I am assuming that some of my amazing readers are creative types. Maybe you are a writer, an artist, a musician, crafter, or some sort of performer. Even if you are not a creative type I am willing to bet that many of you know at least one of your quirky friends who are the creative type. With this in mind I wanted to take a few seconds to discuss interacting and communication with your wonderful and loving creative people.
First off, every creative type has their own process. Some creators need to be surrounded by people during their creative process and other creative people need to be left alone. Sometimes your creative sorts need silence, on other occasions they need a bombardment of stimulus. Some creative types are able to produce and be creative on a regular basis and are trained to a schedule, some creative types need to strike while the iron is hot and create in bursts.
Regardless of the process, there is one universal truth. The biggest enemy of the 'creative' is time.
It never feels like you have enough hours in the day to create. Sometimes you spend your days working on banal daily routines while dreaming of your paints and models, sometimes you spend your days neck deep in art while ignoring the outside world. Regardless of the moment, time and the allocation of time are the tag team enemies of the artist.
Many artists want to be social, to go out to the world, and to frolic. We want to love, live, and grab a hold of what it is that we love in life. We would love to be drinking, hiking, traveling, reading, talking, and letting the stimulus we love permeate into our souls. Most artistic types, even if we don’t show it, are exceptionally passionate in our own ways.
But the problem we face is that in a 24 hour day there is never enough time! Most creative types have some sort of day job that takes up the majority of our schedule. Between travel times and work most artists lose a massive chunk of our life NOT doing the thing that drives us daily. And for those of us who are lucky enough to work doing what we love, we normally have to produce at such a breakneck speed that even though we have so much more time for the creation process, we still feel rushed to actually produce our passions.
With time being the enemy of creative sorts, I would offer the following advice to people who interact with productive sorts on a regular basis. Much in the same theme as How to Train your Dragon, I like to think of the following as ‘How to Live with a Creative’.
1) They may be your friend, they may be your lover, but if you interrupt them when things are flowing hot then you are likely to get stabbed with the nearest dangerous object. Maybe it won’t be physical objects that stab you, and there is the very real potential that the dangerous object could be their thoughts and their words. Being on a roll and having hot inspiration is a transient thing that happens, and when it does, it has to be capitalized on immediately. It is a type of inspiration that, if lost, will not come back.
Fortunately, like growling cats or rattling snakes, every creative sort puts out warning signs that they need to be left alone. Maybe it is a closed door, or a particular set of headphones. Maybe they stop posting on facebook or they decline and pass on social events. If they communicate with the outside world often times it is expressions of both pride and exhaustion.
2) Don’t ‘waste the time’ of creative folks. Now with time being the number one enemy, time needs to be rationed and used wisely. When you are communicating with someone in the middle of the creative process often times their responses will be VERY short. Maybe it’s a grunt, or a single sentence response, but communication distinctively changes between yourself and the creative. Now when I say don’t waste the creative’s time, I don’t mean don’t communicate with them. Feel free to communicate as you normally would. However, when you get very simple responses understand that the person you are talking to is formulating worlds and using the majority of their processing power on something that is not the communication you are having.
So what is wasting their time you ask? Prattle conversations, meaningless banter, and forcing conversation and interaction beyond the time that a creative can currently provide you. Don’t ask what’s wrong all the time if your creative friend occasionally gives single sentence responses. You KNOW what is going on if a few seconds of thought are given to the interaction. One of the worst and most annoying interactions I regularly have as a creative sort is the chain of emails explaining that I’m not mad/disappointed/upset/frustrated just because I give a short answer. Now when I have to give 6 follow up emails to explain that and I have to stop the production process? YUP! Now I’m annoyed.
If the human mind and soul were a computer, a creative in the middle of their process is a CPU running at roughly 80% and high heat. Sure, you can start the interactive software to run the ‘outside life’ sub protocol, but don’t be surprised if that shit runs slow and occasionally doesn't run at all. If you try to force your application without enough processing space, you very well could have a burning wreck in front of you.
3) Unless you have something that the creative type has agreed to do on a particular time table, never hit up your creative friend with a ‘do this now’ sort of communication. The truth of the matter is that while you may have finished work, gotten home, watched your favorite show, and now have had time to relax the same is probably not true for your creative friend. Chances are good that your creative friend has had an idea bouncing around in their head and annoying them all day. They have had to keep this muse alive while dealing with the day to day stuff that they HAD to occupy their mind with for work. Once they get out maybe your creative eats, maybe they don’t. Sometimes creative needs a buffer between work and creation to change gears. However, since most creative don’t get to choose when the muse hits, chances are good that they drop their stuff en route to their creation area and dive into their work. Expecting a creative to give time, when you want, is the quickest way to cause your clay and paint stained friend to squint their eyes and growl.
4) Being a creative is like an artistic binge and purge culture. When creation is running hot the creative gives every single bit of their ability to it. The creative loses track of time. Days, weeks, months fade away. The creative becomes fueled by things like caffeine and often forget to eat. The creative turns into this obsessed creature that is somewhere between divine inspiration and Gollum. When your artistic friend finishes a purge period, on occasion, they glare out something they remembered to be called a ‘window’ and have the recollection that there was a world out there. The creative reaches out to the world and looks to live big, experience, and binge on life. Now creative folk understand that not everyone else runs on our schedule (hell, even other creative don’t run on the same schedule), but we will often reach out to everyone and anyone to try and make up for lost time.
Sometimes we creative forget that time has passed. It’s sort of sad but when a creative climbs out of a production fugue they may not completely process that life has kept moving on the outside. Please gently let them know which outdated in jokes are gone, catch them up on relationship changes, and remember that your creative troglodyte doesn’t mean any harm when they ask about the relationship that ended two months ago… or the birthday they missed… or not knowing about a massive world change. While you have no responsibility to be the bridge for your creative to cross over, understand that it may take them a couple of days to catch up with what is going on. Don’t worry though! Chances are good it will only be a few weeks before your creative vanishes back into their studio.