I already talked about my latest row with this phenomenon of postpartum depression after finishing a creative project, but acknowledging the problem is only part of the battle.
Being a rampant creative, I feel like coping mechanisms have become a second language. I'm too sensitive about things, so I need a coping mechanism. Surviving life as a cubicle jockey: coping mechanisms. Getting depressed after finishing a major creative project?
Fuck yeah, coping mechanisms!
First, let's understand why we get depressed after a creative project. In my earlier post, I told the story about finishing a piece of art that I had been laboring over for a few weeks. This thing was my go-to creative outlet, fulfilling my every creative desire. It also pushed my skills to new levels -- this thing seriously changed me, which I would hope any good creative project would.
So when all of that wraps up, there is going to be a void. It's inevitable. And the bigger the void, the harder the postpartum impact.
Now, how to cope?
REMEMBER THE NECESSITY TO CREATE IN THE FIRST PLACE
For me, the act of producing creative is a necessity. It centers me. It makes me happy. Yes, I want to find runaway success and all the money from things I create, but that's secondary to the core purpose of being a necessity. When I finish a project, it's important to remember that regardless of what happens next with the piece, the whole point was to create it. Plain and simple.
HONOR THE FINISHED PIECE FOR YOURSELF, NOT FOR OTHERS.
Pretty much everything I do is digital -- art on the iPad Pro, video, animations, ebooks. Of course digital is nebulous, so it's important to give your creative a proper home where, at very least, you can respect the work you put into it. For example, after well over 100 comic strips, I'm comforted knowing that anyone can peek in and devour the comic archives here.
For Debateasaurus Rex, I actually plan to have it printed on a canvas. It'll look nice in my dinosaur room.
Yes. I have a dinosaur room.
HAVE YOUR NEXT CREATIVE ENDEAVOR LOCKED AND LOADED -- DON'T GIVE YOURSELF TIME TO WALLOW IN THE DEBILITATING EMPTINESS OF CREATIVE POSTPARTUM.
The longer the gap betweep creative projects, the harder the depression hits. Keeping multiple projects lined up is smart. Having projects of varying complexities is even smarter, because if simple project is quicker to dive into, the shorter the gap will be.
Since I paused one #betterwithdinosaurs piece to work on Debateasaurus, I'm actually ready to dive right back into my pending triceratops piece. Plus, I'm also noodling over a massive apatasaurus piece that's primed for layout.
All of that is aside from my regularly scheduled work and freelance, on top of this new goal to blog about creativity.
A busy brain doesn't have room or time for depression. Until that brick wall of exhaustion catches up with you, but that's another story.
GET SOME DISTRACTIONS QUEUED UP
Creative projects are great, it's what we do. Forcing creativity, however, can at times be a very bad idea.
For me, the goal is to have two or three backup projects waiting in the wings, but there are also times when I need to just take a beat. The Creative Beast can be fed in different ways, and sometimes it doesn't necessarily mean a creative process.
Binge a TV show. Catch up on some movies. Read a book. Exercise. What ever the distraction, have something ready to turn to that can turn the creative part of your brain off for a bit. There's nothing wrong with that -- it recharges you, inspires you, and gives your brain a chance to naturally work through that postpartum creative process.
Happy depression, friends.
Now I'm suffering postpartum depression.
B-T-dubs, two things: I have a penis and by 'give birth' I mean to a piece of art I'm calling 'Debateasaurus Rex'. (Rexy for President, 2016 -- she doesn't just debate her opponents, she eats them, too!)
I've been working on a series of illustrations called Better With Dinosaurs for a few months now -- each one grows increasingly more complex than the last -- and the idea for a T. Rex looming over the two presidential candidates on the debate stage was so good, I actually preempted a half-finished triceratops piece to make it happen in a timely fashion.
The Beast wants what the Beast wants. (And by 'beast', I refer to my Creative Beast. She's some kind of mix between a T. Rex and the Incredible Hulk.)
I started Debateasaurus shortly after the first presidential debate of 2016 and worked diligently on it, nearly every day until it's completion. Now, obviously, I've always dabbled in art, but I've never gone where I went with this piece. And honestly, I surprised myself with the end result.
There's detail in this piece that I had no idea I was even able to capture.
What the fuck is THAT noise?!
Yes, when it comes to creativity, I love stretching myself and doing different things and, in most cases, making a whole ton of shit up as I go along. I don't intellectually know the proper technique on how to render the kind of detail that's in this illustration, I just played around with different brushes and colors to see what worked.
