Creativity in digital isolation

Published by Nela Dunato on in ADHD, Creative process, Inspiration, Marketing, Thoughts, Tips for creatives

“Common sense” marketing advice for creators is to publish something every single day. It can be a short article, a long article, a video, a social media post, an image, a quote, a live-stream… Whatever you can do, just show up every day.

I’ve never really subscribed to that because honestly, it sounds exhausting. For a while I used to publish a blog post every single week, and it was fun to do and somewhat useful for my business, but then I just couldn’t keep up and switched to a “whenever I can be bothered” schedule. My social media feed is just as sporadic.

I know many folks who show up daily or almost daily, and it works for them. It’s an excellent marketing technique if you can pull it off.

I’m not doing it, and I don’t think it’s the right way for everyone.

Note: I wrote the majority of this article in March 2020, before the world-wide lockdown. Nowadays “isolation” and “self-isolation” have much different meanings than they did for me as I was thinking and writing about this. If the isolated life is negatively impacting your mental health, I understand that it may not feel right for you to step away from online connections. This period of isolation has been creatively very fruitful for me, so I’m speaking from that perspective.

Creativity in digital isolation

I want to talk about the positive side of not having to put on a show every day (or every week, or even every month) if you’re not the kind of person who can or wants to do that. I think this approach is unfairly dismissed in the marketing circles, because it’s less “effective”. But as I explained in my article How to know when to quit a marketing practice, it’s not enough for a marketing technique to be effective—it also needs to be fun for you so you can do it regularly.

I’ll be using my art as an example to explain some ideas, but this also relates to my writing, videos, design, and anything else that I do. This topic is completely medium-agnostic.

Let’s start with some facts.

Social media is a huge energy drain.

Sure, it’s useful for business owners and indie creatives. It gives you the opportunity to show your work in front of a larger audience than what your little blog could do by itself. (Maybe? Maybe not. We’ll get to that.) But it’s a bottomless pit that’s always hungry for your input.

If you don’t post something for a few days, Facebook will bug you with notifications that are impossible to turn off. (It’s a bummer to see that “1” sign next to your page name and check it out thinking it’s a comment from an actual person, when it’s just Facebook demanding attention.)

If you don’t post content for a while, your next post will be shown to a fraction of your audience compared to when you were posting regularly. Social media is punishing creators who don’t post content as often as our digital overlords want us to. I find that repulsive.

I don’t want to be a slave to the content machine.

I never saw myself as a “content creator”, and I still don’t. I’m a creative thinker and an artist. I show my art and share my thoughts at a pace that is natural for me. I don’t live by a schedule—to me it’s not worth it.

I’ve been publishing my work online for over 17 years.

You know those annoying teens on YouTube and TikTok? I used to be like one of those kids, only there was no YouTube, or TikTok, or anything like it. My shenanigans were contained to forums, newsgroups, and the website I’ve coded from scratch.

I would publish things on a whim, when I felt inspired. There were no benefits to publishing content—the internet was a sparsely populated space, and I had maybe 10 website visitors a week. No one cared. And yet I kept putting up my art, wallpapers, tutorials, designs… it was fun and I was learning a lot. (I even got some job offers later on! That was pretty cool.)

Platforms come and go.

I posted my art and designs on more websites than I can remember. Many of my profiles might still be out there—outdated, neglected, irrelevant. My website is still here, always evolving.

Which of the platforms that we’re using now will survive another decade? Which ones will be pleasant to use and not full of junk and drama? I don’t want to bet on any one of them, I can only bet on what I can personally control.

I’m annoyed with Pinterest because pinned images are ranking higher in image search than the original images on creators’ websites. I started adding “-pinterest” to the end of my search queries so I don’t have to wade through pages of keyword stuffing and tiny thumbnails that don’t lead anywhere. If you feed social media platforms, it may come at a cost to your own platform.

All that time we spend updating our social media profiles is time taken away from our creative endeavours.

I keep preaching about social media sabbaticals because for me they’ve been, without exaggeration, life-changing. They help me remember what is really important in life, and reclaim my time.

