How a Creative Team Loses Steam
Posted on February 25, 2014
It seems like almost everyone today has a job that involves making content and attracting an audience.
The age of social media, brand journalism, content marketing, self-publishing, self-promotion, idea-preneurism, etc, has turned many of us into professional creators. Unlike the old days, you also have to be your own proofreader, photo editor, publisher, video producer, digital strategist, and more.
It’s just a matter of time before you hit a wall and feel overwhelmed. When an entire creative team experiences this, the situation can quickly evolve into a new level of hell for everyone.
While it’s a crazy way to make a living, I’ve managed to get by with a code of creative conduct. I call this The Way of The Writer, because that’s what I spend most of my time doing, but it could work in other creative fields. It’s just five simple ideas that help me keep a project from going off-track. Hopefully, the ideas below will resonate with you too.
1. The way is inside you, not anywhere else.
Creative teams lose steam when they get busy working on something they don’t really care about. They justify the reward and bully themselves to finish the work. That’s always when people start overdosing on coffee, cigarettes, junk food, etc, because their natural sense of motivation has shut down. Eventually, this may lead to a ‘shut down’ or burning out.
Creative teams can keep moving forward when they commit to something they feel is worth making, because they genuinely care about the outcome, and this gives them a quiet power to see things through. This is why creative teams should value honesty: it actually translates into real energy.
2. Simple tools, beautiful thoughts.
Creative teams lose steam when they start obsessing over complex strategies and processes. Tools, platforms, schedules, analytics, clever hacks: with all these weighing on your mind, you can’t make decisions, interpret outcomes or relate to your other team members with any sort of creative sensitivity. You end up annoyed that your team doesn’t function with the robotic efficiency that you expect.
Creative teams move forward when they focus on the inner game of creativity: simple and beautiful ideas that can move another human being and create a unique and memorable experience. Surround yourself with the good stuff that inspire you — music, comics, movies, design, etc — so that you’ll never forget this.
3. Work to grow.
Creative teams lose steam when the work does not allow them to reach for something greater within themselves. If you keep within your safe and predictable boundaries, your brain will start to shut down. And your work will end up dull and lifeless.
Creative teams move forward when they are given the support to go boldly into unknown territory, and they get a chance to expand their own sense of what’s possible. It exhilarates them and makes them yearn for more. Even if it’s just a small area of your work, attempt something daring.
4. We need to do this together.
Creative teams lose steam when they stop caring about everyone else. It’s a bad scenario when you have people working hard at their laptops, sharing documents on schedule, delivering their piece of the puzzle, but all without a sense of shared delight. That’s not collaboration, that’s co-working hell.
Creative teams move forward when they experience a sense of warmth and mutual support. This gives them the confidence to let loose and bring out their craziest ideas. That’s why it’s important to hang out and share crazy internet links sometimes.
5. Start as close to the end as you can.
Creative teams lose steam when they’ve been stuck at the starting line for too long. It saps their energy and causes them to doubt their own ability to make progress.
Creative teams surge forward when they have the end goal in sight, and they can marvel at how far they’ve travelled. So remember to celebrate your completed milestones. Push forward even before you feel you’re ready. Once you get closer to the end, you’ll feel a new confidence take over.
All I can say is, when things get rough, don’t spend time wondering if it’s too hard, too crazy, too pointless, if it’s easier to not bother and just start over somewhere else.
It just takes one person to make a difference. Consider the five ideas above and suggest ways to help your team pick up steam again. Because when your work is finally done, no matter what else happens you’ll feel like you’ve all crossed over into a new world together. If you quit, you’ll only deprive yourself and your team of this satisfaction.∗