A while back, an industry peer said something to me that rocked my world.

A Career in Creativity

I was going through the tough process of shutting down my creative advertising business. I called up an old friend and we sat down for a cup of coffee. The main topic? The ins and outs of a career in creativity.

A creative career is hardly ever a straight and narrow path. For me, it was a zig zag across the field of advertising. First graphic design (my major at Michigan State University). Then copywriting. Then interactive – UX design, SEO, a little bit of coding… Eventually I started cutting my teeth in creative leadership. Then I started my business, and things went topsy turvy. Take creative direction, art direction, and any and every aspect of execution. Add in personnel management, finance and accounting, and business leadership. Throw in some comic relief. Blend to desired pulp. (And more than a few times it felt like that, too!) After ten years of hopscotch across the company org chart, I was feeling a little lost.

Looking for Inspiration

My friend asked me what I wanted to do. Have you ever been asked that and really, really thought deeply about it? To me that’s like casually saying “What is the meaning of life?” After a short pause, I was pretty confident… giving a big shrug. The conversation naturally moved into motivation – what gets you out of bed in the morning? Still shrugging! Umm… coffee? But don’t worry; here’s where the magic happened.

The Revelation

My friend said the surprising truth is this: The inspiration is in the work. Hold on; what?? How many times as a creative have you searched the internet for inspiration? Or better yet, stared into the abyss waiting for inspiration to “strike?” Well this theory says that inspiration doesn’t strike until you do! You don’t know where you’re going? Start walking. You don’t know who you are? Start talking – telling your story. You don’t know what you want? Start working! The inspiration comes from doing the work.

The Inspiration Is In the Work

This works on so many levels, whether it’s a small problem or a major life decision. The next time you’re feeling uninspired, just start working. If the work isn’t speaking to you, work on something else. Get your hands dirty. Break the rules. Make a mess. And see how you feel. For me, it’s been a life-changer. When I start working, I either fall in love with the task at hand and become full of new ideas to see it through, or I get clarity on why I don’t love it and what I’d rather be doing instead. Yes, time and time again, I’m finding inspiration in the work. And I think you will too.

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