Like most things in life, personality isn’t black and white. I am very much a Type A personality; I’m extremely goal oriented and have a hard time letting myself relax because all I can think about is what I could be doing to be more productive. It’s not uncommon for me to write out a schedule for my days off, and I regularly wake up at 6 AM so that I can have a longer, more productive day.
At the same time, though, I’m also a highly creative person. I’m even going to school so that I can make writing my career. It can feel like there’s a lot of pressure when you go to an arts school with a lot of other creative people to fit into the idea of how you think you should be: relaxed, go with the flow, spontaneous, always with a new idea budding. It took most of my freshman year of college, but I’ve finally figured out how to balance these two aspects of my life without sacrificing either of them.
Instead of fighting against your personality, work with it
Personally, I sometimes struggle with allowing myself to sit down and write a story as a Type A personality because there are (supposedly) more important things I could be doing in that moment. I could be cleaning, doing homework, studying, or doing anything that has a more pressing deadline than the story I’ve been wanting to write for the past two weeks. The way I’ve learned to get around this is by actually scheduling my writing into my day. I’ll tell myself that, from one o’clock to two o’clock, I’m going to sit down without my phone and write.
At first it was difficult, because it sometimes felt like I was trying to force my creativity. But I’ve found that the more I do it, when I sit down during that block of time I can actually allow my brain to switch fully into creative mode and I get a lot done.
When in doubt, just do something
Sometimes you simply can’t think of anything to write or paint about with your Type A personality. Maybe you can’t get your mind off of that important deadline coming up at work. That’s okay; feeling blocked or stuck is normal, even though it may make you question yourself. Just know that you don’t have to be the world’s next great artist, you just have to use your imagination. Being creative doesn’t mean sitting down and constructing a masterpiece. It means thinking outside the box and being imaginative.
When this happens to me I try not to give up or walk away. After all, I’ve made it as far as sitting down and thinking about my art, and that’s half the battle. I have two strategies for when I’m feeling this way. One of them is to focus on the present; I’ll write about my day or I’ll doodle whatever is in front of me. The other one is to read a book, listen to music, or watch a movie. After all, you can’t make art if you don’t consume it.
Don’t shut yourself down or criticize your ideas
When you’re a Type A personality, this is a particularly difficult one when you first start out. I find myself dry for ideas more than I would like to admit. And it’s not because I’m not a creative person, because my mind is constantly going and thinking up new things. But I tend to be overly critical of myself and my ideas before they’ve even fully formed.
Because creating art is often such a public experience, it involves a lot of vulnerability and you have to be prepared for judgement. Because of that, it can be easy to push aside an idea right when it comes to mind. But it’s important to remember that ideas morph and change shape, and the finished product rarely looks like the original draft.
Last summer I read the book Life is Good: The Book, written by the founders of the popular company by the same name. In it is a section on being open to new ideas, and adopting a mentality of building ideas up rather than tearing them down. Instead of rejecting your ideas, expand upon them and let them grow, even if you’re not sure about them at first. If you don’t let yourself flow with an idea because “it’s stupid” or “it’s not good enough,” then it never will be.
Being creative is difficult. It can be even more difficult when your personality doesn’t match up with what people associate with being an artistic person. It’s one hundred percent possible, though. Instead of trying to become what you think a creative person should be, you will be much more successful if you take the time to learn about yourself and how you can embrace both aspects of your personality. It takes some time, but once you settle into your own rhythm you can be productive and work on that bestseller you’ve been dreaming about.