from my mother and grandmother, who both said, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.” (Nevermind that “right” is a totally amorphous undertaking.) Until reading an article from Dr. Jeff Szymanski, the author of The Perfectionist’s Handbook, I never really connected my perfectionism with my likelihood to trudge forward on personal projects without much input from others. But apparently it is endemic of perfectionists to behave this way, and it makes perfect sense. Dr. Szymanksi outlines the tendency for perfectionists to think that showing a product to others in a potentially imperfect state creates the impression — primarily and perhaps even only to the perfectionist — that they aren’t showing their best work and are therefore performing below par, an assumption that makes one tend to hold something close to the chest until the very last moment. Yet he argues that early feedback and involvement from others can provide a stepping stone from which to make a number of previously unconsidered modifications that can allow any endeavor to shine that much more brightly. He argues that in order to be a true perfectionist, one has to go beyond their ingrained perfectionistic habits and put the imperfect product up on the critique board.

He also talks about how procrastination is a main theme for perfectionists. If we feel we can’t do it perfectly, then we may never get a start.

I like mulling on the topic of perfectionism especially at this time of year, as it is often our over-inflated expectations of ourselves that keep us from actually achieving any new years resolutions we may have set for ourselves. Perhaps the answer isn’t in setting lower expectations, but in understanding that striving is most important, and that we are never really going to fully arrive. It’s good to leave room for unexpected twists and surprises. Maybe the outside world will give feedback that will point things in a new direction, or priorities will shift… Or even doing a little bit is better than doing nothing. After all, we never really ever fulfill our potential, as our potential only grows as we grow.

In Jonathan Fields’ book, Uncertainty: Turning Fear & Doubt Into Fuel for Brilliance, he talks a lot about leaning into our doubts and opening up our endeavors to the input of others, sometimes in a very public way. It can create accountability, but also it allows us to lean on the genius of others in reaching for our goals. And of course I’m talking Goals here with a capital G… Starting that book that’s been lurking in the back of your mind, lighting a fire under your business, evolving your painting passion into an entrepreneurial endeavor.

You could set some resolutions that are easy to achieve, low-hanging fruit that will make you feel accomplished, something to keep you inspired to do more. I have a friend whose resolution last year was to wear more suits, and he achieved that one with aplomb. Mine this year is to be more compassionate, especially with myself… A little more esoteric, but one that I am certain I will accomplish, and even moreso with the added focus of making it my resolution. The big Resolutions are ones that I am not so sure I will achieve, if I am to be honest, but that I am dedicated to making progress on. Blogging consistently, sharing more with my social networks, experimenting and helping others as much as possible through the sharing of information and ideas. All of these things have been on my radar some way in the past, and every year I gain more progress, improve my habits, build better and better foundations. I’m even more successful when I overcome my tendency to ferret something away until it feels perfect enough… Which it never does. Learning to live with that artist idiosyncrasy is the best thing I have gained as an adult, because I can more easily fulfill my promise of being more compassionate with myself when I remember it.

So perhaps this year’s ultimate goal for me is to give in to the process and reduce my stranglehold on perfection. After all, in a constantly evolving world — especially the landscape of communication, society and business called the internet — one is best served by leaning into the community and innovating real-time than letting ideas of perfectionism cause one to stagnate and lose relevancy. Feedback is something that is inevitable anyway, and the earlier one receives feedback, the earlier one can change course or reconsider… or the earlier one can come to terms with the fact that they are going to do it their way no matter what. Perfectionism is a moving target. Connection and evolution thrive on communication and the willingness to experiment and put things out there.

And a good dose of compassion can help us along the way as the Road of Resolutions makes its twists and turns throughout 2012. Here’s hoping that yours starts off with a wonderful wind in your sails.


The Bolt of Inspiration

Herein’ I begin a new tradition, whereby I draw a card from my beloved Tarot and express thoughts around the concepts the card has inspired. I hope you enjoy!

Rider Waite Page of Cups CardInterestingly enough, the card I pulled this morning was the Page of Cups, which actually represents surprise inspiration (the boy in the image is often depicted as listening to the whispered words of a fish jumping suddenly from his cup). Very fitting, since the idea to begin these posts hit me out of the blue, which is a characteristic condition this card describes. And being a Pisces, I also identify strongly with the fish. (Us fish are very inspired people.)

When I think of inspiration, I feel there are a number of ways one can go about seeking it.

There’s the direct approach, where you cultivate a number of ideas through the sheer will of your imagination. This is the form of inspiration that is most often asked of us in our work, especially with people who work in creative industries.

