The Calculated Creative

3 Steps to Better Creative Boundaries

Know your “NO”

For the longest time I said yes to every creative project that came my way.

But what I was gaining in income…

I was also losing in passion.

So how do you find the middle ground of the two?

By knowing your “no”.

Here’s how to create better boundaries in 3 easy steps:

1. Try Everything

You don’t know what you haven’t experienced.

And the difficult truth is that you have to start by getting a better lay of the land.

Try as many different creative projects as you can.

Learn to spot clues that will help you to better determine what projects you enjoy.

And what ones you don’t.

2. Cut Your Dislikes

Now that you have a basic understanding of what you like, and dislike, it’s time to make some choices.

What kinds of projects can you tolerate?

And what kinds of projects give you a pit in your stomach the second you hear about them?

Start to actively say no to the ones that set off your “oh crap not this again” alarm.

3. When to Bend

You will inevitably encounter projects that seem to land smack dab on the fence.

Where you’re not sure about taking, or say no to, the incoming request.

It’s at this stage that I give myself a few filters that help me know where to bend my own rules.

Did jobs like this really SUCK in the past? Yes.

But if they pass my “bend test” of being either:
- Incredibly fun
- Pay more than I’m comfortable with

I’ll start to look more closely at potentially saying yes.

How this is relevant for a:

Freelancer — It can be a head spinning task to try and figure out if an incoming project is something you want to take or not. Use this guide as an easy way through the internal noise.

Full-timer — New team members. Conflicting priorities. C-level execs breathing down your neck. It’s a wonder you’re still sane. Use this process to learn more about what roles you enjoy. But also to help reinforce boundaries once you’re in them.

Dabbler — The biggest creative killer is getting caught in projects you hate. Stack a few of these on top of one another and you start to question your own existence and career choices. Use this framework to begin leaning into the ones that keep you fulfilled and motivated.

The Takeaway

If your work doesn’t lift you up, it’s time for a gut check.

Creative work should leave you feeling inspired, not drained.

The most creative people know this.

And it’s why they say no to almost everything.

So that they say can yes to a select few.

Make Your Work
Suck Less

Pulling back the curtain on the creative process to help make your work a little less terrible. A 3-minute read delivered each week on Monday morning.

The Calculated Creative

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