Everybody thinks they don’t spend too much time on social media, until they start tracking it. There are services that tell you how much time you spend, cumulatively and individually, on social media websites and apps. (I’ve been using RescueTime for years.) It can be shocking to see how much time goes down that particular drain. It’s always way more than you thought.

You might say “But I’m not always energized to be doing my work, and sometimes I just want to relax and have fun with a mindless activity.” I know that feeling. But my experience has taught me that:

  • When you’re tired and brain-fried, spending time on social media doesn’t always relax you—it can make you even more tired and anxious. (I suppose that depends on what type of media you consume, but it’s very hard to avoid things you don’t want to see.)
  • We don’t look at social media just when we’re brain fried. We check in multiple times during the day. Some people do it first thing in the morning!
  • “Just one minute to check in quickly” turns into an hour. An hour that would be better spent looking out the window, but it flies by so fast when you’re scrolling over your news feed.

My multiple experiments have shown that I am consistently more prolific when I don’t use social media at all. I find other things to do when I’m brain-fried, and those tend to be much more restful. During breaks, I clear my mind and I’m more focused when I go back to my work. It just works. I can’t recommend it enough.

Because I take breaks from social media platforms more often and for longer periods of time than most creators, I can’t rely on them. I need to be able to share my art and my thoughts independently of them, and still get people to read and look at my stuff. It forces me to think differently about how I publish and how I communicate with my audience.

The more you post, the more you check in and hang out.

Another thing my experiments have revealed (which should have been obvious to me, but totally wasn’t) is that when I actively use social media I get more comments and messages, and when I don’t use it as actively, barely anyone interacts with my profiles.

You might wonder how I go without checking comments and private messages when I’m logged out for over 2 months, and that worried me as well the first time I did it. But the truth is that when I come back, there are barely any comments and messages—often it’s zero. Things just get quiet when I’m gone.

On the other hand, during a time when I posted my mermaids on social media every day, I had to take time not only to format the post and get it out, but also to respond to all the comments that kept coming at all hours. It’s wonderful when people interact with your work, but it also creates anxiety: “What if there’s a new comment or a message waiting right now? I better check.”

And then you check. And then check again in 5 minutes. And then again in 25 minutes. And one last time before you go to bed. And as soon as you open your eyes in the morning. You can’t keep those comments waiting!

It’s absurd how easy it is to get pulled into it, even when you know how the game works.

Some creatives make their living at least in part thanks to social media, so I totally understand the imperative to stay on.

I can empathize with that. Some business models may not seem feasible unless you’re active on social media.

Choosing one channel to put most of your energy in is one way to reduce communication overwhelm. I’ve never been able to do that, so that’s partly what drives me to my “all or nothing” approach.

Taking photos of your art and setting up the description, hashtags, etc. is a lot of work even if you’re batching it. If you’re creating and posting on a daily basis, it adds up to hours upon hours.

Creative process requires a safe space

Back when I started publishing my art online, I had no filter. I’d just post whatever I made, even if it was no good (by any standards), even if it only took me a short time to complete, even if it was just a doodle. I was proud of it, and so freaking excited because I was drawing again after a very long time. I wanted to share my enthusiasm with the world.

Later I started curating my output, and only shared works that I deemed worthy. (My art gallery still functions in the same way.) But then I felt an itch to share my works in progress, my unfinished stuff, my experiments, and so my sketchblog Cwtam was born. I kept updating that website for a while, then I made a sketchbook gallery over here, then I started posting sketches here on the blog, and then finally I started posting them on Facebook and Instagram. I was back in the “posting almost every single thing that I make online” mode.

All this time I’ve been struggling with my art. (I’ve written about it here: On being in the Process and From art block to a new art series: Notes from navigating my creative process.) While it may have looked prolific on the outside, a lot of that was not as meaningful for me as it was in the beginning. I felt like I’d lost my authentic voice—the one that came so naturally to me in the beginning—and I just wanted to have it back, to feel the comfort in my art that I used to feel. I can say now that I’ve reached that place, but it took me several years of unlearning harmful ideas and habits.

