My design buddy Jason Sturgill recently suggested I do a post on creative block. Little did he know, it was something I was already thinking about, having had a little bit of trouble with it myself recently.
1. CHANGE YOUR MEDIUM
I recently moved to Columbus, OH and I realized that the way you discover new things in a city is by getting lost.
Eventually though, you quit getting lost, you sink into habit, you getefficient and you stop discovering new things (whether the city has more new things to offer or not).
When you develop a craft, say drawing for instance, it becomes that efficient, go to habit for creativity. The problem is, in creativity,efficiency is not your only goal. Usually, you’re trying to find something new.
I draw for a living, but when I get stuck with drawing it helps me to turn to words and writing. When I finally get somewhere I go back to my comfort zone, my craft.
2. DROP PRECONCEIVED NOTIONS
I am unashamed to say I have been devouring the back catalog of Sam Weber’s illustration podcast “Your Dreams My Nightmares”. Honestly? In my opinion? It’s one of the best podcasts out there, and if you’re an illustrator, you’ve got no excuse, you need to be listening to it.
I recently listened to his conversation with Lisa Hanawalt and something she said struck a chord with me: sometimes she stresses out when someone hires her for an editorial job. The reason is that she has all these preconceived notions on what editorial work looks like…then she remembers that they are probably hiring her to do something funny, like she always does.
Often it’s pressure of some kind that is hampering our creativity, and for me it often comes from preconceived notions.
When you unlock and open the door wide open, and you quit thinking of what should be, you can start focusing on what something could be.
3. ESTABLISH CLEAR DEFINITION OF THE PROBLEM.
My wife and I are TERRIBLE at choosing where we want to eat. I used to want to just jump in the car and decide on the way. She hated that process…and for good reason.
It is much more efficient if we sat, took the time and determined where we wanted to go, before we set off.
It’s my temptation to jump in the car and get going because it feels more productive.
But what happens is I’m now trying to do two things, drive and brainstorm all at the same time, and neither am I doing very well.
When you have a creative task it’s easy to want to jump in the car and getting moving.
It feels productive.
However, more often than not, if you don’t know what you’re tying to achieve or where you want to go, it’s nearly impossible to get there!
I find when I’m feeling really stifled and confused about a project it’s because I didn’t take the time to understand the problem before hand.
Sitting down at the beginning and clearly defining the parameters is key to feeling confident and successful in creative endeavors.
Without understanding the problem, you can’t recognize the solution.
4. DISMANTLE YOUR FEAR.
Why are you more likely to win games when you have the home court advantage
I think part of it is confidence.
When I think I’m good at something, my head is clear.
When I try to do something that I’m not sure I’m good at, or I suspect I might even be bad at it, in the back of my mind there is this distracting chatter. It’s the other team’s fans yelling “you suck!”
Spec work being a hot button issue in our community recently afforded Dan Cassaro a swell of support when he publicly turned down Showtime’s offer of unpaid work. But despite the growing backlash against accepting projects without compensation, designers are content to remain silent about clients who refuse or systematically stall payment after a project is completed. While it remains important for members of our community to reject spec work invitations, we must also warn one another of those who leave contracts unfulfilled, turning what was legitimate work into a form of unpaid spec work.
With that said, the potential for this post to be misconstrued as bitter or angry is nearly infinite, and I’m afraid future partnerships may be jeopardized by writing it. However, after talking it over with multiple colleagues and researching similar scenarios, I’ve decided at the end of the day, I have to do what I feel is right.
If you are a designer or illustrator, I would advise against working with Tumblr.
I have been, and continue to be, an ardent supporter of their platform, having personally hosted Games Designed, Future 52, and my own blog on Tumblr for years. When they contacted me in January, I was ecstatic to work with them on their collaboration with Axe and Yahoo! Sports to celebrate the Super Bowl. However, that excitement has given way to exasperation in the seven months since that I have gone unpaid. I won’t quote any dialogue with tumblr’s employees, as I acknowledge and respect that our conversations were had in confidence. Furthermore, I just want to say that I don’t hold any ill-will toward the employees that I’ve spoken with, as I believe they have had nothing but good intentions. The problem lies not with them, but with the broken system they are working within. That said, here is a brief summation of the events that have transpired:
• Today is August 26th. My original invoice is 136 days past due.
• My wife (who handles my invoicing) and I have exchanged 49 emails with five different tumblr employees over a period of six months.
• I have received four different payment timelines, ranging from “This week” in March, to “Within a 60 day period” in July. Last week, a PO was issued, which should guarantee me payment within the next 60 days.
• I have submitted two invoices and I have signed up as a Yahoo! vendor twice.
• Tumblr employees have apologized 10 times for the delayed payment.
• Tumblr sent me a very nice thank you card when the project was wrapped. (I’m not being sarcastic of facetious, it was very thoughtful of them and I wish more clients sent follow-up cards like that.)
After six months of back and forth, in an attempt to find a contact within the company that might help me navigate the labyrinth, I reached out to a number of other freelancers who have worked with Tumblr. Of the six contacted, four have also gone unpaid for a considerable amount of time. All, including those who were eventually paid, experienced the same difficulties my wife and I have been wading through for months. This is what propelled me to write this post.
Make no mistake: Tumblr’s service has allowed clients to discover my work, helped me find new projects and offered me the chance to share my output with thousands. It’s for these reasons that I love Tumblr and am also incredibly disheartened by the professional disrespect my colleagues and I have received from them. They should not be asking for work from artists if there is no infrastructure in place to pay them within a reasonable period of time.
This issue is something Tumblr needs to address internally; a company that values art and the creative community should be prioritizing compensation and the respectful treatment of the people it works with. In the mean time, I encourage the creative community to be more open with one another about clients that leave invoices unpaid, and avoid those clients that act in such a manner. If we don’t respect ourselves, how can we ask for respect from our clients?