As a leader how do you motivate creatives — or even motivate yourself as a creative person? As roller-coaster rides of emotional stability and productivity, how do you bring out their best? After all, we’re willing to put up with this instability for a reason — creativity, in our book, is one of the defining attributes for meaningful work. It’s probably worth learning how to work with them.
In his TED talk on the value of creative sabbaticals, graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister describes a project he orchestrated in which hundreds of volunteers wrote, in coins, “Obsessions make my life worse and my work better.” It’s a distillation of a pervasive idea: that life and creativity are a zero-sum game. Devotion to one destroys the other. But there also comes a point when obsession with art begins to destroy the art itself. It manifests as stagnation. Or worse ⎯ burnout. Which is the whole point of Sagmeister’s talk: Sometimes you need to step away.
No matter how big our creative dreams, we still have to live one day at a time. Or, to put it in reverse (and to quote Annie Dillard): “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” We can’t montage our way to success. We have to live every moment between now and then. And what we do with those moments is everything.