I stopped posting my sketches on social media for about 6 months.

During the first half of 2020, I shared only 1–2 drawings that felt like finished works to Facebook, and I went completely silent on Instagram. (This later led to quitting Instagram for good.) I kept most of my sketchbook content private. I add some of it to my sketchbook gallery in batches, but I don’t feel compelled to draw special attention to it.

It felt liberating.

It’s not that I necessarily want to keep it private because it’s personal. (There are pages like that, but not many.) I just didn’t want to bother.

This simple act of choosing not to share what I make on a daily basis has shifted some of my thinking and feeling around my work:

1. I don’t feel the pressure to perform and create art “to the best of my ability”.

I’m a bit disappointed if my art doesn’t look like I wanted it to, but I don’t have the additional layer of disappointment “Now I don’t have anything to share with people because this sucks.” Not sharing is my new default, and sharing is the exception.

We need to feel free to fail in order to make bold, courageous choices.

2. I’m not getting distracted by other people’s work.

I haven’t been up to date with other artists, and it has released me from envy and FOMO. I used to feel overwhelmed with different techniques and directions I could take my art into after seeing what other artists are doing, and would shift gears and directions a lot. Now I feel like there’s more continuity to my practice because I don’t get pulled in so many different directions at once.

I also don’t get tempted by online workshops and courses anymore, because I know exactly what I want to learn, and it’s easy to discern quickly whether something is useful or not.

3. I don’t have the feeling of being watched while I create.

This relates to performance anxiety in point #1, but it’s also about reclaiming the feeling of privacy. When sharing was my default, I could not shake off the feeling that people will eventually see what I did. Even when I was drawing and painting with the intention of improving my well-being, I could not entirely separate it from that knee-jerk impulse “What if I did share this?”

That nagging habitual impulse at the back of my mind made it harder to be honest with the page. It wasn’t a conscious process, and I can only recognize it now that it’s gone.

There’s one exception, and that’s when I’m filming videos of my drawing and painting process for my Art Chat series. I still haven’t worked out how well that fits into this change.

4. I’ve relaxed judgement about works being either “finished” or “in progress”.

I start lots of projects and have lots of ideas I don’t know what to do with, but I also “ship”. I get a lot of pleasure and a big confidence boost from completing projects. What I’m frustrated by is the middle—plodding and percolating. Not being sure what the next step is. Letting things marinate. I’ve left many projects to marinate, and then given up on them. I’m afraid to let something sit on the side because more often than not, it means I have abandoned it.

I compensate for this by working and shipping fast when inspiration strikes. Sometimes too fast.

A few times in the past, I’d create an artwork, share the image on social media and my website, and then correct details that were bugging me. I could easily update my website, but not my social media images (I can only post an entirely new image). I thought I was done, could not wait to share it, and then realized I wasn’t done after all.

I’m learning how to let the work evolve in stages that are days or weeks apart. I’m allowing the work to feel finished and unfinished at the same time: I am finished with it for the moment, but future Nela might choose to work on it some more.

As I flip through my sketchbook looking at works that I thought were done, sometimes I get an urge to add something more to them. I’m not used to that yet. I want to complete a work in a discrete time frame. And yet, that’s not how the creative process always works.

The creative process is challenging enough without allowing other people to stick their nose into it.

The artist Tara Leaver once wrote in a comment on this blog:

“I’ve stopped sharing paintings midway through unless I’m happy with where they’re going, because otherwise people leave lovely comments and it messes with my process.”

Even praise can keep us away from what we’re set out to achieve. Sure, it’s nice to get encouragement and compliments along the foggy and treacherous path that is the act of making something from nothing, but occasionally they can pull you away from the direction you were meant to go. Instead of discovering something new and exciting, you fall back into the rut of other people’s expectations.

If you want critique and feedback, then by all means share your work in progress, your vignettes, your snippets, your drops of wisdom.

But if you’re certain about where you’ve headed and you just need to keep an eye on your vision and persevere, any outside opinion might be a distraction.

