Creativity and How To Earn It

So I’ve been in a rut the last … meh. I dunno. Few months? Years? By education and experience, I’m a technical writer. That’s what it says on my several thousand dollar piece of paper that I earned several years ago. Over the course of the last 4 or 5 years, I’ve noticed that I’m not a fan of “2nd person imperative/3rd person indicative” writing. It leaves 0 room for creativity (unless you want to count the little trade secret of how every writer has his/her “signature” in every document they write. Don’t ask, cuz they’ll never tell what it is.), and it gets rather … tedious. I have a good eye for detail, so it lends itself well to my writing out things like procedures, instructions … we’re talking 100+ steps on how to make a peanut butter sandwich. That’s how I knew I could find a niche in tech writing.

 

Aaaaaand so what? At the end of the day, it doesn’t make me happy. When it’s all said and done, I get bored *super* easily with it. So when this new job came along that *isn’t* tech writing-based, I was super stoked. Beyond excited. Hyped/amped/revved … and so on and so forth. I started late last year, jumped right into it with some white papers (hey, they’re not procedures … anything different is good), and that’s about it. I asked my manager when he would have some time to review what he feels are my specific roles and responsibilities, and that just never happened. So I’ve gone department to department to department (ad nauseum), asking what I can do to help. I have a strong writing and editing background, so I can proofread, format, edit, and whatever else needed. And for a while, there was work coming in.

It’s stopped, and now I’m back to being bored. I *literally* have nothing to do at work. And it sucks. Most people would think, “Dude! You’ve got it easy! You can just surf and do whatever you want?! Don’t look that gift-horse in the mouth!” Except it’s not that simple. By moral code, I have a difficult time knowing that I’m getting paid and not producing anything worthwhile or useful to my employer. So … there’s that dilemma. Yah, I have surfed. To CNN. To Fox News (gotta keep a balance, right)? To some hockey-related websites, football sites, related message boards … and truthfully, it’s not as fun as you’d think. Well, okay … it’s not as fun for me. I’m sure I fall squarely into the overwhelmingly vast minority on this one. That’s fine. I get it.

 

So I’ve been in this rut. Work-wise, blog-wise, life-wise … it’s been a kind of downer. And I’m tired of it. I *have* to get out of it? The question is: how?

 

Right now, my wife is on a hike with one of my daughters. She and some friends are going to this waterfall that I would love to visit, but I have my standards when it comes to photography. I know exactly what shot I would want to get, and sadly, I don’t have the necessary filter right now. I will by Tuesday or Wednesday, but that doesn’t help today.

 

What that *did* help me with, on the other hand, is to come up with a list of things which I enjoy doing and feel that I do relatively well. Things like photography, writing, tie-dyeing, video game playing (when I actually sit down and play, anyway … and if I’m being honest with myself, it’s rather just an escape than any kind of creativity jump-starter) … these are highly marketable skills. Yes, tie-dyeing is a highly marketable skill. People will pay good money for well-patterned shirts.

 

Here’s what I realized today: I stayed home from this hike because a) I’m in this funk, b) I wanted to just sit around and watch something on Netflix, and c) I didn’t really want to trudge up this this waterfall if I didn’t have what it takes to get the picture I want to take. Yah, I could take a great shot of the valley below, or get some nice scenic pics … but I can also get those the next time they go up, at which point I’ll have my new filters (thank you, Amazon!).  So I’m at home, writing this blog post and listening to Dream Theater’s Awake CD.

 

And then it hit me like a ton of bricks: I don’t *want* to listen to other people’s music, or look at other people’s photos. I want to make my own mark. 20 years ago, I bet these guys in Dream Theater were sitting around thinking, “Man, there’s some excellent music out there, but I bet we could make excellent music too.” And so it is with me: I  *can* take excellent pictures. I *can* make excellent tie-dyed shirts, and they don’t have to be a peace sign, or a smiley face, or a mushroom. 2 years ago, when I had a booth at our town’s festival, I made a ladybug shirt that was just mind-blowing. I’m not saying that to brag: I’m saying that because at that point, NO ONE had actually dyed a ladybug. At least, not one that was posted online that I could find. And it took some work, yah … but the finished product was just amazing.

 

The couple of weekends ago, some friends of ours went on a drive with us to this tiny town in Northern Utah to get some pictures of the night sky, specifically of the galactic center, which after sunset was sitting at about 55-60 degree angle relative to the horizon. I captured a bunch of RAW images, brought them home, and started playing with the RAW editor in Photoshop. And by “started playing with,” I mean for the first time. Ever. I tinkered, looked up some Youtube vids, and did the best I could. And … yah, the images looked okay, but at 100%, something just looked off. Like, WAY off. I couldn’t figure out why all my pictures looked like Picasos.

 

I sent the RAW files to a buddy of mine who’s been shooting in RAW forever. He thought they looked great, with the settings he was using. That made me wonder why mine sucked, which led me to believe that it had to be something in the settings that I had screwed up. After re-opening and re-investigating, sure enough … fixed them, sharpened them, and now they look 100 times better.

 

Now … I told you all that about the picture not to brag, but to prove a point: creativity can be a product of a stream of consciousness that just flows out of you, but as a general rule, if you want to to look its best, you have to go back, re-evaluate, study, learn, fix, and accept that you can get better at anything you want, IF you put in the time.

 

To that end, I have some dye bottles to fill. Lots and lots and lots of bottles …  🙂

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