The point is that it was an experience. An obsessive experience. To the point where there were a few nights towards the end when I was going to bed, closing my eyes, and still seeing the scarred, craggy lines and shading and highlights of Rexy Dearest.
And tonight .... I finished it. Even though I saw a handful of spots that could use more detail, more depth, more time -- I put the the pencil down, exported the final image, and posted it online.
After weeks of intense labor, my baby had been birthed. Watching social media react to the piece is like -- I would assume -- watching your child grow up. You want it to do well. You want people to like it. You want it to be successful.
And then it turns out to be an abject failure that everybody hates and it turns out you wasted your time pouring your heart and soul into something that no one gives a shit about and you wonder what the fuck are you even doing with your life? Asshole.
Yeah, I'm pretty sure parenthood is something like that.
At any rate, it's done. And as I sit and wait for the inevitable crash-and-burn in the mentally-destructive inferno we call social media, I find myself enveloped in a familiar, black void.
My art has been birthed. It's no longer inside me and I have no control over it anymore.
What now? What the ever-loving-fuck now?
I have a problem. Well, technically, I have a lot of problems. Like a knee that got fucked up when I jumped out of a tree during a Segway tour or how I'm quickly running out of space on the iPad where I draw my dinosaur pictures.
But the problem I have right now is that I live with four cats and one giant fluffy ball of fur, and I’m allergic to every single one of them. (One could also argue that jumping out of a tree during a Segway tour could be slightly problematic.)
I've taken an allergy pill every day for over eight years, but there are still at-home days when it’s just too much.
There are two simple and obvious solutions. Get rid of the damn cats or vacuum more. A whole lot more.
Since we’re not crazy people (who gets rid of cats just because of stupid allergies? Be reasonable.) clearly I just need to vacuum more.
Which brings me to the inherent second problem.
I am one lazy motherfuzzer. At least, when I’m not hard at work with my tech support or freelance creative side hustles. Or when I'm not laboring away for hours at a time on those dinosaurs I draw on my iPad. The point is that when I HAVE downtime, I'm more than happy to simply do nothing.
Over a year ago, I researched and bought a Shark Rocket vacuum.
(Sidenote: you know you’re adulting when you’re researching vacuums. Kill me now.)
This is actually a really good vacuum. Relatively cheap, light, easy to maneuver — especially when compared to the larger, more traditional-style vacuum we had previously.
The problem was that damn cord. I either don’t have the time or don’t want to waste the time dealing with wrapping and unwrapping and finding new outlets every thirty feet throughout the house.
I mentioned I was a lazy motherfuzzer, right?
So I did some more research and found a deal on a battery-powered Anker HomeVac Duo.
The battery only lasts 20-30 minutes, but it has a nice charging dock that sits out of the way and for two weeks now, I’ve been able to grab it and quickly zip through the house and suck up all that rogue cat hair. It's simple enough that, aside from the allergy benefit, vacuuming has become my go-to weekend chore.
Simplicity, of course, is the point of this story.
Vacuuming more frequently has immediate, positive benefits to my well-being, but until I simplified the process enough, it remained too much of a hassle.
Exercising your Creative Beast can have immediate, positive benefits to your well-being, but if the beast is stuck on a leash, making it too much of a hassle to haul ass and get shit done, you’re just getting in your own way.
I’m not saying creativity can’t be complex, but it’s important to make whatever your creative art is — drawing, music, video — simple to dive into.
Nike boils it down with their “Just Do It” slogan. That’s important, but the simpler “it” is, the easier it is to get started.
Get simple. Get creative.
And don’t forget to vacuum once in a while, you lazy motherfuzzers.
Over the years I've worked (creatively) with a lot of different types of people. The older and crankier I get, the less I want to work with anyone.
But there is a reasonable explanation .... if you're open to my interpretation of reason.
We all have our ideals. I'm not entirely sure how mine were shaped, but I always had a vision for what creative collaboration would look like. Everything I did in years past was in pursuit of that idealized vision, to the point that I was shouldering an unreasonable burden to craft collaborative video with friends on YouTube.
I think I can mark the slow-motion shattering of that vision when I started working professional creative jobs -- and this isn't meant to diminish past or current colleagues, but to point out how creativity operates on different levels and feeding the Creative Beast just isn't something everyone is equipped to do.
