Creativity and Passion – A Vicious Circle

You may have started your business for many different reasons.  To stay home with the kids.  Because you heard that the gift basket industry was the place to be.  Where you could make lots of money with little investment and little effort.

But that’s not most of us.  We started our business because we are creative beings.  We were excited.  We loved creating new designs.  Trying new techniques and products.

When we worked on a new design, we  lost sense of time and had a feeling of real pleasure as the work took shape in front of us. We talked to people about our business and eagerly woke up each morning anxious to get busy on creating something new.

But for those of us who have been in this industry for many years, there are times when inspiration and motivation elude us. Looming deadlines, fussy clients, uninteresting projects, or feelings of fatigue which suggest the onset of burnout: all of these can work to effectively extinguish our creative fire. When we find ourselves in these situations, we need methods to help reignite our creative spark and rekindle the creative flame that burns within us.

One of our members who has been a part of the industry for years, recently posted the following in the Facebook group:

“I was SO miserable last holiday season there were days I couldn’t stand to be in my skin.
The decades of fighting with vendors about lost/delayed/cancelled orders had taken a toll
and customer service from new vendors hit rock bottom. I was exhausted and drained from
the stress of staying ahead of staff so they wouldn’t be without work. Struggles to keep costs
down were endless. I. Was. Done. I’ve always LOVED the business and got a thrill every day
when I locked the door to go home. But I felt the joy starting to slip.”

She isn’t alone.  There are many of us who feel the same way.  We’ve lost our passion.

And, without passion, creativity always suffers. 

I’m speaking for myself now but I suspect that many of you have, at some point in the life of your business, felt the same.  Most of us started our business small and grew it  organically.  In my own business, I expanded — adding apartment welcome gifts, promotional products, bakery gifts, drop shipped gifts and more.

I combined my love of and ability to write with this growing business and started writing  for the industry magazines.  This led to speaking at conventions, further expansion into a partnership for an online directory, and later this digital magazine, and Ebooks.  I taught myself SEO, how to build a website, and many of the other things so essential to an online business which mine has gradually migrated into even though I still have an active local business as well.

It was never just a hobby.  Everything I did was done with creating a profitable business in mind.  But the process had grown into a huge responsibility and a monster of my own making.  And the nuts and bolts of doing everything necessary to maintain a series of successful businesses by myself was taking over.

I’d lost sight of why I created Creative Gifts to Go in the first place and why I had added Gift Basket Network and all its ingredients.  I had forgotten the most important ingredient of all — and that is passion.  In other words,  things had become routine and I was bored.

As a result, the creativity on which this business was originally based just wasn’t there anymore.  Sure I added new designs, wrote new articles, and did all the other things that I had always done.  But it was no longer exciting and fun.  The passion had gone and with it the creativity.

But it’s not easy admitting when something isn’t working anymore. Sometimes, you might not even realize what’s happened. That is until that moment of clarity when the proverbial light bulb sparks back to life in your head. This happened to me recently when my younger sister developed cancer and died a couple weeks ago.

It was a wake-up call to the fact that life isn’t forever.  We never know when tomorrow will be our last opportunity to live and that today may be the only one we have left.  But that knowledge left me even more confused.

Quitting was not the answer and, for me, was not even an option.  I didn’t want to abandon anything that I was doing or waste all those years of work.   Even though I was bored, I still loved what I had created.   I realized that if I was going to get my passion and creativity back, I was going to have to look at making some changes.

The business owner who posted that post in our Facebook group also posted that she had done exactly that.  Here is how her post continued:

“So that was when I went out to find a strategic partner to take over production and
leave me with marketing and sales. No one was going to do that for me. I am in a
GREAT place now and my skin is comfy again. (Wrinkles, but comfy!)”

Creativity is all about seeing things from a new perspective and making changes that will help us regain that passion and creativity. 

It may sound like a bit of a cliché but it’s true that no one sees the world the same way that you do.  Even though we may all feel like we are losing that passion at sometime in our business life, we will not all regain it in the same way.

The Facebook poster found hers by outsourcing the things that were causing her the most stress.  I’m regaining mine by making some changes in my own business models. The way that you regain your passion will most probably be very different than how either of us regained ours.

