Lack of experiences kill your creativity

It’s very easy for us humans to fall into the trap of sticking to what’s familiar. We like it because of how it make us feel. Comfortable is the word to use here. After all, who likes to struggle every day of their life?

I definitely don’t. But I recognised that it had crept up on me. I grew comfortable with what I’m doing with my life that my blog is suffering from lack of content. Comfort leads to writer’s block and that leads to no content created.

So being comfortable is bad.

Right?

Probably…

By allowing yourself to grow very comfortable and remain status quo, it’s very easy for you to find you are unable to think out of the box or come up with new solutions fast enough. It’s just a fact. Similar to how you keep doing the same set of exercises and your body has grown used to it, comfort leads to strengthening of existing neural connections that you have already established, and after a while the brain stops doing that because there’s no more necessary changes to the signalling.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with being comfortable. Comfortable sometimes could be you have reached the pinnacle of whatever skill you are developing. That means you could do that thing faster than before.

However, the key here is moderation.

New challenges and experiences forces the brain to create new connections and reshape existing ones. And when you keep doing that, the brain is constantly changing and reinforcing certain connections that ultimately results in its ability to come up with new ideas. This is where you can think out of the box when the time comes. If you keep practicing doing that, it can also make you more confident as a person when it comes to dealing with new problems as they come.

For those who are neurotic, constantly worrying about stuff or have low self-esteem, they would probably go like, “Are you crazy? Take on new challenges? I’d rather kill myself.”

I know. I can relate. It’s very difficult to get yourself to experience new things. Personally, I have this issue because of my innate desire for stability and consistency in life. I’ve lost count of how many times I need to will myself to do something different just so that I expand my knowledge and experience.

This is why you won’t see me asking someone to do something drastic just to increase or revive your creativity. For example, there is no need for you to jump out of a perfectly good airplane just so you can jumpstart your creativity. You won’t see me doing that either.

Yet, it’s not good either to leave the “lack of experience, can’t create” situation unresolved. Not if you want to grow any further.

Instead, what you probably could do is find and know where is your comfort zone. Then ask yourself if you are willing to go out of your comfort zone by just one or two steps. If you do, then do it. And if you do manage to go out of your comfort zone by three to ten steps, then it’s even better. If not, then it’s better that you don’t complain about your situation and just live with it.

And you know what?

Sometimes, the new experience can come from simply changing up where you stand or sit when you are riding the train to work or to go back home. Or having a drink at your local coffee shop. Or maybe just take a different route to go to your usual places.

When you stop

As with anything you do, the moment you stop doing it for several days in a row, that thing suddenly becomes so much harder to do. The closest analogy I could think of is, it’s like you are a car and trying to have your engine started. It simply splutter and screech as the key is turned. It took several tries before the engine finally start up causing black smog to spew out of the exhaust pipe. Even when you do move, the engine behave as though it was choking up and the overall movement just isn’t as smooth.

That’s what happen to me after taking a writing break. One whole week of not writing anything. Not even personal journal. It can be a little disconcerting, especially how I don’t feel like writing anything else after publishing the Resident Evil 2 (2019) review two days ago. It’s like the passion for it is gone.

And I don’t know about you but I suspect that not writing for a whole week can affect a person, especially if he or she is a writer at heart, at a subconscious level that ultimately led to the manifestation of bad feelings and discontent. In my case, it led me to feel disinterested in my work and doing things slowly.

So don’t make my mistake of completely shutting down the writing engine. Keep it running. If you need to take only a couple of days break, take it. But if the break is going to last a week or longer, then it’s best you don’t stop writing. It can be so much harder to restart you writing engine. What you could do is not publishing it. By not publishing it, you won’t feel like you need to be concern with the market. When you are finally in a better shape to publish your works, take the time to review through what you have wrote and see if you can put them up.

Taking a silo pause as a creator

Pause. Break.

It doesn’t matter which word but they are scary words for some. And just the mention of it could potentially trigger an anxiety attack in creators who have relatively low amount of followers and viewership. After all, at the beginning, there’s no other metrics other than view and like counts that matter more to the creator. He or she probably isn’t confident enough in their ability to attract and engage people to take a look at their content. So every view or like serves to validate their thoughts and feelings that they did something right. It’s serves as a micro fuel for their next content release.

Well, there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s only wrong when you tie your overall well-being to being validated. The moment you think you aren’t validated, you slipped into depression. And that’s bad.

For me, I came from that and have been slowly learning to not seek validation in what I do. It’s a difficult journey. And that’s why I never like the word “pause” when it comes to content creation. I feel like I should keep churning out content.

But for the past two days, the creative well that drive my writing is really empty. Every time the level is pulled and the bucket rise up, all I see is empty. Best part is, I knew it was coming ever since I put up the article titled, Focus on playing the infinite game. The metaphorical weather hasn’t been giving me the rain necessary to fill the well.

And you know what? My blog viewership have pretty much dropped to just a couple of visitor and even then those visitors are only here for the review I wrote about the Ogon Designs’s Stockholm V2 Smart Wallet. It’s in fact my most popular piece of content by view count. As for likes, it’s pretty much zero.

And I’m perfectly okay with that.

Even then, it doesn’t mean one should be ok with not creating. It’s a pause from writing for me but not a pause on other creative work.

You see, if you view yourself as a creator, there’s really no restriction on what you can create. The only possible limitation comes from whether you’ve got the skills for it or not. Even then, it’s probably a weak excuse.

Let’s use the following example.

You could be a full-time writer but at the same time you enjoy making cupcakes. And you know what? Making cupcake is a form of creation. So you have the skill to write and make cupcake. Now, you decided to take a break from writing because you are suffering from some kind of writer’s block. However, you can continue to make cupcake. And I’m pretty sure you will learn something from the process.

