I’m what Pharrell Williams describe as The Multi-Hyphenate creative. Being a musician, writer, Creative Director, designer and illustrator means I never have an off switch. I don’t do well with crowds when I want to zone in and get a project finished. The brainstorming bit is always easy. Sure, you need to interact with others and get their input but the actual project needs me to be intense and alone.
In this process, I discovered some pints which I’m gonna share with you. I started excising some of these ideas way before and thanks to COVID-19 I can finally write them down.
Let me start from the beginning…
Zimbabwe has been having fuel, power and water challenges for more than 5 years now. My trusted Macbook died on me about a year ago and I have to use a desktop (iMac) ever since. This meant that I could only finish typing, designing or writing business plans and concepts when at work during 8 to 5. This became next to impossible because:
- I’m a morning person and thanks to power and water problems I’d some mornings… looking for gas and water for my family and getting to work after 9 am. Clients and workmates would also expect my attention at meetings in the morning, so I’d only get to sit behind a computer after 12 pm.
- My daughter started school in January and from 3 pm, I have to do the school run which is about two hours out of my day.
- I only had about two hours a day with a very old and slow computer.
- I’m a father and husband and my family still needs my attention when I am home.
- I’m also a businessman, so during the day I have partners, stakeholders and employees that demand my attention. This kills the whole creative vibe.
That being said, I have learnt the following tips over the past year and have become more productive than I have been in 10 years.
You do not need a computer or phone to be a creative
My college design lecturer Jane Shepherd used to say that a computer is nothing but a tool that you use to enhance a good idea. You can use a pen, pencil and paper to execute your idea. Sunday mornings are now my best days because this is when I join a fuel queue for about 5 to 7 hours. I take this time to read a book or write that song I’ve always wanted to. I carry my sketch pad always and I doodle a lot.
I doodle anything, from the cars in the queue to the people walking about. I also write any ideas that pop in mind and take the time to go write points for ideas I’ve been meaning to execute over the years. I carry my car charger and buy data and do my online vocal training. Sometimes I download tutorials when I am on WIFI at work then go through them when alone in the car. 5 hours of working on your voice or writing music is everyone’s dream. Even if you don’t have a car, this point is still valid. Maybe you walk more because public transport is now harder to find. Put your earphones on and do something worthwhile with that hour walk or time spent in a queue at your local borehole or water source. This takes us to the next point.
Meditate and exercise. You don’t need fuel, power or water to do this.
A healthy body is a healthy mind. Creatives use more of their brains than ordinary humans. So why not take care of the organ that you need the most?
As the baby gets ready for school I sit alone in my bedroom and meditate for 5 to 10 minutes. This helps clear my mind and take it off the ‘issues’ of the world. These issues aren’t going away. The world will always have its fair share of problems but you can clean the inside of your body and soul so that you beat the world one day at a time.
Do a few sit-ups, skip a little or take a jog in the morning before you start your day or before you sleep.
Distractions: the world is full of them and Zimbabwe and Africa are not unique. My business partner and best friend Chris Mahakata taught me this. By accepting that you will have distractions, your mind becomes better prepared and you learn to work around them. You are at home, so there will be a myriad of distractions that you are faced with:
- Meetings. Adhoc meetings
- Car breakdown. Bus delays
- Your Kids
- Television and Social Media
- Your relationship with your lover and family members
- Death and birthdays
- Family gatherings
I can go on and on. With that said, try not to get absorbed into the TV or social media, it isn’t productive and the information is all repetitive and only comes in various content but it’s the same all day. The next point is also linked to this one.
Be realistic on what you can do with your day
As I said before, your mind is the most important tool. By expecting more from yourself than you can actually do, you create anxiety and depression. This then affects productivity.
If you can only write and record one song a week or month, then do that. If you can only design one piece of artwork a week, then do that. The idea is consistency and momentum. That’s the true meaning of success.
No man is an island. As a multi-talented creative, I had ideas that I mostly loved to execute alone, from start to finish but growing older has taught me that there’s nothing wrong with letting go. As a singer, maybe let others write for you if you are chasing a deadline. As a designer maybe sketch the idea and ask a colleague or subordinate to finish off whilst you have that business meeting. As you achieve more, you will eventually free up your time more, create those projects you would love to do alone from start to finish. The funny thing is when you realize the power of delegation and teamwork, you will not want to look back.
Please stay safe during the lockdown so that we can beat this Coronavirus and let’s show the world how much Africa would have moved creatively after these months of limited travel and communication.