nose-to-grindstone syndrome

i was listening to a podcast from accidental creative this morning, about the crisis stage in the creative process, and nose-to-grindstone (NTG) syndrome . man, is that ever applicable.

the podcast covered the difference between burnout, and the creative crisis -- namely, that the creative crisis is like a grain of sand under the tongue; it's not killing you. you look back to your best work, and compare your current work to the old, and know something's lacking in the new work.

hoo boy.

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see, the projects for Saltmine U. are not creatively challenging for me. i know, i know, there's a good challenge in any project if you just look hard enough, right? well… i've looked. and looked some more. when i started a couple of years ago, it was a challenge, for sure. but now that i've mastered how things work here, and acclimatized, i'm bored by the work. oh, the meta-work is still challenging at times, because that's its nature. but the actual design projects are just not too terribly cool or a stretch, so i can handle them pretty quickly, efficiently, and make the clients happy, solve the design problem… but not be very happy with them.

work is not where my creative growth is happening, and that's a major source of dissatisfaction for me. my favorite days of the week are when i get to go to the studio. even though i struggle; even though it's a major battle sometimes to get myself in the car, my supplies in the car, make the 65-mile drive down to the studio, and then get my canvas on the easel -- i love it. okay, i love it when it's going well. when it's not going well, i get a little stabby. okay, a lot stabby. however, on my worst days at the studio, i still feel better at the end of the day than i do when i get home from work, because i've hit the crisis phase with my design work. at the studio, i'm still in the discovery phase, which is exciting (if frustrating).

it sounds like a luxury complaint, i'm sure. if you don't have a job, or don't know what you want to do with your life, or your current job is a hellish montage of pain and suffering, this seems trivial. i don't have clients or a boss screaming at me; i get paid good money; and the demands of the job are well within my skillset. the commute is hell and leaves me very little free time, which is Very Bad.

the lack of free time is perhaps the most common complaint of most people who want to be creative professionals, and maybe even of those who have turned pro. so far, i've managed to salvage time to work on creative projects, but it's come at the cost of a social life. i have a serious case of nose-to-grindstone syndrome, as i tackle the day job, the studio work (both in and out of it), portfolio work, and then things just for me, some of which have nothing to do with getting work, like knitting.

the trick to staying at Saltmine U. for the time being is going to be figuring out new methods of keeping myself challenged, and that will most likely only happen once i go through trying to dig deep and discover more about how and what exactly i want to create.