Every year I think to myself how odd it is that summer shifts into autumn so quickly, how September often feels a bit sudden. When it really isn’t that strange at all – we are all products of the relentless academic timetable of Back to School in September that long after we are freed of it, the rhythm has become ingrained. So, whether you are still part of that academic world (either as a student yourself or through your own children) or whether you are now part of the bigger world of work, this time of year is undeniably a time for feeling like we should let go of the freedom of summer and ‘get back’ to something. The French call this time of year La Rentrée – the return – and it affects everyone, not just workers and students. I like to think of this time of year as the Creative Return – where we can harness this feeling of beginning, to look forward to the rest of the year and prepare, to be ready to meet whatever opportunities or challenges we may come to.
This month, on the blog, I’ll be taking the theme of the Creative Return to focus on 4 elements: Values, the Big Picture, Reflection and Looking Forwards with the aim of helping you remind yourself of your Why, to feel inspired about your work, to reflect on past successes and to set a course ahead. I’ll be asking you questions that get to the heart of each element and offering places you can gain additional inspiration or chances for reflection. So, let’s begin, with Values:
The Why behind the work
For creatives, the last four months of the year can be the busiest and have the biggest impact on your work and business. It’s a time of launching new collections, of design festivals and trade shows, of selling shows or fairs, with Christmas as the target at the end. It’s the time of year that you really need to be feeling it, to have the energy to maintain your focus and to sustain momentum all the way through. Which is easy enough to say right at the end of a lovely long summer, but harder to deal with in the depths of November and December. So, how do you prepare for this? You need to remember the Why behind your work.
I like to break the Why down in to two parts: when you look inside yourself to find your Why, your Values, and when you look outside yourself to find your Why, the Big Picture. Today we’ll focus on your internal world.
Do you know what your values are? What are the key things that underpin your work? The values for your creative work will most likely have some overlap with the values you hold as an individual, but they may differ slightly. Your values will reflect your philosophy for working – how you want to be seen in the world, how you interact with people, how you create your products, how you do business. They will also evoke more abstract elements like how you would like people to feel when they use your products, the lifestyle you want to create, how your work might bring people together.
It’s worth sitting down somewhere quiet and thinking about it:
What values are important to you in your work?
What motivates you to do what you do?
What are you trying to say with your work?
What feelings/experiences do you want to help create?
Are there any issues that fire you up, that you are passionate about challenging or responding to through your making?
What do you want to be known for?
What do you hope other people say about your work?
Remember, your values are yours alone, what is most important to you. Be open to the emotions behind the values, let those emotions help you understand what you need to do in your work to feel motivated, to feel engaged, to feel connected, to feel successful.
Working on your values not only helps you communicate about your work in a more genuine way, by allowing people to see the ethos and principles behind your work, it can also help you make decisions and plan. Do the jobs you say yes to align with your values? Do you spend too much time doing things that aren’t relevant to your bigger ideals? Should you be focusing on work that brings you closer to the things you truly care about? Regularly checking in with your values can help keep you focused on the things that really matter to you and your creative practice. Your values become touchstones in challenging times; they can help you maintain your energy when you need to get things done.
Want to explore Values a bit more?
Check out one of my blog posts: Why we make things and Why it matters (book recommendation)
Watch: TED playlist – Talks to help you find your purpose