As I’ve made the journey from boredom to renewed passion, these are some realizations that I’ve had along the way.

  1. Although we may create in solitude, we also thrive creatively by having the support of those who understand us the best.
    This is why it’s important to find those kindred creative spirits to share our hopes, our struggles, our dreams, our fears,
    as well as our triumphs. We need to find our community  — those who will support and nurture us along the way.
  2. Wherever you decide to hang out, be sure that you allow yourself to occasionally open up and be vulnerable.
    Just like in the real world, people want to connect with real people not some fake super-confident version of yourself.
  3. Don’t be afraid to experiment and try something new.
  4. No creative work is ever wasted. Even if my current work is bad, it might inspire me to do some great work in the future.
  5. Our creativity works like a machine. Once we stop using it, it becomes rusty. Every single day on which I don’t produce
    something, makes it harder for me to get back into a decent rhythm.
  6. Down periods are a normal part of the creative process. There are always times where we are at a creative low.

Creativity  wasn’t the subject that I had originally written for this “From the Inside” article.  But when I only had one entry into the contest that was announced in the newsletter asking you to use your creativity by creating a gift in a vintage container, I realized that this article was needed.

I’m sure there were many reasons why you didn’t enter the contest. Perhaps you were too busy and had too much business to take time out to create a design that wasn’t for sale.  Perhaps you thought the contest was silly and a waste of time.  I’m sure there were a dozen other reasons as well.

But I think there is another even more important reason.

Through the years, our industry has evolved and changed.  Times change.  Techniques change. Technology changes. Marketing changes.  And failure to stay up-to-date with those changes is like using DOS or even Windows 98 on your computer.

Competition increases for our customer’s gifting dollars.  Amazon has created opportunities as well as growing challenges.  UPS and Fedex have made some major changes in their pricing which affect our designs as well as shipping.  Google changes its SEO practices regularly.  Website software changes.  Social media creates constantly evolving marketing platforms.

Even within our industry, there have been major changes. If you go back and look at the magazines and how-to books that were published just a few years ago, you should notice the differences.

Cutesy has been replaced by practical.  Loads of florals and enhancements are no longer desirable.  Remember all those tissue paper and cello puffs that were used to fill the empty spaces?  These are just some of the changes that are most evident.

As a result, our designs have become more and more alike. Sure, baskets with handles have evolved into the use of more trays and flatter baskets and the latest design fad is just a box filled with curated items laid flat in the box.  The boxes, the trays, and even the products may be different but the results are the same.

Creativity has evolved into sameness.

But I remember that many years ago when the gift basket business was young and when we were starting our business, creativity was booming.  We were excited to stretch our imagination and create something new and different.  I remember how excited I was when I discovered something as basic as shrink wrapping.

Evolution is good and is even necessary to survive in today’s business world.
But when it stifles creativity and passion, it is time for change.

So what is next?

That is up to each of us.  I’m guilty of embracing the sameness as well.  I can put together a gift basket without even thinking about it.  That’s great for efficiency but not for creativity.  This is one of the reasons for many of the changes that I am making in my own business and is the reason for this article.  It is also the reason for the contest that I announced.  I wanted to see how much creativity and the desire to build something unique and different was left in our industry.  And, unfortunately, my suspicions were confirmed.

You can read this article and shake your head at the audacity of this little old lady’s musings.  Or you can think about yourself and your own business and life as you answer the question:

Do I still have the passion and creativity that I had when I started this business?

If the answer is yes, you are in a good place.  But if it is no, it’s time to get your favorite beverage, sit down and do some thinking about why you lost it and what you are going to do about it.

If you decide to use that imagination and creativity to create something that stands out from all the sameness that we see on most websites, I  invite you to send me a photo of your unique creative design and I will publish it in the next issue.

Change can only happen if we desire it.  But even desire isn’t enough.  We have to determine what that change will be and then we have to make those changes even if they seem revolutionary. 

I’m truly interested in your response to this article and to any changes that you may make in your own business.  Share them with me in the comments.  I am . . .

Your Friend and Mentor  — Joyce Reid