Evolution is another key element in inspiration… Gathering ideas from the outside world, starting with a nugget of an idea, and letting it evolve as information and notions are collected. For instance, the use of a mood board may have some basic ideas to guide its creation at the start, but as it evolves organically it may generate new ideas that take over or guide the concept into different directions. Whether using brainstorms, thumbnailing, mood boards or other methods of idea generation, it often takes time and revisiting an idea on a regular basis to see it mature into something truly unique.

And then there is one level of inspiration that goes beyond the will of the imagination or the evolution of a concept… It’s the inspiration that “strikes as lightning from above.” Sometimes it seems to come out of continually working and thinking on a project, but just as often it can be the unexpected idea that often catches you when you don’t have a pen — or as is often the case with me… driving the car. (My theory is that ideas put down their defenses simply because I’m not prepared to capture them. Or maybe it’s really that, when I’m looking at them directly, I’m actually too stiff to catch them.)

You can mindfully make space for this kind of creative revelation through regular meditation or any sort of allowance for a quiet, reflective time. This is especially the kind of creative act that seems to be in direct opposition to our Western ideas of creativity. It is generally believed that if we aren’t obviously at work on something, it isn’t really work. We convince ourselves that sitting down and meditating awhile is avoidance, when it can actually be the most powerful tool in our arsenal. (It doesn’t mean we won’t have to craft the idea into something brilliant, but if we have something truly deep to start with, our chances of finding success and enjoyment will be much higher.)

What is often missing in our pursuit of creative ideas in Western culture is the process of unfolding and allowing for the quiet time that truly encourages inventiveness. I would even argue that working less on something in the early stages and taking regular breaks to invite inspiration in can make the work stronger for the mere fact that the result will be more soulful and truly inspired.

The Page of Cups specifically represents the kind of inspiration that seems to come from outside of ourselves. It can be like the Genius that Elizabeth Gilbert describes in her Ted Talk, or it can be given structured time to appear as David Lynch does through his daily use of Transcendental Meditation. It can also come through synchronicity, in the form of an inspired suggestion from a friend. Maybe, like the Tarot card, it seems fishy at first, and upon deeper reflection is revealed for the stroke of genius it truly is.

It seems obvious that in most cases our creativity needs some direction and application of effort to be fruitful, but I feel that leaving room for the strike of lightning to appear is an essential part of our practice, and necessary to find real — and deeper — inspiration. At the very least it requires the eternal presence of a pen and paper; at best the time to let an idea unfold in stages; and at most it involves a routine, quiet time in which to unravel ourselves awhile and enter our subconscious world without expectation.

I think we lose the highest joys inherent in creative discovery when we don’t give at least some space in our creative practice for insight to strike. For me, that “Eureka!” is one of the most exciting things about being a creative being, and one of my favorite moments in the act of creation. I especially love when the inspiration hits as a big surprise, when it feels like a gift from the blue. Personally, I believe it is, and it is always out there, waiting for us to softly listen.

Elizebeth Gilbert on “Having a Genius” vs. “Being a Genius”


David Lynch on Trascendental Meditation

When Comparison Kills Creativity

Lately I’ve been comparing myself to my heroes, and I’m realizing how destructive it can be. How do you regain your passion for your work when you are feeling oppressed by feelings of inadequacy?

I have a deep, dark secret. I compare my work to other people’s work, all of the time. What’s worse, I compare myself to people who have a lifetime of solid, focused experience. On good days, I catch myself, remind myself how well I am doing for where I am and how far I have come. On bad days… oh those very bad days… I am no good and will never “make it”… wherever it is I am trying to “make it” to.

I have a theory, that I am not the only one who does this, and that it is one of the major reasons why creative people often never get anywhere with their work. This habit of comparison is so deeply ingrained in us that it can sometimes cut us off at the knees without ever emerging into our primary consciousness as a problem.

It’s been hitting me hard this week. I have really been enjoying creating of late, and I’m very well pleased with the personal progress I’m making. I see huge leaps in every new drawing, every new painting. If I sit with the process and how precious that is, I can feel very good about where I am.

When I think about where I personally want to be… making a graphic novel that people enjoy… well, there goes everything below the knees. I don’t know where to start, and what I have done lines up so little with what I personally enjoy. (Making stuff that is true to you but not exactly what you like is another topic entirely… I think there are many artists and writers out there who don’t necessarily make the sorts of things that they personally have a taste for. But that’s a post for another day.)

For me, I know that comparison is the problem. I am reading the best graphic novels out there, familiarizing myself with new and old works that I hope will help me find my way forward. It’s like I’m trying to paint ballerinas with a kid’s watercolor set and comparing myself to Degas.