As I was writing my first book, I published a couple of sections as blog posts to see what kind of reaction they would invite. I knew I wanted to write this book, but would anyone want to read it? I didn’t know, and wanted to test it. The biggest test was releasing the introductory chapter, because I was able to see how many people were interested enough to sign up and download it.

As I’m working on my second book, I only offered it to my beta readers when I felt done with it, and didn’t know what else to add or remove. Their feedback was tremendously useful, but only because I was ready for it. I didn’t publish any chapters in advance this time, because I trusted my vision and wanted to see it through to the end. (Also, this manuscript is much, much shorter, so even if the book doesn’t get published, I didn’t waste too much time.)

For most of my past projects I just ran with my idea and didn’t ask for anyone’s opinion. Some have flopped, and some were a huge success. I never knew in advance which way they were going to turn out. (Naturally, I was hoping for success each time.) I think that’s where part of the allure and excitement lies.

Don’t let marketing take time and energy away from your body of work.

Creativity and promotion lie in a delicate balance.

I’ve heard many times that “we should spend 20% of time creating, and 80% of time promoting content” if we want enough people to see it. The marketer who supposedly originated this rule is not someone I hold in high regard.

To me, “content” is not a means to achieve fame or fortune, but its own reward.

I create because that’s my nature. I write because I have thoughts that I feel might be useful to others, and so I publish them here. But for every page of writing I publish, there are 20 or more pages I’ve written that never get an audience. I don’t publish for the sake of publishing.

I create first, then evaluate, then share. Whenever I have followed that order, I was satisfied with what I published, no matter what the audience’s reactions were.

I did try at some point to be strategic and publish content that can get me more clients and book sales, but that approach didn’t feel right for me. After a few articles on branding, I’d feel desperate to write about literally anything else because I got bored.

I’m aware of the business consequences of that. I’m diluting my brand. I’m not carving out a niche for myself. I’m confusing my audience because they never know what to expect from me. But I refuse to do the smart thing, because it feels like an intellectual prison.

That’s the difference between being a marketer and being a creator.

There’s nothing wrong with being either. Some of my favorite people are marketers! They have valuable knowledge and skills they’re willing to share with creators and teach us how to find an audience for our work. I am grateful for everything I’ve learned from marketers. But if you’re a creator trying to wear marketer’s shoes, you’re in for a rough ride.

I know a few people who started off as creators, and then went full marketer. Watching that transformation was disappointing. Later, some of them admitted publicly how they got “disconnected from their Muse”, “lost their creativity”, “longed for the times when they could just create freely”.

Those confessions validated what I already knew: creatives can become victims of their own success if they get really good at marketing.

Everywhere you turn there are former painters, writers, musicians, designers, artisans, or programmers who had some success selling their creativity, and then became marketing experts for other creatives. For many, this pivot happened quickly after their first windfall. It wasn’t a result of many years of experience in the marketing field, but more like having learned in a short amount of time (from other online marketers) what it takes to sell your work online, briefly succeeding at it, and then realizing that selling “how to sell creativity” courses is much more lucrative than selling actual creativity.

Some people may indeed realize that they enjoy marketing more than their former creative work. But others are free creators in their heart, but don’t get to do that anymore because marketing has taken over their life. I know the feeling of losing touch with the inner Artist because the Executive has ambitious goals, and there aren’t enough hours in the day to satisfy both of them. It sucks.

If you consider yourself a creator, yet find yourself spending a lot more time marketing than creating, check your priorities.

Marketing is alluring because success can be measured in clear numeric terms: sales revenue, number of newsletter subscribers, number of engagements (likes, comments, messages), number of website visitors… Seeing those numbers climb is addictive. Seeing them dwindle when you slow down your publishing is disheartening.

Measuring the quality of your creative output is much harder. There is no clear way to determine that for yourself, nor for others. We may conflate the quality of our work with numeric success and think: “This received a lot of attention and positive engagement, so it is clearly better than that other thing that got less of it.” But it’s so, so wrong to think about it this way.

