On the death and rebirth of creativity

On the death and rebirth of creativity

You know what it’s like when you’re learning something new and are excited by the challenge? Every little goal conquered can make you giddy, you jam your fist up into the air in mini-victories (and maybe yell, “WOOO!”).
It’s fun. You feel alive.
And then you get better at what you’ve learned, and that’s fantastic. But eventually, if things become predictable, you may get comfortable.
I’m not talkin’ cozy-comfortable. I’m talkin’ blah-comfortable. As in, I-know-what’s-next-and-can-almost-do-it-in-mah-sleep-comfortable. Snooze.
And for people like me (and maybe you), who thrive on variety and the thrill of a challenge, comfortable isn’t the optimal place to be. Because it spells the death of creativity.
That’s when things appear less interesting and motivation starts waning. And then productivity hits a high-powered fan covered in poo. Enthusiasm? What enthusiasm? Gimme Netflix and cookies or gimme me death/a nap/ehh…whatever.
And then what the hell do you do?
Clearly, nothing good can come from this.
Ever-so-luckily, I accidentally came across a killer multi-layered cure last weekend.

The cure is community.

Kind of. I’ll explain.
I attended my first ever WordCamp, “a conference that focuses on everything WordPress,” in Miami. I found out two days before by accident (thank you Facebook, you’re terrible but I’ll love you for this forever), got pumped as hell (because #nerd4life), bought my ticket, and showed up.
Here’s what I found at WordCamp Miami 2016:

  • Fellow geeks who know 1,000,000% more than me to learn from. I spent hours picking the brains of some of the brightest members of the WordPress community.
  • Fellow geeks who are total newbs, who picked my brain
  • New friends!
  • Workshops and panels where I learned nothing (take that, impostor syndrome!)
  • Workshops where I fervently (and excitedly!) took notes to continue sharpening my web design & development (and strategy!) skills
  • Workshops that were so advanced, I was totally lost and decided that leaving the room and scarfing down two slices of pie instead was a better use of everyone’s time (they were peanut butter-chocolate and banana-coconut cream pies, in case you were wondering, and they were to die for)

Here’s what I realized: it always comes back to people and relationships. It’s the case when growing your business and getting clients… and it’s the case for simply evolving as humans and business owners. It doesn’t go away, my fellow social creature.

Community is nourishment — for the brain, for the soul, for the heart (awww!)

Yes, I have a weekly mastermind meeting and I love those ladies like the sisters I never had. But we live in different cities and have to Skype. At WordCamp, I got to hug people and share pie with them. It’s a completely different vibe and energy. It’s invigorating. We sang and danced to Michael Jackson on a party bus with flashing rainbow lights (yes, beer was involved, obviously). It was amazing.

Need motivation? Surround yourself with people further ahead of you (and in person when possible!)

This is huge. I’d reached a plateau in my learning. Keep in mind: I’m a curious bear, I’m always reading and researching. But I’d lost my drive to take another programming course, to learn things that I didn’t immediately need to apply, just for the hell of it (remember #nerd4life?).
Attending workshops where most of what I heard was gibberish to me, and chatting face-to-face over beer with developers who build not only the themes and plugins we all use but also WordPress itself, was a little daunting — but mostly a fire under my big Latina ass. It made me wanna elevate myself way higher than when sitting at home Facebooking with web designer/developers at my level or slightly above (and often below). For example, I’ve now got my eye on a 40+ hour programming course and bigger plans for a passion project.
And I adore my peers, but to reach higher, you’ve first got to look higher.
Gaze up high. Who is where you might like to be someday?
I’ve already been researching about a dozen other conferences I could attend this year (like Circles! Squares! Converge! LoopConf!) and am pumped about an upcoming local WordPress meetup so I can once again unite real-life hugs and geekery (plus pie and/or beer).
What conferences or meetups can you go to? If you can’t find one… start one!
Because listen, I started learning how to code less than four years ago. That’s both a long time and a blink of an eye depending on how you look at it. Everything is perspective.
The point is to keep evolving and learning, no matter what it is you do or where you’re at doing it. And doing it as part of a powerful community will help set your creativity ablaze, especially if you can connect with them in the flesh.
Stagnation is death, for your creativity and thus eventually your business.
As much as I love working alone most of the time, I’m a (very) social creature. Most humans are. So let’s connect.

Final thoughts

I woke up the other morning to a text message from one of my new WordCamp buddies, who it turns out is a big name in the WordPress world (I was so clueless I didn’t recognize 95% of the speakers) so listen up.
He had some deep thoughts to share: “Follow your dreams” he urged, and attached the following image:
The raccoon who followed her dreams
And I’m 110% on his and this adorable, brazen raccoon’s side. Because if you’re not having fun and following your dreams, you should probs be taking the easier route, rotting in a cubicle, toiling away for someone else.
But I know you’re here reading this because you’re passionate AF about what you do, because you wanna live by your own damn rules and work pantsless sometimes (ahem, often!). Although hopefully your dream will lean more toward changing our world for the better one client at a time than merely to leaving your excrement at the top of an (impressively high) crane.

How do you connect with your community and keep your creativity sparkling?


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6 Responses to On the death and rebirth of creativity

    • Nathalie, I’m so glad to have met you in the online entrepreneurial + WordPress community I joined early on — you’ve always been helpful, warm, and insightful. Thank you! And thank you for sharing!

  1. You’re so right Nat! I’ve connected with a wonderful online community but been craving that in-person jam more and more lately. Glad you had such a great time at WordCamp! And by the way, I love what you’re doing online: your blog is always genuinely helpful and fun to read. (I’ve sent your Seedprod tutorial opt-in to several clients/friends!)

    • Ah working at that coworking space must help. Have you made friends there? And thank you so much, Nicole, that’s wonderful of you to say and do! Means a lot :)

  2. Hey Nat.
    Great reminder that in this new realm of online business, we need to make the effort to meet IRL.

    I too have a little weekly mastermind group. Lots of brainstorming, laughs, and some accountability and gentle nudges or well-deserved kicks up the backside.

    But I do miss face to face meetings with like-minded folks. However, i often find that when I attend networking groups I get millions of questions about social media, email marketing, web design + strategy, so I feel drained and well, like I was giving the whole time. What a great experience for you to meet people who where both above and below you, so you could both contribute and learn.

    I love conferences, especially the small intimate 40-100 people ones where it’s not all the people I already follow and get introduced to new faces. ROAM is like that for me here in BC.

    • Hey Angelique! Easy to forget that IRL matters… and for years I barely made efforts to connect with colleagues and peers that way. It just changed, last weekend, thanks to WordCamp Miami 2016. I’m guessing the type of conference makes all the difference — if I went to a purely entrepreneurial gathering I’m sure I’d be way more likely to be swamped with questions than at a tech conference. I’m new at attending conferences but I’d encourage you (and myself, obvs) to experiment with different types :)

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