In my article Planning and Goal Setting for Artistic Creativity – a Message for the Terrified, I talked about the difficulty many creative people have in applying goal setting and planning to their own artistic medium. We looked at how fear, bad experiences, negative image and a lack of knowledge about planning and goals could all play their part in condemning us to a meandering, dilettante approach.
It’s an approach that all too often leads to dissatisfaction and disappointment, but can still feel preferable to that apparently hard, businesslike science of planning and goal setting.
So let’s not think of it that way – let’s make it altogether more friendly and approachable. This is the organic approach to goal setting.
If you want to do more or better than you are currently achieving, please give it a try. To take it seriously make notes as you go and use as much detail as feels right for you. And make sure you take action at the end of it.
Organic Goal Setting
Organic goal setting harnesses your power of visualisation but that doesn’t limit its use to visual creativity. It should be equally effective for music, performance and writing.
1 - Imagine your artistic career as a growing plant. Get a picture in your mind of your own individual plant – its leaves and branches, its size. This plant may be well grown by now – or it may be little more than a seedling. It may be lopsided or small but perfectly formed. Or it may have stopped growing and be at the beginning of a slow decline.
Whatever – Get that picture in your mind. And regardless of its condition make it a warm and loving picture – because you are the gardener and it is your care and attention that will make a difference.
Now, if you haven’t already, think about the flowers or fruit that your plant is producing. Imagine these as your artistic output. What are they like at the moment? Again – remember that you are the gardener here – you feel a warmth towards this plant – a commitment to help it grow, flourish and bear good fruit.
Okay – so you have in your mind an image of your creativity plant as it is now.
2 - Next, I’d like you to think of the absolute maximum potential of this plant. Imagine it metaphorically, as the image of a plant, but also in the context of your own artistic medium.
Ask yourself: if everything went perfectly – if every condition for growth fell into place and there were no barriers to success – what is the maximum potential for this plant? Don’t worry about how achievable or even desirable this is – just get the picture.
So you now have two images – one of where you are now, and one of where it is possible to be in a ‘perfect’ world.
3 - It may be that this vision of ultimate success is what inspires you, but the wonderful thing is that it doesn’t have to. Because you can have a successful, unique and creatively fruitful plant without getting anywhere near it. And you can visualise a goal that suits you now, knowing that in the future you can always grow it on further if you wish. The key here is to visualise a goal for your creative growth that feels empowering and inspiring.
It’s worth spending a little time on this. Experiment with your visualisations and register your feelings towards them.
You now have a third image – a comfortable yet stretching goal. You may have a lot of growing and nurturing to do along the way – but plants grow slowly – putting out new leaves and branches steadily but imperceptibly. When a healthy plant grows new leaves they are developing organically and unhurriedly from the previous growth.
And so a small plant can develop into something magnificent, provided it has the time and reasonable conditions to grow. Those growing conditions will vary from plant to plant. Like your own creative ability, each needs its own mix of nutrients, light, shade, position and climate.
4 - You are the gardener. What do you need to give to your creative self to help it grow the way you want it to?
Write a list of the possibilities.
- Is your plant short of certain skills? How can it get them?
- Does it need more knowledge, or contact with like minds?
- Does it need more physical or mental space to work?
- Do you have a clear enough vision of what your art is about?
- Do you need to share what you produce, but are holding back from doing so?
- Do you need help or guidance?
From your list, choose one or two areas that will improve the health of your creativity plant?
Ask yourself what kinds of things would make a positive difference. Aim for a list of ideas and hey – be creative.
Choose one or two ideas and make a commitment to actually make them happen. Make another commitment to enjoy the process.
Start putting your actions into place and watch your creativity plant begin to grow, to bloom and to bear its wonderful fruit.
Andrew Leigh is a life coach and author of The Creative Instinct a content rich blog focusing on personal development to enhance your creative ability. If you would like to comment on this article, please visit the blog.