Honestly, I feel like some of my best writing on this blog goes unnoticed, and then some other thing starts getting thousands of views because the gods of search decided to throw me a bone. I can’t let that affect my future decisions.

Marketing should serve, not govern your creative work.

Creatives can be great at marketing. It’s easy to come up with fresh content, because we’re producing it all the time anyway. People can sense the enthusiasm we feel about our work even through the online mediums of text, images, audio, and video. It’s wonderful to be living at a time when creatives can touch the souls of people across different continents.

At the same time, marketing should never take the place in our lives and our schedules that we have devoted to our creative work.

Our life cycles do not conform neatly to the publishing schedule.

Unless you have an assistant who takes care of the publishing side of your business, it is very likely you will fall off the wagon eventually. It may be because you got so busy with work or events you can’t spare time to form a coherent thought to publish, or because you’re dealing with big life stuff that demands all your energy.

Yes, there are ways to set yourself up for success and never miss a blog post, video, or a podcast episode, but for that you’ll need to create a huge reservoir of content that will last during the lean months. And let me tell you, no matter how big that reservoir is, eventually it runs out. If you’re not ready to keep churning out new content by the time it does, what then?

I admire Seth Godin’s writing discipline, which resulted in a published article every single day for the past 18 years. But I don’t consider every post he publishes equally good, and I don’t have the patience to sift through 30 articles a month to find one or two that I really enjoy, so I’ve unsubscribed. But my opinion of his work is not important—as long as he feels fulfilled by publishing daily, he should keep doing that. I’m sure he’s doing right by his own creative muse.

There is only one Seth Godin. We shouldn’t all strive to be like him.

A friend of mine once told me that she shows my blog to her marketing workshop participants as a positive example that goes against the best practices she teaches. She advises people to write short articles, because “no one reads long articles online”. But apparently there are plenty of readers who don’t mind my super long articles. You build the audience you want to serve. There’s no need to cater to the audience who doesn’t appreciate your unique value.

The creative process consists of several phases, not all of which are visible from the outside.

Different people may use different names, but this is the gist:

  1. Incubation: Things are happening under the surface, but we’re not doing any practical work.
  2. Inspiration: Ideas flow, our vision takes form, we make plans.
  3. Creation: We give the idea a substantial form which evolves through the process.
  4. Completion: Our creative product is finished.

The incubation period includes lots of rest, contemplation, puttering about, looking out the window, drinking tea, sitting on the porch… It appears as if we’re not doing anything, but if we don’t indulge in it, the other phases of the process will not yield the best work we’re capable of making. Jumping over the incubation period is cheating yourself. From the marketing standpoint, there is nothing to share—except maybe a photo of a nice view you’re enjoying with a caption “Current mood: Incubating”.

The period of inspiration is a very sensitive time when ideas are fresh and fugitive. Not all ideas are ripe for creation, and we need to be able to differentiate what’s the best one to pursue. Focusing on too many ideas at once often leads to none of them being completed. Clutching an idea that is not ready leads to false starts and frustration.

In this phase, enthusiasm can get the better of us and make us share our half-formed ideas, getting people excited about something we intend to do, only to decide later this isn’t what we really want. It’s probably better to keep mum about your ideas unless you’re already deeply committed to completing them. Saying you’re planning on doing something and then never following through makes you look flaky.

The creation phase is tricky as well. We can see some progress and even share bits of work with other people, but as I’ve mentioned earlier, people’s feedback can harm as much as it can help. There is good marketing wisdom in sharing some parts of our process before the final product is ready, but we also need to keep a bit of mystery and allow ourselves to change things until the very last moment, if that will lead to a better final product.

After the completion, the logical next step is to share our work immediately. We’ve worked so hard for it, we should brag a little! But you don’t have to publish your thing right away. You can keep it under wraps for a bit, or you can share it to a select audience, or you can prepare a Big Reveal Party. There are no rules.

For simple projects, the entire creative process can happen in a matter of hours. The more typical time frame is several days or weeks. For large and complex projects, the process can last for years. How long has George R. R. Martin been writing “The Winds of Winter”?