In my case, I may be suffering from a writer’s block but the other creative work that I can do is building software. I have learn and developed the skills for it over the last ten years or so. That’s why I’ve decided to spend some time to setup various development studios on my computer and learn different kind of development platforms. The next step would be to figure out a pet project to do so that I can take on the challenge of developing an iOS app (never done it before) for the frontend and a .NET Core web application for the backend.

This way, my coding skills can continue to improve, which in turn allows me to make more money. And what does having more money means for me? It allows me to create art because I won’t find myself starving, stressed out by how am I going to pay the bills and still can take my family out for meals.

So that’s why it’s important for one to be multi-skilled. It’s even better if you have totally different kind of creative skills. That way you can take a pause, switch between different kind of creative work and don’t feel like you hadn’t achieve anything. Furthermore, you become a more diverse person and that is fuel for your overall creativity.

The moment

It’s my belief that everyone would have a certain moment in their life when they realised something only after an event have long passed. And at that point in time, you would be in this weird situation of being simultaneously aware while still unwilling to accept the fact. The fact that the moment is already here. Slowly but surely, you accept the situation and move on with your life.

In my case, it was this realisation that I’m in my thirties only after months have passed since my thirty-first birthday, had achieve some stuff but not quite made an impact on the world. There is this doubt lingering at the back of your head whether you have enough time to achieve what you want in life and that people knows who you are. At the same time, you also know you have done your best and is ready to give your younger self some advice.

Now, in terms of personality, people can find me behaving still like a man-child on certain things because of my idealism. Seeing the world through rose-tinted glasses is still pretty much the thing I do. The inner-child in me is still pretty much alive when it comes to taking on new challenges and seeing new things. At the same time, certain aspect of my personality have changed as a result of the real world smashing in and slapping the idealism and inner-child around. So parts of my mind has been hardened by challenges it faced.

And it’s a constant struggle to keep that hardening process at bay because once that happen, it could potentially erode your ability to see the world differently and be creative. As a creator, I would hate for that happen.

Well, the biggest change that you grudgingly accept when you enters your thirties is your stamina and physical capabilities is no longer like in your twenties. Excessive sitting down makes you tired. Excessive standing makes you tired. Eat too much and you feel sick. Work too long you feel like sleeping for days. And if you are a gamer? You will find that your reaction times in first person shooter games drop dramatically. So you end up dying more often. And lastly, your weight just keep piling on despite your effort to exercise.

But it’s not the end of the world.

This moment, this very act of being aware of your age and proud of what you have achieved, is cause for celebration. At least, you didn’t fumble through life aimlessly. You are still alive. You have also gone through enough life challenges to enable you to make better decisions for your future as you enter your mid and late thirties. And maybe give you enough confidence to do the thing you really want to do as well as increasing your potential good impact on the world. It’s also a moment of your life where people can at least start taking you slightly more seriously than when you are in your twenties or teens.

For me, I will still keep doing what I do because deep down, I’m a minimalist when it comes to interests. The only problem to deal with is how to find the intersection of all my interests so that I can do and put out my best work for the rest of the world to enjoy.

To achieve mastery is to do it for free

As they say, money makes the world go round. It is precisely because of this that most people chose to keep mentioning money as the most important thing in the world.

They are not wrong. Without money, there’s a lot of things that you can’t do. No food for you. No access to water. No house. No clothes. And you can’t even get anywhere on public transport if you are utterly broke.

But if you are an idealist like me and someone who put emphasis on the experience and lessons learned more than anything else, you can’t help but feel that the people around you are sick. Sick in the mind. It’s especially so if they mentioned that everything you do should give you money in return.

Let’s put this into practice.

If let’s say all your writings are behind a paywall. By that I also mean the very first article that you ever wrote to be published. Not only that, you have just also just graduated from school with a Degree in Creative Writing and have no working experience publishing a piece of writing for another person but yourself. And submission to the professor as part of your coursework is not counted.

What do you think will happen to you?

It would be very obvious that as a writer, you won’t be able to grow because no one will pay to read a newbie’s stuff. Not only that, the market is full of contents created by other writers and they are mostly free. So why should anyone pay to access yours?

For me, there’s an example I could use. For those who follow me long enough knows my day job is a software creator. My Honours Degree in Engineering (Computer Science) could get me through most doors of companies based in Singapore. But how did I graduate in the first place? Before entry, I spent time creating software, doing my own pet projects to experiment with something new. That was how it made me better than most of my peers when it comes to programming. If I hadn’t done that, I could honestly tell you I will struggle through the course. Even after graduating and working, I continue to spend time to read up on some of the latest development in technology and software.

And just over the weekend, I setup Docker on my Macbook and run a container inside of it. The container is host to the Microsoft SQL Server. And why did I do that? I wanted to understand what is Docker all about. Been hearing all about it but never used it anywhere during my work. And if I waited for my company to finally used Docker in one of their projects and have me onboard, do you think they would want me to play with Docker considering I have no experience?

Besides all that, do you know that I also mentor some of my colleagues in coding despite them being way more senior than me in terms of age and work experience. Auditing their code style is also something I do without really being “paid” for it.

Now, the big difference between them and me is the passion in software creation. To them, it’s just a job. To me, it’s part of who I am since I see myself as a creator. And to be any good, I have to continue to improve by learning anywhere and anytime I can. Same goes for my writing. Don’t even need money to push me forward.

With this, I hope you can see that to even be any good at what you do, you can’t expect to be rewarded now with money. You’ve got to have the interest and passion for the thing you are doing. Furthermore, life is all about playing the infinite game; to continuously grow and be better than who you are before. If you want to wait for money to spur you to do anything new, well, you will become stagnant very quickly.

And that is you playing the finite game.