A Challenge for My Fellow Creatives: Get Organized

The Case for Bringing Order to Your Chaos

I know this can sound like a dreadful chore to those of us who prefer to work with the flow of the chaos of the universe, who prefer spontaneity and reject the rigid strictures they associate with the stiff, colorless, and uptight. But here’s the ironic thing I’ve discovered about creativity: 

Creativity is all about bringing order to chaos. 

You read that correctly. Creativity is about order. I understand that the creative process can appear to be crazy and chaotic, but you have to consider the end product. Inspiration, ideas, and/or concepts seem to appear to us from out of the ether. They are seized then processed by a creator (you or me), and formed into some type of arrangement that can be explained and understood. 

From chaos to order. That is creativity.

It’s easy to attempt to refute this idea by walking through a modern art gallery and observing a painting by Jackson Pollock, for example. Even in a Pollock we discern order. A four-sided canvas acting as border to contain the piece, a finite number of colors, a discernible concept of how the paint was applied to canvas, not to mention the sense of meaning intended by the painter himself. There is order.

I just described the product of an artist. Now, consider something mundane: accounting. Someone looks at receipts, assets, liabilities, inventory, incoming revenue, outgoing expenses, etc. The accountant, a type of creator, uses their faculties to organize all this data and tell a story. This story becomes a tool by which a business can navigate. Creativity is used, order is brought to chaos.

As a creative person, when I say that it’s time to get organized I’m talking about bringing order to the chaos that can characterize the process of creating. If you’re anything like me, a seven on the enneagram, focus and discipline might as well be four-letter words. It may not be in your nature to desire following a program or regimen, and that’s ok. But I write this because I want to see you prosper and become the best version of yourself, and that will require some effort.

So then, what does organization look like for the creative type? I can’t speak for all, but I can speak as a type 7 enthusiast. See my Enneagram below.

If you know me you would smile as you read some of those descriptors: scattered, distracted, restless. In a nutshell, I have chaotic and undisciplined mind. I have never undergone testing for ADD/ADHD, but some of my children have. When they describe their struggles with focus, it’s like they are describing me. 

In spite of all my natural proclivities, I have found ways to flourish in my career and personal creative endeavors without breaking my spirit. Sadly, I was in my thirties before I figured out how to do this. Wherever you are in you adventure in personal development, just know that it’s not too late. Consider these three tips I tried that helped me bring order to my chaos.

Know your strengths and weaknesses.

There are tons of resources available to help you determine how you are wired as a person. If you’re serious about this you’ll be willing to invest a little money on yourself to find out. I’m not hating on FB polls, but you ought to try a little harder than the “which cartoon princess are you” type of tests. Here are some suggestions:

I’ve used all three of these resources over my professional career. Each one brought valuable insight and helped me navigate difficulty where the demands in my career and my personality weren’t a great fit. See what these resources can do for you.

One thing you’ll learn in the process is that it’s more important that you focus on doubling down on your strengths than correcting weaknesses. This was a revolutionary idea for me because I was too hung on my weaknesses. I now spend much more time leaning on my strengths. I can outsource or seek help when it comes to my weaknesses. Where I can’t outsource for weaknesses I embrace the second step:

Embrace Discipline

In my post about the stewardship principle I mentioned how words can carry negative connotations. Discipline used to be one of those words. Without unpacking all my baggage, suffice it to say that I now look at discipline as the way I make my thoughts and actions line up with my dreams and ambitions. Jocko Willink has a great motto: discipline equals freedom. I’ve found this to be true in many areas of my life. I want to be fit, so I have to eat well and exercise regularly. I want to find time to write, so I get up a few hours before anyone else in my family.

If you want to become a successful creator, it won’t happen by accident.

Discipline starts with your thoughts. You must be self-aware and recognize when you’re making excuses to not do the things you know are good for you. Oversleeping, overeating, escapism into social media/Netflix, etc., these are all products of undisciplined thinking first. Start by calling yourself out on your crap and commit to making some changes.

A disciplined mind will produce disciplined activities. You’re creative, so you need to determine what those activities look like for you. There will likely be some commonalities like:

  1. Waking up early
  2. Having scheduled, dedicated time for your craft
  3. Writing down your goals, dreams, and ambitions
  4. Eliminating distractions (turn notifications off on your phone, close your email, etc.)
  5. Making sacrifices – less sleep, less social time, less tv, actually keeping a calendar, etc.

The list goes on. Be intentional, make some sacrifices, and make your mind and body cooperate with your dreams and ambitions. This is one way you will bring order to your chaos and flourish with your creativity. If you struggle with this, you’ll need the third tip:

Ask for help.

This may be more difficult for some than embracing discipline, but it could be the most rewarding. You have friends and family that love you and want to see you succeed. If you’re struggling with something, it’s ok to ask for help. What would you do if a friend asked you to help keep them accountable to a certain behavior? 

Of course you would help them.

Before you reach out to someone, try to identify specific areas you’d like help with, and specific tasks you’re asking from that person. You don’t want to ask for help in general with nothing particular in mind. Neither of you will find a solution in that case. Having the details ready will make the conversation go smoother.

I rely on a close friend, Nate, to keep me accountable to my goals. We talk weekly and collaborate, encourage each other, and call each other out on our poor excuses. It’s a relationship I value deeply and have benefitted from greatly. Find your Nate and be a Nate for someone else.

Bringing order to my chaos has been tremendously rewarding. In spite of being afraid of turning into a type a, uptight curmudgeon, getting organized has made me a much better creator. I’d love to see if I can help you become a better creator, too. Please leave a comment or connect with me here and let’s get coffee.

To your adventure,

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