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Press Play On Your Ideas: 4 Steps to bring creative work to life

When I asked professionals that I surveyed why they were not actively partaking in these endeavors — most people responded: not enough time.

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Photo by Mika Baumeisteron Unsplash

Over the years, through music, I gained the confidence that I could learn anything I wanted to.

It is the mindset that has taken me to release three mixtapes, make countless unearthed beats, start my own business, tinker with different service offerings and products, improve my sales and marketing skills as an entrepreneur, learn how to write a fictional story, and now learn the process of publishing my first book — PRESS PLAY.

After writing the book and finalizing the second revision, I fell into a somewhat depressive state.

It could have been a combination of exhaustion, the research topic for the book, or just a lack of purpose after keeping such a disciplined regiment to meet my deadlines.

I did some research on this and realized that post-creation depression is quite common. After going through the process, I had to start taking some of the advice I was dishing out in the book particularly about self-responsibility.

I had to pull myself together to reflect on my journey and what I learned.

It is a story at the intersection of self-awareness, diligence, courage, and a freedom to play.

But before I go into that, let’s start with the definition of a creative project.

How do you define a creative project?

I did a quick search on the word ‘creative’.

It is defined as “relating to or involving the use of the imagination or original ideas to create something”

So how do you define a creative project?

Usually it is defined as an artistic endeavor, but you may be surprised that many activities that require your problem-solving skills are creative projects. From business problems, scientific challenges, artistic ventures, to fun hobbies — these all require the same capacity to use our creativity to actualize ideas.

So do we all have a desire to be creative?

In everything we do, we as humans have the desire to create.

Our cognitive ability is what separates us from other animals. It is what has allowed us to develop new tools, systems, and processes to transform and some times exploit the resources around us.

Being creative is what makes us human.

From our ancestors that spunned our species to modern-day innovators, creativity has been in our DNA from day one.

Creativity is humanity — We have the right to play.

From the drumbeat to the internet, our curiosity as a species has led us down a path to invent new ways to live with one another.

It all starts with our freedom to explore.

Freedom to play. Freedom to express. Freedom to transform.

I had the opportunity to interview Mark Applebaum, a professor of Music composition at Stanford University — referred to as the Mad Scientist of Music for my book.

He refers to the majority of the work that he does as a way to inspire people to embrace play, embrace our creative impulse, and drive our journey of producing.

Mark said:

“ So my work as an artist, as a person who’s committed to being an artist practitioner in my life, is to make, collectively, a statement that we can explore, we can make, we can play, we can be playful, we can experiment in a way that is not limited to a tradition, or a convention. It can break outside of it, and that people are free. And that it’s a natural birthright to be artistically expressive, if you want to be. And so that is a kind of statement of liberty.

To understand how designers and innovators generate new solutions and products, I also interviewed Jason Mayden — former Lead Designer at Nike and CEO of Superheroic and Trillicon Valley.

“I’m thinking, preservation of imagination which contributes to longevity of life.

In response to questions about what drives his execution of bringing ideas to reality, Jason embodies the innovator’s vision-driven mindset.

He talked about longevity and building solutions that last the test of time as he described his work at Superheroic — a company focused on unleashing play, creativity, and imagination in children through empowering apparel and narratives.

“I’m thinking, preservation of imagination which contributes to longevity of life. You know, they always say people die within five years of retiring, they don’t have a purpose. That’s because they no longer have imaginations. They no longer are solving problems. We give kids this curiosity mindset of question-asking, and that’s an embedded behavior.” — Jason Mayden, PRESS PLAY, Chapter 6

Play fuels creativity

Jason sees creativity as the connective tissue between where we want to go and where we currently are.

Whether you are making a statement with your music, building empowering apparel for children, or building innovative business models, creativity allows us to bridge the gap between the currently known present and the un-known future.

“Einstein said it best,” Jason continued, referencing a quote attributed to the great scientist.

“Creativity is intelligence having fun.”

“Play is a fundamental right of humanity,” Jason continued.“It is just as important as breathing. We just don’t see it that way. We see it as recreational.”

Play is an important part of what drives our creativity.

It is a vital part of who we are and our being. We all have this inherent ability to create driven by the amount of permission we give ourselves to play.

It is this playful ability, both mentally and physically, that allows us to manage the uncertainty of the future, actualize new solutions, and have a historical impact on our communities — and the world around us.

So what’s stopping us?

Not enough time.

At the beginning of 2019, I sent out a survey asking working professionals whether they wanted to partake in creative endeavors or boost their creative outputs.

The response was a resounding “YES”.

When I asked why they were not actively partaking in these endeavors — most people responded: not enough time.

Time is one of our most valuable resources.

We have a finite amount of it each day and year.

The places and things we choose to exert our energy is where we see results. Since we know we can’t manufacture time, it’s about prioritizing and managing our most important resource.

It is even more challenging these days to do focused work with our communication and mobiles devices constantly grabbing our attention in the form of non-stop stream of emails, news, latest trends, and social media updates.

It is very easy to do something else than focus on realizing the things that you say you actually want to do.

We know these creative projects provide tremendous benefits such as a well-rounded lifestyle, self-improvement, relaxation and therapy, finding purpose, leaving an impact, economic advancement, and snapping out of sometimes meaningless routines.

But a lack of dedicating time to these endeavors limit our expected outputs.

A lot of times we tend to fall in love with only one part of the process of actualizing our ideas to reality.

We fall in love with the first part. The “idea”.

We forget to equally love the second part. The “to reality”. This results to a lot of abandoned ideas in the project plateau.