Every time I started working with a new group of people, professionally, I went in with these lofty expectations of collaboration that were slowly whittled away. There were positive highlights, of course: I love being able to inspire creativity in others. I love getting a chance to teach a technical aspect of something (video editing technique). I love encouraging those who have a passion learn.
In other words, I'm rather good at (and enjoy) feeding other peoples' Creative Beasts.
The exchange is rarely mutual, though. I look out for my personal Beast and feed it accordingly, but I don't often see it being fed through collaboration.
So after awhile, that idealized vision of creative collaboration fades away. I even got to a point where, if a project required outside help, I'd skip it all together and do something that I would have full 100% control over. It just wasn't worth involving other people only to be let down ... and see your project or art suffer for it.
This is a sustainable path, but the positive (only needing to rely on yourself to create) can easily become a negative when there's no one else around to motivate you. And creativity itself thrives in conflict and the exchange of ideas -- being a jack-of-all-trades solo artist often means you have to find ways to compensate for that.
It's not all hopeless, however, on either front. I've been lucky enough to see a few flickers of honest and genuine collaboration and it's something I'm eager to add to my creative toolbox.
Here's my new idealized view of creative collaboration:
Great collaborators inspire each other. It's that exchange of conflict and ideas that creativity likes to thrive.
My best collaborations happen when I'm challenged to do something different, new, or better. Homeostasis is the opposite of creativity, so challenging the norm -- whether or not that may seem productive -- has to be a fundamental rule of collaboration.
Without honesty, you have no trust. Without trust, how can you ever know if your collaborator has anything of value to contribute?
Stay creative ... and happy collaborations.
Welcome to the Church of Creativity and General Fuckery.
There, it’s started. That’s the hard part, right?
My name is Jordan, but you can call me Reverend Krumbine. Or White Chocolate. Or “Hey, you fucking arrogant asshole!”. Or don’t call me at all — I’d rather a text, and if I’m feeling particularly cranky, a good old-fashioned email. PRO TIP: smoke signals are also good, but only if they come from a nice, robust cigar with a tasty alcoholic beverage on the side.
By way of a thumbnail introduction: I’m a cranky old bastard stuck in a 30-some-year-old’s body. I’m married with four cats and one giant fur ball I affectionately call Fluffy Motherfucker. I like dinosaurs, weird instrumental music from dubstep to Doctor Who, dinosaurs, gadgets, and am painfully passionate about creativity.
Okay, that’s out of the way. What next?
What? Exactly. What.
What’s fucking next.
I had one of those soul-crushing existential self-examinations today (PRO-TIP: get drunk) and realized an on-going pattern-slash-frustration of dumping a creative project as soon as it becomes too complicated or routine.
The soul-crushing part came when I realized that the aforementioned realization was totally wrong.
How fucked up is it when you realize that the truth you just figured out about yourself is a total fucking lie? Hashtag-relatable? Anybody? No?
There this one video project that I always return to over the years called krumbinesBRAIN. It’s a simple concept — through the magic of brilliant script writing and even more brilliant video editing, I argue with myself for a minute (or so) at a time. Earlier this year, I picked the project back up and honed it to a fine point over the course of 10+ episodes.
And then I stopped.
Sure, there were extenuating circumstances. Houseguests. Schedules. Creative space. Motivation.
But the real problem, as I’m only now appreciating, was that having “perfected” the format (to wit: a tightly-animated intro-and outro featuring a lovingly-hand-illustrated logo) there was no “what’s next” left in the project.
Sure, there’s always new material to write and perform, but that wasn’t enough for me. It’s all just part of the same routine.
I’m having the same problem at my day job at the Orlando Sentinel as a video editor/producer/photographer. I’ve gotten over the learning curve of producing creative on a 9-5 schedule for a corporation, I’ve invented (or perfected) dozens of formats and shows for the paper’s website, and I’ve even abandoned all traditional DSLR cameras just for the challenge of heading out on an assignment with only my iPhone in-hand. And after about two months, even THAT has become routine.
I’ll humblebrag here and say that part of the problem is that I aim to be the best at what I do. And perfection, while great to strive for, is a boring place to live.
When it comes to creativity, I happen to be very good at what I do. Which is exactly why I need to do something else.
Okay. So what’s next?
Well, shit. Fuck if I know.
I will tell you this: a sure-fire way to stave off the banality of day-in-day-out fuckery is to collaborate and work with people who will challenge and inspire your creative drive.
It’s not impossible to find. But in my experience, it has been rare. If you find it, hang on to it.
Stay creative, my friends. And let me know if you figure out what's next.