#58 Creativity is a Work Ethic


Creative people are not magicians. Ideas are not something that you need special skill to find. Someone may be born with talent but that doesn’t make them idea makers. Have you ever wondered why certain people always seem to be doing something cool or maybe they seem to always have great ideas?

Everyone has ideas. Many people have great ideas. And some of those ideas are worth sharing but they never see the light of day.

Ideas are just potential without action.

If all we ever do is have great ideas and we keep them to ourselves, it’s like they never happened. Creativity is a work ethic. Today’s post is about how to make sure your ideas don’t die by realizing they take work.

Being creative and having great ideas is like farming. No one would argue that farmers have an amazing work ethic. I found some epic inspiration in the concepts of what a farmer does. Now let’s be clear, I have never farmed. The closest I have come is watching my husband and kids plant an herb garden in the backyard. But I know [objectively] a few things about making things grow. You need a few essential things: good ground/soil, a seed, and water. Not only do you need these things, you have to work to make that seed grow. Just buying a seed pack won’t grow anything if it just sits on your counter. Having great soil won’t guarantee any growth. You have to cultivate the ground; you have to make sure it is good for receiving that seed, you have to work at moving it around and then you have to take the seed out of the packet and put it into the ground. But it doesn’t stop there. You have to water it, every single day. You have to check the progress and make sure it’s growing, and pull weeds around it. I may have gone a little long on this metaphor but you get the point. Ideas are the same way.

No one, not even creative people just wake up one day and have an idea and the moment it pops into their head, there it is, a full blown –fill in the blank- whatever your idea is, it will not get realized just by you thinking it.

In order to have great creativity that leads to great ideas, you have to work at it. 

You need to make your mind a place that is prepared to receive good ideas (soil), you have to take those ideas (seeds) and actually pursue them, and you need to take action (planting, watering, etc.) on those ideas in order to make them grow and be noticed. All of these things take work.


Many people have really great ideas that they misinterpret as fleeting thoughts and they are disregarded and never thought of again. The difference between these people and a creative [professional] is that the creative sees those ideas and grabs onto them instead of letting them float away.
Dandelion seeds are something that comes to mind when I think about this concept. They are basically a weed, but I think they are so beautiful.
Anyone could pass by a dandelion or disregard them as a hazard to their lawn,
but others will take the time to pick them up and blow their fluffy seeds
into the air just to watch them fly and see where they will go.
Creative people choose to see beauty in many things. We choose to not let the seeds of our ideas go. Once we’ve found that idea, or even just the seed of an idea, we have an intense desire to see that idea grow.
I am not good at growing plants, in fact, I’ve either over watered
or under watered virtually every plant I’ve ever had—to death.
But [I like to think] I have a very green thumb when it comes to growing ideas.

Ideas and inspiration can come from literally anywhere.The point for today is to just acknowledge that everyone has ideas, we just need to make sure we don’t lose them so we have an opportunity to do something with them later.


Creative people don’t just want to see our ideas grow, we make it a point to plant them somewhere where they will grow
Making your mind a place that is ripe for growing new ideas can be hard work.
We cultivate the ground/our minds to always be ready not only to receive the ideas that cross our paths, but we practice at knowing how to internalize those ideas so they don’t get passed by. I wonder how many great ideas have been lost simply by someone not capturing them because they don’t really think they have good ideas.
When we have ideas or interesting thoughts, we capture them; in an app, on a piece of paper (or our arms), or in a voice memo-but we capture them.
We have prepared our minds to know that good ideas don’t come easy and when we have them, we have to be ready to receive them and work at keeping them.

A way that I prepare my own mind to be ripe for planting new ideas. I do this by constantly feeding my brain with new, exciting, and interesting things. I read books, I watch good movies and intriguing documentaries, I follow artists, illustrators, and photographers through social media, I watch TEDtalks and YouTube videos of people whose philosophies I admire, and I listen to music that brings me joy. These are just a few things but the point is, I fill my brain “soil” thoughtfully with many creative things so that when an idea comes, it actually has somewhere to grow. But this takes work, and dedication.

It’s much easier to binge Netflix than to spend
time creating fertile space in your mind for ideas.


So you’ve captured the idea, you’ve made sure that you have a place for it to grow; now the get your hands dirty work begins.
It’s not enough to just have an idea and save it.
It’s not even enough to have a fertile creative mind for that idea to go.
Without the hard work of planting that idea and doing something to
make it grow every day, it will always stay a seed.
Or it will start to grow and then die because you never took care of it.
Too many amazing ideas get left to wither in the sun because it was either too much work to make them happen or they were forgotten. I struggle with this in my life. I have lots of good ideas but because some of them require a lot of really hard work, I often let them sit on an Evernote page labeled “someday”. But sometimes, sometimes I take those creative ideas out and I decide to do something with them. I figure out what I need to do to grow the idea and then I set deadlines and goals that I want to reach to make them happen.
This is the digging the hole for the seed, getting your hands dirty, and going out to water your seed, every day after day, week after week; whatever it takes. Growing an idea takes commitment and determination.
Making an idea grow practically (instead of the plant metaphor, lol) is taking that poster idea and starting to sketch and design it, it’s taking that song idea and writing lyrics and music, its taking that book you’ve been wanting to write and putting together an outline or some chapter titles, you get the point.
If you don’t want to do the hard work of figuring out action steps,
and then actually do them, all your ideas will collect dust and die.
The fact is that creativity is something you are, but it is also something that requires a work ethic, especially for those days when you don’t feel creative. Part of the creative work ethic is a creative process. Bringing any idea to fruition will always take steps and those steps always have tasks attached.


The final (and easiest) part of the creative work ethic, is the “harvest”. This is when we can stand back from our workspace and look at what we’ve done and breathe in, knowing all our work was worth it. There’s always something to gain from hard work, whether it’s at your job, in your garden, or on a passion project. After planting, cultivating, and watering your idea, you will eventually be able to pick that amazing idea out of the ground as an actual physical thing, no longer is it out of reach. Creativity as a profession is no joke and it’s hard work.
Realizing that a work ethic is a part of being consistently creative
will free you up from a lot of anxiety and help you realize that no idea
is impossible if you’re willing to get a little dirty to make it happen. 
Hard work always reaps a reward. Design is a wonderful world. I hope you’ll join me here, because design matters (and so does creativity). See you next week!

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