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In his must-read book “Making Ideas Happen” Scott Belsky describes the “Project Plateau” as a well known moment in time when the execution of an idea swallows so much of your time that you lose all your enthusiasm and are looking for a way out. Since there is always a new shiny idea lurking around with the same initial excitement, we follow the impulse to work on that idea which will inevitably also lose its steam as time passes. The result: a plateau filled with skeletons of abandoned ideas and little or no executed ideas.

The real magic of creative projects happen at the intersection of ideas and execution.

A little secret — the execution is actually the more important part.

And there are ways that innovators, creative agencies, changemakers, and businesses use to actualize their ideas to reality.

So why not learn sure frameworks that helps you on your path to actualizing your creative visions.

Develop A System

When I started writing my book, I developed a system that I called “A-I-S”.

Meaning “Ass-in-Seat”.

I told myself that I would sit down in front of the screen for at least one hour and whatever the result was — that’s what I would be writing at that time.

I put my phone away. No distractions.

My goal was to not stand up from my seat before the one-hour mark and just face the blank screen before me.

I would listen to extended beats on youtube to help get me into the zone and block out distraction. Here’s one of my favorites from J Dilla.

I didn’t care about word count, my grammar, or whether a comma was in the right place or not. I just put words to paper.

I was already hitting my goal of just sitting in front of my computer and writing. My only measure of output was to at least write one sentence before the one-hour mark came around.

After 1 hour, I would look up and have words on the screen. Some times just a few paragraphs. Other times, 2–3 pages of writng.

I did this to just write. Without a specific end goal or word count in mind. I just had to force myself to stick with the process.

It’s all about execution.

Creative professionals have used these processes and systems to guide their efforts of turning ideas in their minds into tangible products, services, and solutions that have an impact on the world and people around them.

“Our raw curiosity and sense of wonderment fuels our ideas, but bring them to fruition requires a steadfast commitment” — Making Ideas Happen.

Press Play On Your Ideas

Here are 4 steps to bring creative projects to life:

1. Organize, prioritize, and execute

Develop a plan of action with clear action steps. In my case, it was “writing for one hour everyday”.

Make sure you categorize your to-dos by differentiating between tangible actions steps and back-burner ideas or references that don’t lead to tangible steps taken.

Prioritize by focusing on what is important versus what’s urgent. While in execution mode, avoid the tendency to escape the lulls of the project plateau.

At some point, the initial excitement of your new project will disappear. You will have to push through this inevitable “valley of boredom” to get to the other side of realizing your ideas.

2. Leverage the forces of community

Harness the power of your community to fuel your ideas to completion.

In my case it was a community of fellow writer, editors, friends, and family that helped me along the way.

It’s easy to remain in a silo when working on a project. This can leave you disconnected and unaware of some of your biases that could actually reduce the impact of your end product.

A community of friends, family, colleagues can get behind your project, help you develop a system of accountability, and provide important feedback that will improve your end result.

Also, your community will be the first group that you have something to present to, which inherently pushes you to actually put out tangible things that people can actually interact with.

Finally, due to the co-creation benefits of your community paricipating in the process of creation with you, this community then become life-long supporters for your porject and other subsequent projects.

3. Lead and overhaul your reward system

A lot of us have certain reward systems that we strongly identify with.

These reward systems are driven by biological and chemical firings in out brains and have been reinforced by our education, culture, professional and religious institutes.

We need immediate gratification from achieving things — an affirmation from our boss, hitting monthly sales goals, getting good grades quartely, watching our favorite shows. It’s the same reward that technology companies use to design products that hold our attention.

To achieve some of our ambitious creative goals, we have to internally overhaul our reward system.

Nothing worth doing comes easy.

Recognizing that the standard gratification from our work may not come immediately, we have to reframe our minds to be able to push beyond what it needs in the moment — a dopamine fix.

We can achieve this by focusing on process-oriented rewards, where you reward yourself and your team not for achieving a goal but for sticking to the process. You also have to be clear on the type of person you are — a doer, dreamer, or an incrementalist.

Every doer needs a dreamer, every dreamer needs a doer, and an incrementalist needs a doer or dreamer depending on the expected outcome. So find people to complement your strengths and develop the right system that will see you through your journey.

4. Find your style of Self-Leadership

Finally, it all boils down to you. You have to hold yourself accountable. If you start a project and then get people excited about your ideas, you have the sole responsibility to bring it all to fruition.

  • Find path to self-awareness
  • Get comfortable with ambiguity
  • Learn from failures
  • Avoid the narcissistic visionary.
  • Be willing to be a deviant.
  • Use love to drive your work.

Your story {project} is waiting.

Each of us have something unique that we can bring into the world.

A perspective, a new method, a different approach. We all have a story that we can tell that will bring all of us one person closer to forming a tight-knit global community.

We can diversify the pool of stories in the world that allows us to contextualize the tangled world that we live in and make it one-knot less tangled.

Your story is waiting to be told.

Your new method is waiting to be discovered. It could be the insight that sparks and frames the next right questions that need to be asked by all of us.

Go out there. Play and explore.

Find your tribe, they could be anywhere. Follow your interest.

Feed your curiosity.

Know yourself and follow a path of continuous growth, reflection, and evolution.

For more on how to build steady habits to continously “press play on ideas” that raise our collective consciousness and build a more equitable world, follow me on my journey as I continue to write my own story and encourage you to write yours too.

Who is Nifemi?

Hey I’m Nifemi of NapoRepublic

I help busy people fit in a creative practice to bring to bring order to their reality and help them live a more meaningful life through writing and reflection.

Sculpt your story

Know thyself, build a second brain, and unleash your creativity with writing. All in one journaling, note-taking, and dots-connection method that fits into your busy life.