When your creative process lasts for months or years, what should you publish in the meantime?

How do you keep your audience engaged when you’re incubating and planning? Do you even need to?

A smart marketer would say that yes, you do. If you don’t keep in touch often, your audience will forget about you.

I’ll tell you that you don’t. Or at least, not in the way that marketers claim. But there’s a condition: your work needs to be memorable, your creative voice unmistakable, your output impeccable.

If you’re known to your audience as a person who puts out great work, they will wait however long it takes for you to produce it. We wait for movie sequels. We wait for new seasons of TV shows. (We’ve waited for 25 years for season 3 of “Twin Peaks”.) We’re used to waiting for good things.

You might argue but hey, those are big famous studios we’re talking about, with their mammoth marketing budgets. How can we compete? Well, of course we can’t compete with them. But we can compete with our peers.

I’ve had people looking my name up years after they first encountered my work. (I know this because some of them wrote to me.) And I’m not some fancypants art celebrity. My numbers are unimpressive. But still, my work made a mark on a few people, and those who liked it want to see what I’m up to when I publish something new. To me, that’s huge.

I believe that the promotion for our work-in-progress comes out naturally out of our creative process.

Your previous projects are what grabs people’s attention. By delivering impactful art, you’re buying the goodwill of your audience, who will be on the lookout for your upcoming work—even if they need to wait.

I’m a big fan of the organic process of threads coming together over time. By the time I started working on my first book in earnest, I’d already published dozens of articles on branding. The book was a natural progression.

My new book is about creativity. I came up with the concept totally unexpectedly this July. Years before that, I’ve written many articles on creativity, and even started a dedicated website Kreativna (in Croatian). I didn’t plan to write this book (the inspiration caught me by surprise), but the path to its audience is already there. It just makes sense.

Sketchnotes on my upcoming book on creativity - Rest and Burnout
Sketchnotes for my upcoming book on creativity – Rest and Burnout

I opted for a relaxed timeline, and didn’t start “building interest” for the book right away. I won’t be “building interest” for a while. Instead, I focused on planning and writing first, now I’m focused on editing it, and then I’ll be focused on illustrating it, and then I’ll start preparing the ground for marketing.

I wanted to give my Muse all the bandwidth she needed to do this project right, and we’ll worry about marketing later.

If the choice comes down to creativity or marketing, choose creativity.

If your creativity is asking of you to be quiet, still, and contemplative instead of publishing and engaging incessantly, do the creative thing: shut up.

If your creativity is asking of you to share things that are weighing on your heart and need to be said, even if it conflicts with your marketing strategy, do the creative thing: speak out.

If your creativity is asking for a breather, a slower pace, a commitment to intense and deep levels of focus instead of churning out shallow content, do the creative thing: slow down.

If your creativity is asking for privacy, a safe space, a cocoon, even though your social media channels are hungrily waiting for you to publish something, do the creative thing: keep it private.

Doing the creative thing will fuck up your marketing plan.

You might realize soon that there’s no point in making a plan, because your inspiration never consults it. You follow your own rhythm, and just watch what happens.

Living this way requires a great deal of trust in your creative abilities. You need to believe beyond the shadow of a doubt that your well will never run dry. You need to have faith that when things are quiet and it seems like nothing is happening, there’s something big coming up that will make the wait worthwhile.

When I was publishing “content” like a marketer would, I felt anxious:

After I’ve given up on publishing “content” and instead gave free reign to my creativity, I’m not overthinking my output. If I feel like my writing is representative of my thoughts and feelings and has the potential to inspire or educate anyone at all, I publish it. That’s it.

If my creation doesn’t feel ready to meet other people yet, I keep it in my drafts, my journal, or in my sketchbook. I created it for my own pleasure. Maybe I share it one day, maybe I don’t.

I didn’t plan on writing an article this week. There was no strategy, no goal, and certainly no good business reason. There is zero marketing sense in publishing this. I had more important things to work on, yet I spent an entire day writing this because I couldn’t shake the feeling that this is important for me to say.