But I know the truth. There is plenty of room in the vast wealth of experience for me to exist at whatever place I live in my skill-set. And I know that I am further along than I realize, especially further when I am in a dark mood about where my current abilities live within the spectrum.

Perspective is a very valuable tool to have as creative person. If you went to school for a creative career you may think that critical points of view are the only valid perspective. But true perspective includes much more than the critical hue, and thinking that criticism is the path to perspective alone will make it very difficult to maintain passion for your work. Real perspective takes into account personal experience, joy, business, life dynamics, and a million other sundry concerns. To have perspective is to realize that the world is full of things that we’d consider good and bad, and there is someone succeeding in every camp, no matter what our opinions on the matter are. To have perspective is to know that we fit in that vast tapestry just as we are, no better no worse, and that the only thing we need to offer is our commitment and enjoyment, and trust that we are already a thread in the greater whole. Sure, we’ll get better. We’ll keep growing. It’s inevitable, especially if we are open to it. But our success does not always depend on how good we perceive ourselves to be. There is someone out there who wants what we can offer, right at this moment. The more we realize this, the more we will see the opportunities that have always existed, waiting just for us.

We are whatever we give our attention to. And the more attention we give to it, the more we become it. Endlessly.

And so I know if I compare myself from a standpoint of anything other than to discover what is unique in me, then I will only find myself emphasizing wrongs that don’t exist in reality. (As best said in Hamlet… “There is nothing either good or bad, only thinking makes it so.”)

How can I fit the world with any other shape than the one I hold? I cannot change my form in this moment anymore than I can bend iron. But I can give my attention to my creations and watch myself expand in line with my creating. I can fall in love with the process of becoming, because I will always be becoming. Always.

Learning from others is one thing. We momentarily compare then abandon the comparison for the knowledge we enjoy as a result of that comparison. But judgment just takes the wind out of our sails, or someone else’s sails.

On the bad days, when my critic mind takes over, I try to take a deep breath and look for something to appreciate… and then I get back to work.

Having Fun is the Secret to Mastery

A special drawing class is teaching me more than just what I am capable of as an artist… It is also teaching me the meaning of Life, the Universe, and Everything. Good-bye Perfectionism. Hello Fun.

I’ve been really busy lately, and I’m having a blast. In the effort to figure out exactly what I want to do with Mephisto I have taken a less direct approach and turned my attention to my painting and drawing skills. When you’ve been creating awhile you start to see the signs of a sticky quagmire in the works… That sinking feeling that you aren’t sure what to do next, which leads to doing nothing at all. So I decided to focus on one of my most apparent concerns. My drawing and painting skills.

I haven’t been much of an avid drawer in a long time. It all harkens back to my mother, though it’s not her fault, really. She was a perfectionist and she passed the curse on to me, but I am responsible for giving it regular water and fertile soil. I’ve drawn enough off and on–thanks to moments of intense yearning or the prodding of my art teachers–that when I really catch a fire I can do some awesome stuff. But I’m done with having to burn through the heavy weight of each insecure fresh start. I’m ready to find the fun again. It’s the only thing that will sustain me.

I signed up for a local teacher’s class, Phil Sylvester from The Drawing Studio. I took his class once before on the inspiration of a close friend. She told me I’d love his teaching style, and she was right. His way was practically the reverse of everything I had been taught in school. He was all about deconstructing the inner editor and flowing into the work through the fun instead of what was deemed “right” or “wrong”. He emphasized regular creative expression and engaged interest as a means of mastering technique, instead of insisting upon proportion and intense study as a first course before one can be a true artist. He imagines you have a certain number of crappy drawings to get through in a lifetime, so you might as well start each one with vigor and relish the road of getting through them sooner rather than later. Following the fun, he argues, is the only way to sustain interest in any endeavor long enough to master it.

Right now my husband and a fellow student from back in college (not to mention a dear friend) are taking Phil’s beginner class with me, which I am taking again, because I love that open feeling I get when one I am allowed to be a beginner and see the endless possibilities before me. I love watching what people produce in that environment where they are no longer limited by some ridiculous construct of what they can or should be capable of. They learn to come in through the fun, the heart of why we create. And it’s pretty freaking amazing what comes out when you let your guard down.

Goodbye images of tortured artists languishing in dark rooms with only a cup of black coffee and a seething inner critic to keep them company. Hello self-expression, liveliness, and exploration. It doesn’t matter if you’re just starting out… You can learn to have fun at any moment, no matter where you are in your journey. Start with the smallest little flutter of possibility and joy. It will lead the way to joyful creation.