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Business Smarts for the Creative Arts (October 2014): Personal Effectiveness

By Caley Cannon

Personal Effectiveness

Business skills aside, artists and designers are masters of the creative process.  In Art without Compromise, Wendy Richmond engages in a philosophical examination of inspirational and innovative processes that occupy artists, and looks at cultural influences, technological restraints, and personal daily experience.  Richmond is a practicing artist, teacher, and writer.  Since 1984, her column, “Design Culture,” has been a regular feature in Communication Arts, a leading trade publication for the visual communication industries.  Her book considers the circuitous path of the creative process and the role of the surrounding culture in creative practice and inspiration.  She develops a three-stage process for creativity that incorporates observation, reflection, and articulation to sustain creative energy and accomplishment.  Remaining open-minded, approaching creative work with a sense of play, and committing to daily creative practice are other elements that the author identifies as important to creativity.  The overall theme developed throughout Art without Compromise is one of awareness of historical context, cultural frameworks, one’s self and self-motivation, and the power of personal expression and memory.

Rhonda Schaller’s Create Your Art Career combines visualization, journaling, mind mapping, and career planning exercises to demystify the creative process and empower creative professionals to succeed as entrepreneurs.  Like Richmond, Schaller approaches the creative process in an intensely personal way that is based firmly on self-knowledge; however, Schaller also attempts to bridge the gap between the process of creativity and practical business matters.  The book’s visualization and journaling exercises will assist artists with goal setting and self-assessment to discover potential and career direction.  The author’s reflective approach to strategizing a creative career can make entrepreneurship more accessible for artists and designers who might otherwise be intimidated by similar concepts offered in a traditional business context.

Bēhance, an online platform to exhibit the work of creative professionals from all industries, has established a book series through 99U, its research/education initiative and website, to promote new research and empower the work of creative professionals.  A related book, Manage Your Day-to-Day, edited by Jocelyn Glei, compiles the insights of researchers, academics, and creative professionals in areas of creativity, psychology, motivation, entrepreneurship, and project management to provide a series of best practices for productive, creative work.  Practical consideration is given to managing technology and workflow, preventing burnout and procrastination, perfectionism, and achieving a healthy work-life balance.  The book’s pragmatic approach to the creative process shows artists and designers how to transform abstract ideas into actions that lead to a successful creative career.

Glei also edited Maximize Your Potential, another book in the 99U series.  Maximize Your Potential seeks to guide creative professionals toward new opportunities and career development by cultivating collaborative relationships, proactive behaviors, and thoughtful risk taking.  Uncertainty and complacent routines can limit creative careers, but the contributors to this book suggest methods and perspectives that can overcome these boundaries.  The essays offer successful creative professionals’ ideas on building a creative career that is meaningful and fulfilling.  Contrary to the suggestions of some, contributor Cal Newport asserts that “follow your passion is bad advice.”  Instead, he argues, a satisfying career is based on the fulfillment of particular lifestyle conditions and on patient skill development, rather than passion.  This approach encourages cultivating and leveraging skills in order to create a career that affords the desired lifestyle characteristics (such as independence and respect), rather than following one’s passion in the hope that someday it will translate into a successful career.

Another perspective on creativity and productivity is offered by Austin Kleon in Steal like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You about Being Creative.  He explores the idea that “nothing is original” and that “every new idea is just a mashup or a remix of one or more previous ideas.”  Artists and designers are inspired by and borrow from a wide range of people, experiences, and ideas to expand on and further develop a new idea.  Kleon is a frequent participant in CreativeMornings, SXSW Interactive, HOW Design Live, and TED Conferences—events (and websites) that are designed with creative professionals and entrepreneurs in mind.  He offers a humorous and succinct view of the creative process, emphasizing that people (whether creative professionals or not) can become more creative in their approach to life and problem solving, and more connected to their communities.  The creative process, according to Kleon, includes becoming a collector of ideas and sources of inspiration, and a productive procrastinator who can follow the serendipitous path toward new ideas and creative work.  The role of community in the life of the creative professional involves not only partnerships and networking, but also sharing the results of the creative process with others so that they may borrow from it for their own work.  According to Kleon, the secret to a satisfying career and creative growth is to “do good work and share it with people.”

Works Cited