So it’s day 10 of the lockdown here in Zimbabwe and, if you’re like me, you live in the fear of developing cabin fever and getting a little stir crazy. The irony is that most of us creatives are anti-social introverts that hiss at the mere sight of sunlight but get angsty at the suggestion of confinement. Anyhoo, the only way to retain a modicum of sanity in this time is to find something constructive to do beyond counting the grains of rice in a 2kg bag. So today we’re looking at things that we can do to make this lockdown constructive. So get the toolbox! It’s CRUNCHTIME!
It is said by many that an idle mind is the devil’s playground. That’s a stinging statement meant for the lazy but under the current circumstances it’s a warning for us the confined. But there is hope. My mother always used to tell me that if you look around you will find something to do. As much as I hated that statement growing up, because it always preceded a deluge of chores, I see the truth of it now. The mind is like a stage. If it’s left unattended some crazy guy will think it’s karaoke night and sing the worst version of “We are the champions” you’ll ever hear. But if the stage is kept busy that crazy guy will never get the chance to get on stage. So, for sure, if you look around, you’ll find something to do. Luckily we are creatives so we’ll never have to look far.
Number 1. Formalize your enterprise.
I have spoken ad infinitum about registering your enterprises, even as a sole trader. But what I’m talking about here is also getting your internal paperwork in order. Get all those invoices together. Find that invoice that fell under the couch. Balance the books. Write all your outstanding job cards and time sheets. Fix the files. You’ll thank me later. I know for many of us admin is a painful, mind-numbing, soul-sucking process and is usually the primary victim of our procrastination. However, it is a necessary evil. It helps you track your work, track your income and to see if you’re actually as busy or as productive as you think.
Number 2. Flesh out your brand and material.
One of the great paradoxes I have witnessed in the creative industry is that, while we supply materials for our clients aplenty, we struggle to flesh out our own brands. How many times have you found yourself making an excuse for not having business cards? How many times have you had to put together a slapdash letterhead for the sake of correspondence? The list is long and depressing. So this down time is a chance to catch yourself up to your clients. That way imota yomakanika ayisoze ihlale ifile (the mechanic’s car won’t be broken down).
Number 3. Update your CV.
I know many of us are freelancers, and many still retain the intention to remain as such, and so might not see the need to update their CVs. However, whether you’re a freelancer or not you need a CV. This is how you sell yourself. I know some will say, “But I have my portfolio so I can use that to sell myself.” To that I respond, “Your CV is what makes them want to see your portfolio.”
By the way, if you CV is still a typed out MS Word document – REPENT!
Number 4. Sort out your website issue.
Nothing infects trust and confidence with Covi19 more than a lack of electronic reach and firstname.lastname@example.org. Get a website. Stop directing people to your social media handles. Those are fine but they are spice on top of the meat. Do you know anyone that eats spice on its own without the meat? And yes, you can have a personal website if you’re a freelancer. Now with this one I excuse not myself. My company is about to celebrate 9 years of existence and still doesn’t have a website. My problem is that, as a creative, I want my site to be “perfect” and to “show that we are graphic designers”. That’s wrong. Pick one layout and run with it. You will fine tune it as you get feedback. The website that keeps getting adjusted and readjusted in your mind will never receive impartial feedback.
Number 5. Work on that idea you’ve been putting on ice.
I know many of us have had moments where we say, “Wouldn’t it be nice if <insert idea here>.” Or “If only <insert organisation here> would <insert idea here>.” Well woulda-coulda-shoulda. Now is the chance to use this seemingly dead time to work on that idea and see just how feasible, workable or profitable it is. It could be a branding project, a website, an app, a new concept. Just got through each page one by one in your idea book.
By the way, if you don’t have an idea book – REPENT!
Number 6. Learn a new software.
I’m sure if you look at your skillset right now you will find a gap. Personally mine is coding so app development and web design suffer for my shortcomings. This would be the perfect time to go through that collection of tutorials that you haven’t watched (I know you have one) and learn a new skill. You never know what new revenue can come from opening a new stream.
Number 7. Create your own tutorials.
A lot of the time I am somewhat taken aback at just how many tutorials on the interweb are done by Indians, Middle-easterns and Russians. I once found a Blender tutorial. All I got was, “F7 jru RV geijefrguruevegrurj.” So my question is this, with so many gurus in GDZ why don’t we have more local tutorials? Maybe you don’t think you have Sebastian’s talent of presentation. Who cares? Just do it as you and teach the way you like to learn. You might surprise yourself.
Number 8. Learn handcraft.
