Staying Creative

I recently started a group for Creative Directors over on LinkedIn (the group is a precursor to yet-to-be unveiled project I’m developing) and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the quality of the discussions. A recent discussion started with the question of how to maintain your creative spark when you’re pulled out of a creative environment and dealing with left-brained folks all day.

I won’t include anyone else’s comments (although they’re welcome to comment here), but here’s my $.02 on the subject (slightly modified from my original comment on LinkedIn):

1) I can’t picture a day when I’d want to step away from designing and the creative process. BUT the thing that’s constantly kicking my butt is the fact that I get pulled in so many different directions — meetings, emails, hallway meetings, mediation/counseling—the fun never ends. Don’t get me wrong, I truly enjoy what I do, but the trade-off is I can’t always give my projects as much attention as I’d like. I haven’t found (and don’t see) a design/management/leadership balance yet. 

2) The first (and best) piece of advice I received when I was starting my career in the design world was to ‘hire people better than you’. Coming from the guy who just hired me, that sounded like really smart advice. : ) It’s something that I’ve tried to do since I put on a hiring hat (7 years ago—time flies), and it’s served me well. To earlier point(s), it’s humbling to get your butt kicked by a creative dyamo, but the good part is I learn a lot in the process and it pushes me to do better work.

This is either a cautionary tale or good advice (I hope) for those looking to grow in their careers. What do you think? If you manage people, how do you maintain balance? If you’re a creative, how do keep your spark sparkin’?