No. 117 | By Christine Carron
Sometimes when I am reading a book, a phrase grabs hold of me. I internally experience a deep-bellied “Yes!” That’s what happened when I read a line in Pixar co-founder Ed Catmull’s Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration: "As a leader . . . I would devote myself to learning not just a successful company but a sustainable creative culture."
The words that grabbed me were “sustainable creative culture.” First, because helping writers create sustainable creative productivity is Goodjelly’s ultimate purpose. That made Catmull’s turn of phrase feel strategically aligned.
Second, because one of the ways I help writers be more consistently and sustainably productive is by helping them take charge of their interior creative culture, i.e., their mindset. Hence, the phrase also felt tactically aligned.
Creativity, Inc. explores the interpersonal processes that help Pixar teams create an extraordinary repertoire of animated films. To cultivate a sustainable interior creative culture, however, we need intrapersonal processes. Here are three I use regularly.
To have a solid interior creative culture you have to be attuned to what is going on inside you. How you are feeling, reacting, and responding is information. Data.
We generally think of data as cerebral. Left-brained. Contained. Emotions, on the other hand, can feel messy. Make us feel out of control. Very not contained. Framing emotions as data opens us to the possibility that we can make sense of what is going on. It allows us to get curious about our emotions and what triggers them. With that additional data in hand, it is possible to . . .
If we want to build a sustainable interior creative culture, harsh process responses generally don’t help. Things such as minimizing our emotions, making ourselves “wrong” for experiencing certain emotions, or telling ourselves that we just need to get over it already.
In theory that last one is true. We do want to “get over” our emotions in the sense of not getting stuck in them. But a kind process approach means you don’t just bully yourself that you should get over them, you instead build a set of tactics and strategies that actually helps you get over them.
Let’s imagine two writers. They both experience anxiety during critiques. One internally harangues themselves for the anxiety, telling themselves to get a thick skin.
The other writer, knowing they get anxious, has developed a “stay cool in critiques” protocol. They:
The first writer will likely stay locked in a fraught critique dynamic, white-knuckling their way through critiques, or worse avoiding them all together. The second writer—thanks their stay cool protocol—will have more and more experiences of confidently handling critiques. Over time, those experiences will lessen their anxiety.
That’s the power and possibility of smart, kind process.
Meeting yourself where you are is another power move when it comes to establishing a sustainable interior creative culture. It’s certainly what I have been talking about in context of acknowledging and taking charge of our emotions with kindness and smarts.
We can also meet ourselves in other aspects of our writing adventure: the state of our craft skills, where we are on the publishing journey, if we have a trusted circle of writing friends, etc. Whenever we meet ourselves where we are, it opens up space for us to make the changes that help us grow and progress.
I had to meet myself where I was big time after the revision I worked on during the pandemic didn’t pass muster. I named and flowed through my feelings, which included frustration, disappointment, and wondering if I have what it takes. I also got real about where I needed to strengthen my craft skills and made a plan to do so. Meeting myself where I was restored my equilibrium and reconnected me to my motivation and determination.
Equilibrium. Motivation. Determination. In the end, when we cultivate a sustainable interior creative culture, we are cultivating resilience. That’s what these tips of framing emotions as data, applying process with kindness, and meeting yourself where you are are all about
The founding principle of Goodjelly is that the writing adventure doesn’t have to be so hard. It won’t, of course, be hard-free. The slings and arrows will come, but a strong and sustainable interior creative culture will minimize—and at times even neutralize—their sting. When that happens, you will have proof that you are leading your writing adventure in a whole new and empowering way.
Wahoo! You’ve got this!