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Resourceful Designer podcast: Offering tips, tricks and advice for starting and growing your graphic or web design business.

Find something to distract your creative mind.

Nobody tells you when you get into the design industry that regardless of whether you’re doing this part-time or full-time or how many hours you devote to working each day, being a graphic or web designer is a 24/7 job.

The curse of creativity.

Let me know if this sounds familiar to you.

You’re out doing errands. Maybe it’s grocery shopping or going to an appointment. It doesn’t matter. Whatever you’re doing has nothing to do with design work. And yet, for some reason, you find your mind churning away at design-related things.

It starts contemplating a problem your having with a client website. Hmm, what’s the best way to accomplish that? Or it starts generating ideas for that new logo you’re designing. What if I play around with using an abstract star in the logo? It could be something as mundane as imagining colours. I like the blue on the cereal box. I wonder how this blue would look on that poster I’m designing?

Even though you’re “off-the-clock,” your mind keeps designing.

You may be watching TV and only half paying attention to what’s playing because part of your brain is crunching away at some design problem. Or worse, you’re lying in bed in the pitch dark, wanting to fall asleep, but your brain has other plans.

Have you ever found yourself in any of these situations? Call it the curse of creativity. Those gifted with it know that creativity can pop up at the most inopportune times.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love how my mind works and all the creative things it comes up with. However, I could do without the sleep deprivation. But even that’s a small price for something I love doing.

But even though I embrace this wild creativity we designers possess. Sometimes it would be nice not to have my mind wander towards some design problem when I’m not working.

Because letting it do this over and over can lead to burnout. If all we think about is our jobs as designers, we may end up resenting what we do for a living.

A creative solution.

Now there are various solutions to this “problem.” Some people practice meditation to clear their minds. And I’m sure it’s beneficial for them, but meditation isn’t my thing. Some people listen to music or podcast. But just like watching TV, I find your mind can still wander away from these intended distractions.

I can’t tell you how often I found myself listening to a podcast or audiobook only to realize my mind started wandering, and I have no idea what was said over the last several minutes.

Some people turn to exercise, which is never a bad thing. But I’m not sure how effectively it curbs a wandering creative mind. It doesn’t take a lot of brain power to count repetitions.

I found that the best way to stop a creative mind from wandering is to give it another creative outlet. That’s right, fight creativity with creativity.

Now I’m far from being a brain expert. But I think many of these scenarios I’ve mentioned don’t require a lot of brain processing power. Walking down a grocery ails and picking out a cereal box doesn’t need your undivided attention. Nor does putting one foot in front of another while out running.

This “brain idling” leaves a significant portion of your mind with nothing to do. And what do most sentient things do when they have nothing to do? They get bored, and they start to wander. And that’s why creativity is the best weapon against wandering creativity.

It’s kind of like fighting fire with fire. Or maybe it’s not. I don’t know.

The best way to stop thinking about your job as a designer is to occupy your mind with another creative task. Since creativity uses a lot of brain power, it’s difficult for your mind to think of two creative things simultaneously. So it focuses on the more immediate one.

The creative outlet you choose is irrelevant. Maybe, instead of listening to music, you create music. Maybe, instead of reading, you try writing. Perhaps you try a sport instead of going to a gym to exercise. After all, most sports require creative thinking.

Or it could be knitting, sculpting, dancing, scrapbooking, or even basket weaving if that’s your thing. It doesn’t matter, as long as it requires creativity. When it comes to creative outlets, there are unlimited choices.

My creative outlet.

My favourite creative outlet is woodworking. I may have mentioned it before on the Resourceful Designer podcast, but I love woodworking. If I hadn’t become a designer, I probably would have become a carpenter or something in the woodworking field.

I even have battle scars to prove it. Last year, while building a plant stand for my wife, I caught the tips of two of my fingers on my table saw. Luckily the damage was minimal. A couple of tiny scars are the only evidence of the mishap. But the dangers of woodworking aside, I love taking raw pieces of wood and creating something new and unique out of them.

This past weekend I created a food cage for our cat. Don’t worry. It’s not as sinister or cruel as it sounds.

We recently got a new puppy, and we don’t want him to eat the cat food that we leave out. Our cat is getting old, so making her jump up to areas that are out of the dog’s reach wasn’t a great idea. So I designed and built a cat food cage. It’s a wooden cage with an opening on one side that we place over the cat’s food bowl.

We place the cat food cage in the corner of our bedroom, close enough to the wall so the cat can squeeze beside it and get in through the opening, but the dog can’t. Problem solved. The cat can eat in peace whenever she wants, and all the dog can do is sit outside the cage and watch.

It took me a weekend to design and build this cage. Not that it was difficult, but I had to give time for the wood glue to dry.

Let me tell you, the entire time I was conceptualizing and working on this cage, I did not think about any of the websites, podcast artwork or other design projects I have on the go. And that felt great. It felt great not to be a graphic or web designer for that short period and instead be a woodworker.

That’s my creative outlet. Whenever I need to give my mind a break, I go to my workshop and build something. And I always feel refreshed and energized after doing so. It’s as if taking a break from thinking about design makes me more eager and excited when I start back up. Woodworking recharges me.

What creative outlet do you use to escape from being a designer? I firmly believe that having one, if not more than one, will make you a better designer.

Think of it as exercising your creativity. Just like you don’t do the same routine each time you go to the gym, changing up your creative outlets will make you a healthier and more rounded creative person. Your mind and your clients will thank you.

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Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business, please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com

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