Nothing gives the feeling of creation and gets the creative juices flowing more than making something with your hands. You are forced to plan materials, learn the development of panels, figure out the relationship between parts, learn about methods of joining. And not only that you have the ever so satisfying feeling of seeing all that come together. It teaches you how to think in processes and plan your work. And as a bonus, learning how stuff is made or produced in the end improves the way you design.
Personally what I have discovered is that the road to innovative packaging starts with dabbling in hand craft. Start by learning how to plan and make boxes, then try to reverse engineer any boxes that you think are interesting. Eventually you’ll be making your own stuff.
Number 9. Learn or remind yourself how to draw.
There seems to be a debate lately about whether you need to be good at drawing to be a designer. I can’t really comment impartially because my design education passed through the pencil onto the paintbrush before moving onto the mouse. What I can say is that it has certainly been easier to express my thoughts than if I went full bore onto the computer. But genuinely there are some people in the design field that can’t draw. This is a good time to at least introduce your hand to the pencil. It’s a relationship that, if allowed to be more than a one-night stand and is well maintained, will be full of love and greatly fulfilling.
So if you don’t own a sketchbook, get one. If own a sketchbook, use it. Draw something, anything. Start with doodling shapes. Draw an apple, an orange, a brick, a cup, a spoon. Anything. When you get more comfortable draw the scene in front of you. Have fun with it.
Number 10. Read a book or more.
Personally I like to reserve my comments until I have sufficient knowledge on the subject matter. So, in order to never be silent in any room, I read as much as I can. I read books on PR, on Communication, on Design, on Art History, on Figure Drawing, on Psychology. Knowledge is one of my primary addictions. Try to make it one of yours as well. What you will also find is that reading jumpstarts your “research gland”. Meaning when you research before you work you have a wider base to build your concepts from. Try this as a simple exercise next time you work on a design project. Before you start doing anything, create a mind map. If you can’t get to 25 points on that mind map, you don’t know enough about the subject matter.
Number 11. Declutter your space.
I just want to go on record and say that it’s perfectly normal for a creative’s space to get cluttered. A creative’s desk is a collection of ghosts of clients past and present, ideas that are still waiting for a stork to deliver them out of the obscurity of the sketchbook, even a blackmail worthy collection of receipts and notes. I understand that the clutter mainly collects because you’re moving from one job to another so rapidly that you don’t get the chance to refresh. Now is the chance to refresh and release. Throw away what you don’t need and keep only what is essential. It’s an allegory on life.
I know some of you will say there is method to your madness, but there is also madness to your madness. If you have to move the job cards file to find the puncher that you will use to punch the job cards that are under the keyboard that’s not method. That’s mental.
Number 12. Write a blog
It’s always nice to read a blog. It gives us a down to earth informal view from a seemingly normal human being who is living a life with likes, interests, and challenges similar to ours, or similar to what we aspire to. So writing a blog is a nice way to share your knowledge and wisdom to others that may relate to you. It doesn’t even have to be related to the creative field. I mean, one fact that is blatantly obvious is that creatives are multi-faceted individuals with a number of passions that fuel their creativity. We would love to read about them. So talk to your readers about sports. Do anime reviews. Give us a stage by stage deconstruction of your Call of Duty missions. The field is indeed white and ready to publish.
Number 13. Hold your AGM, EGM.
If you hadn’t had your AGM (Annual General Meeting) to take stock of last year and plan for this year, this is the perfect time. If you already had your meeting and have seen the plans you made scuppered by this lockdown you can hold an EGM (Extraordinary General Meeting) and restrategise. The meeting is still possible via Skype, Zoom, Team Viewer, WhatsApp or Telegram. Make sure you date it and minute it as you would any other meeting.
One thing my Technical Drawing teacher liked to say was, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. So plan your work then work your plan.” Planning gives you a destination and it also provides you with guideposts along the way to make sure you stay the course and reach your destination. Otherwise if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there. The only difference is that you don’t know when you’ve arrived.
So there you go. We have been given the chance to slow down and improve ourselves. For such a long time we have probably even set some of these things as goals for ourselves then proffer a myriad of excuses when we fail to start. I once saw a quote that said, “You don’t need to be great in order to start but you need to start in order to be great.” The simple fact we all need to espouse is that the only way to start is to start. Let the rest follow. Because at the end of the day, if you haven’t learnt, improved or grown at all in this time then time was never your issue – discipline was. Just aim to be a better version of yourself today, than you were yesterday. After all, Kukhulwa Kokuphela. Stay safe. Stay inspired. Stay inside. This has been CRUNCHTIME. See y’all next time.