Developing a Life-Enriching Creative Practice (an Interview with Cherry Jeffs)
This week's post is an interview with creative coach Cherry Jeffs about cultivating a regular creative practice, overcoming common obstacles like fear of visibility, and reconnecting with your creativity. I loved reading Cherry's answers to my questions (especially no. 3) and I hope you enjoy them too!
Can you tell us a little about yourself and what you’re passionate about right now?
I'm currently following two passion-filled paths side by side!The first is developing my creative practice in what is still a relatively new area for me - making one-off "Artist's Books".(That's a very niche market and most people - not surprisingly - have totally the wrong idea about what that means so anyone in that camp can go here for my explanation of what they are.)I'm also looking to expand that practice in a way that I can develop products that are accessibly-priced while still retaining some of the essence of the one-off pieces. I've no idea what that's going to look like so, I'm experimenting using a challenge of 'making something every week' throughout 2018 to test protoypes and play with ideas.My second parallel path is developing my coaching business. While I'm not planning to stop doing basic creative habit coaching, I've just launched a new package which is aimed at people who want to quit their day job and earn a living from their creative work.I've been coaching people who want to do this as a sort of ad hoc, extension to habit coaching, but I wanted to nail it down as a separate package so prospective clients could get a clear handle on what I'm offering.This is NOT anything like a 'how to start a business' course, instead I see it as a totally customisable journey that the client and I can take together to transform their dream from idea to concrete, action-stepping reality!
What have the highlights of your creative journey been so far? How has your path led to where you are today?
In a perverse way, overcoming really terrible creative block is what led me to the happy place I am now.With the help of books, over a sustained period of time, I self-coached my way through the process of transforming myself from a designer to the fine artist I secretly wanted to be.I emerged out of the other side, not only with a strong creative practice, but with a vocation to help other creatives in their struggles.
What, in your experience, are the most common obstacles people face when cultivating a regular creative practice? How can we start to tackle these obstacles?
On a practical level, the single biggest 'mistake', if you can call it that, that I see people make is the same one that people make starting any habit: setting the bar too high.We expect ourselves to go from having no creative practice to creating, say, for two hours every day. This just sets us up for a fall because we haven't built up the stamina to sustain it.So the answer is surprisingly simple. Start ridiculously small. Five minutes isn't too little. In fact, if it feels derisory, that's perfect. Because it means you just can't NOT do it.And doing some creative work regularly is absolutely the number one key to gradually doing more of it!Beyond that, I think the biggest difficulty we have is accepting that creative practice is a messy business. It's not linear. It doesn't fit nicely on your to do list. Showing up doesn't always mean being productive. It doesn't always mean producing great work.Creative practice is like being a toddler learning to walk and knowing that there's never going to be a time when you can be absolutely sure that you won't fall over!But there's a really good reason behind this, if we only see it that way: It's because we're constantly improving and so pushing ourselves further. And every time we push ourselves into the next level, we'll go through the falling over process all over again. So we need to learn to say,"Great! Falling over again. Must be learning a ton!"and carry on, because that's how we become great at what we do.
Something I’ve experienced with my own creative work is fear of visibility, especially around wondering when my work is “good enough” to share in public. How do you decide that for yourself?
This is something so many creative people worry about and I used to feel like that too. What changed my mind is something Seth Godin said, a rough quote being"Ubiquity is not the problem."What he means is that we don't need to worry about what people are thinking about our work because the real problem we have in this world of so much digital noise, is being SEEN at all.So what I tell myself and my clients is: Don't worry, nobody's looking!
What advice do you have for someone who might be reconnecting with their creative practice after a break or after falling out of love with it?
Instead of advice, I'd offer congratulations! Because there's a weird thing that happens when we pick up something we've left off. We often come back better at it than before! I can't account for it but I've seen it in my own practice and I read recently that it really IS a phenonemon.The only way I can account for it is that maybe we just 'forget' some of our old inhibitions and come back fresh. And maybe, that our subconscious has done some work in our 'absence' in terms of the supportive practices of analysing our own and other people's work and maybe on getting clearer on who we really are as creatives. Which dovetails nicely into your next question...
What does becoming who you are mean to you?
It feels like grabbing hold of all the disparate experiences and passions that are my life, and finding out what happens when I make a creative recipe out of all those unconnected ingredients.And in doing that, I come home to a place that I always knew was there - but I didn't have a clue what it looked like until I arrived!
About CherryI'm a location-independent, mixed-media artist and top creative practice coach on Coach.me with a passion for helping people grow creative grow wings.I have a degree in theatre design and I have run my own businesses as a graphic designer and then as jewellery designer-maker, before finally realising my dream of being a fine artist.Find out more about Cherry's work on her website.Would you like support with building your own creative practice? Learn more about coaching with Cherry here.Photo by Jess Watters on Unsplash