I know I sound too idealist.

“Ignore experts! Do your own thing! Follow your inspiration! Discipline and planning are overrated!”

Like, how can one possibly do those things and not end up homeless? It’s risky to go against everything your parents, teachers, and bosses have taught us.

And yet… if it feels right, it just feels right.

I’m not saying anyone should do things the way I do them. I really don’t believe in rules. But if you’ve already thought about these things, and feel overwhelmed by social media and online marketing, I want you to know these feelings are normal and you are not wrong to feel that way. This hyper-connected lifestyle is unnatural.

If your dream is to retreat into a cabin in the woods and not come out until your manuscript, album, painting series, or game are ready to be revealed to the world, I want you to know that a variation of that dream is possible. Maybe it’s not a cabin in the woods but a small corner in your bedroom. You’re allowed not to tell anyone what you’re working on. You’re allowed not to post any breadcrumbs online if you don’t want to.

You can still make a great marketing campaign around your work once you’re ready to sell it. It will take some time to ramp it up, but it’s never too late to start.

This was long, so let’s recap the most important thoughts:

  • Creating in isolation can open you up to some unexpected benefits that result in more courageous and authentic work.
  • As a creator, you do get to opt out of social media for prolonged periods of time, or to stop using platforms you no longer enjoy. You don’t have an obligation to keep in touch with your audience.
  • Social media rewards people who post often, and punishes people who don’t. But when you post regularly, you have a lot more work moderating and responding to comments and messages.
  • If you’re forced to choose between creativity or marketing, choose creativity every time. You can always handle marketing later, or pay someone else to do it for you.
  • The creative process takes the time it takes. You can’t force your way through it. Don’t judge yourself if you don’t have content to publish.

In pandemic conditions, we may feel like the online world is the only reliable source of social contact we have. It’s certainly a great way to connect with friends and family who live far away, or with clients, peers, and mentors we’d never get a chance to meet in person. Meaningful connection is good for your well-being.

In this time of digital-everything, it’s more important than ever to discern the boundaries between beneficial, harmful, and neutral online interaction. Our boundaries change over time, and what worked last year may no longer work for you this year. (Especially this year.)

I think what really makes us so susceptible to marketing pressure is our own lack of patience.

I’m naturally a very impatient person. I want results now. When I was allowing my impatience to govern my actions, I kept trying out every marketing trick under the Sun because I thought that if I’m not growing my business fast enough, I’m failing.

These past 7 years of being self-employed has shown me that there was no need for that frantic scrambling at all. The natural processes have worked in my favor after all. I didn’t need to push so hard.

There’s a whole different topic opening up here, so I’ll just leave you with this question: does your desire to publish your work often come out of genuine excitement of wanting to share your work with others, or is it the pressure of wanting to get farther in your journey, faster?

Chilling out and giving things time to play out may in fact be the most radical thing you can do for your creativity.

New podcast episode on this topic: Artist vs content creator

Nela Dunato

About Nela Dunato

Artist, brand designer, teacher, and writer. Author of the book “The Human Centered Brand”. Owner of a boutique branding & design consultancy that helps experienced service-based businesses impress their dream clients.

On this blog I write about art, design, creativity, business, productivity and marketing, and share my creative process and tips. Read more about me...

Some blog articles contain affiliate links to products on Amazon. I’ll get paid a few cents if you buy something using my link, and there’s no extra charge to you.

2 responses to “Creativity in digital isolation”

  1. There is so much wisdom in this post that I don’t know where to start in praising it, Nela! Resonate, resonate, resonate – it all resonates :)
    Like you, I was seduced by the How To gurus for a while…But it all starts to feel vacuous after a while. Ultimately, it comes down to giving ourselves permission to do things our own way…which in the end is what makes our creative voice stronger in whatever field we apply it to.

  2. Thank you, Cherry! ❤
    I think this may be one of the most meaningful articles I published. I’m so glad it resonated with you. We’ve both been at this for so so long, it’s no wonder we went through the same phases and came to the same discoveries :)

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