Yesterday we looked at identifying the elements of your art (or craft – or anything really) that have ‘heart & meaning’ for you.
The next step on the pathway, as set out by Lisa Sonora Beam, is to look at Gifts and Flow.
What’s the difference, you probably wonder?
While heart and meaning is about identifying where we are happiest, what subjects or areas bring the most joy to us or where we find deep meaning exploring; gifts and flow is about identifying that which comes really easily to us.
We all have a series of innate gifts or talents. Some people are good with numbers, others have perfect pitch. Some might has a great facility with words, while some people have a real gift with colour.
Spend some time thinking about what your gifts are. What have people always commented upon that seems really easy to you? Those are your gifts. Don’t be modest! Most people have several natural gifts.
If you can’t identify any, then it’s worth asking a few people close to you what they think your gifts are. Don’t be embarrassed. It is important to understand your gifts.
Flow is when you get busy doing an activity and completely lose track of time. Do you ever look up at the clock and realise that you’ve spent the last hour engrossed in something and didn’t even notice the passage of time? You were busy doing something, it was going well, you were feeling good and time flew by?
The opposite to Flow is the tasks where time seems to drag on forever. For me, it’s preparing my receipts for my accountant. I hate doing it (even thought I recognise its value) and it seems to take twice as long as it should since I am not in flow. However, when I am making music, time flies by. I have no sense that I have been sat at the stool for over an hour.
Where do you experience flow?
It’s important to recognise the difference between ‘Heart & Meaning’ and ‘Gifts and Flow’. The things we love or that have great meaning to us, are not necessarily the things that we are innately talented at or that come to us with ease. I love the French language, and would love to speak French fluently (heart & meaning), but I do not have a natural affinity to languages nor do I find the process of studying a language all that fun/effortless (gifts & flow). Do you see how there is a difference here? That doesn’t mean that I can’t, and shouldn’t study French if it’s something that I love, but I might not want to set up a creative business around French as it’s not an area where I have an innate gift.
We’re trying to identify the place where what you love to do crosses over with what you have an innate ability to do. If you can find that sweet spot, it will be much easier to make a business out of your creative pursuit. Don’t be alarmed if you can’t immediately find that ‘sweet spot’ – it might take time and even if they don’t line up perfectly, the other two pathways will help you to further refine this.
Lisa Sonora Beam points out another use for Gifts & Flow:
Alignment with Gifts & Flow helps balance Heart & Meaning by deciding what NOT to be doing. This can provide a strategic advantage your competitors are probably not considering. It takes discipline to not try to be all things to all people. It seems counterintuitive, but the more you develop a specific niche or speciality, the easier it is to achieve your objective. When you let go of what you don’t want to be doing (what isn’t a gift or doesn’t create flow), you create a space in which to do more of what you do want to be doing.
Take a few minutes to think about the activities you do where you don’t experience flow (like with my tax receipts). Is it possible to drop some of these tasks or else pass them on to someone else to do? Mankind is very diverse and the things we hate to do, are things that someone else loves to do and is very good at. It can often be good value for us to pay someone else to do these things and free ourselves up to spend more time doing the things we are actually good at and which we have a talent for. Maybe you can forgive yourself by passing some of those tasks off to other people?
Sometimes we are also very good at things which we don’t really like. There is no value in doing these tasks either. Try to focus as much of your precious time on doing tasks which you both like and are good at. You will be far more productive and see what you can outsource to others.
We aren’t just looking to create a creative business but we want to create a creative life. A creative life should be one filled with joy. Joy comes from applying our time and talents to things which we find have meaning and heart and which we are gifted. That’s where we experience flow and where we can be most productive.
These first two pathways are all about you. Getting close to what makes you tick. The next two pathways are about understanding your customer and the market forces. Scary stuff? No, but vital for understanding if you want to actually earn a living from your art.
Look out for the next piece tomorrow.