Some Tips on How to Stay Creative and Productive

Here are three important factors in being creative and productive

With extremely rare exception, I think we are each capable of being artists.  I therefore don’t necessarily feel comfortable claiming to have some magic power, aka, “talent”.  Talent implies some are “gifted” and others are not.  By the same token, I also believe that we are each capable of being mathematicians.  Is not a new math theorem a product of a creative mind?  So gain, for the purposes of this discussion, and for argument’s sake, let just say that we are each capable of being creators.

Conversely, and also with extremely rare exception, I DO believe that there are people who are TRULY gifted.  Genius minds like Michelangelo or Einstein do absolutely appear from time to time.  But again, they are extremely rare.

So why do some  creators, create so prolifically and other of us create so sporadically?  Why are some of us easily blocked, while others  flow as creative fountains?

I believe there are a few factors that come into play.

ATTITUDE – First, I accept that attitude is everything.  A healthy, happy “can do” attitude is a much more fertile place for the seeds of creativity to thrive.  Conversely, a negative attitude will stop you in your tracks.  If you have a negative mind-set then the list of reasons you “can’t” will be endless.  We have all known people with “can’t do” mind-sets.

ENVIRONMENT – Second, while I believe that each have within us the capacity for greatness, there is no getting around the fact that, to a degree at least, we are products of our environment. (Or at least impacted by our environment.)

CONFIDENCE – Finally, I believe that if a person is confident in their ability to produce great work, they will have an easier time staying creative and productive because they won’t be worried about the difficulty of the task before them.

So let’s examine some tried and true ways to foster our own creativity;

Let’s  begin with developing a “can do” attitude.

I hear people say, “I could NEVER do that!” over and over.  I always ask, “Why not?”.  Most of the time the answer is something like this.  “I could never do that because – ” (Insert any excuse below.)

  1. “I have no artistic talent.”

  2. “I don’t have any of the right tools.”

  3. “I have no time with my job and family demands.”

  4. “I have no place to work from.”

  5. “I can’t afford all the things I would need to start.”

These are not real reasons for not being able to create.  These are excuses fabricated to make the person feel better about not being creative and productive.

I’m sure that if you are reading this.  You are a creative mind and you don’t make these excuses, but I’ll bet that you have encountered these mind-sets yourself.  Let’s examine why these are not valid reasons.

“I have no artistic talent.”

I think I have already explained my believes regarding talent in the 3rd paragraph above when I said that with extremely rare exception, I think we are each capable of being artists.  I therefore don’t necessarily feel comfortable claiming to have some magic power, aka, “talent”.  So, I won’t belabor the point.

“I don’t have any of the right tools.”

Hi. My name is Jim.  I am addicted to tools… (There, I said it and I feel better. ) BUT the first tools I possessed for making jewelry consisted of a butane torch and a jeweler’s saw.  I am a tool maker but the truth is, nobody needs to a own lot of tools to make jewelry.  Very simple hand tools will take you quite a way down the road.

That being said, I do think the right tools make our jobs easier.  That’s all I focus on as I design a new tool.  I ask myself this, “How would this job look if it were easy?”

“I have no time with my job and family demands.”

Spare time can be found in lots of places.  Turn off the television, Get up an hour earlier, plan your day with purpose, delegate time stealing tasks to others, decline some social events, etc.  Just schedule your creative time like any other responsibility.

“I have no place to work from.”

I have a beautiful shop and studio now, but I started my silversmith career on the back porch of the house I was renting.  Come on, how much space does a butane torch and s jeweler’s saw require?  Anyone can find a small space to work out of.  A friend of mine works out of an old school bus.  He makes amazing things!

“I can’t afford all the things I would need to start.”

Back to the butane torch and jeweler’s saw.  Humble beginnings…  A can do” attitude can move mountains.

ENVIRONMENT – So, now that we know the importance of attitude, let’s have a look at our environment.  There are several ways to make your environment more conducive to creativity and more productive.

  • Get and Stay Organized – If your studio space is messy and cluttered, it is not a conducive to your creativity.  It is more difficult to stay focused and finding the tools and materials you need is also more difficult.  Working in a messy environment will at best lead to lots of half finished projects.

Organization is something that I struggle with.  I tend to work on several projects simultaneously.  I live on a small working ranch which means there are lots of chores to do.  I make tools, I make jewelry, I make videos, I make… messes. But I KNOW that I am more productive (and happier) when I make a concerted effort to stay organized.

  • Eliminate (or at least reduce) Distractions – Distractions come in all shapes and sizes.  For me, social media is an enjoyable and necessary part of business.  I am on FaceBook, Instagram, Etsy, YouTube and I also have this blog.  I love interacting with people and sharing with them, but I don’t allow social media to burn up all my time.  The way that I accomplish that is to turn off the audible notifications from all of those applications on my phone and my computer.  I still get badge notifications from FaceBook and Instagram and YouTube and Etsy, but I don’t hear the audible notifications anymore.  Now I only spend 3 specific times per day on social media. (Morning coffee, lunch time and end of day) Know what?  I am much more focused and productive.

Practically no one has my phone number outside of my immediate family, so if my phone rings and it is not a number I recognize, I don’t answer.  Most calls are telemarketers  anyway, so no loss there.

Finally, the best way I have found to eliminate distractions as my business has grown and the hours in the day have not, it to change my schedule.  I have never been a morning person, but a couple of years ago, I started getting up very early in the morning before there were any distractions. My wife was still asleep, my phone wasn’t yet ringing, etc.  Over time I have become an early bird.  I still sleep 8 hours per day, but I never sleep beyond 5:00 am.  (Yes, I go to sleep pretty early compared to most people, but I don’t miss late night TV)   I really cherish my early morning time not being undistracted by anything for the first couple of hours of my day when I am now at my most creative time of the day.

I’m sure you too can find ways to remove some of the distractions that interrupt your creative time.

CONFIDENCE – Finally, let’s tackle confidence.  When you are confident in your work everything which used to seem like a mountain will be just a bump in the road.  Unfortunately, building confidence does take some time and effort.  Here is how I recommend you become a more confident silversmith.

  • Build on your skill set.  There are scores of skills required to becoming a top  silversmith.  There are the base skills such as sawing, soldering and stone setting. There are more specialized skills such as advanced stone setting, wax carving, and engraving.  But no matter where you are in your journey to becoming a master silversmith, you should be constantly stepping up your game by adding to your toolbox of skills.  When you make something today, you should consciously be making every effort to make it better than what you made yesterday.  Realizing that you are on a journey to being a master rather than being focused on the idea that you are not now a master, gives you renewed confidence ever day!

For some, this means taking classes online or in person.  For others this means watching a video or reading a book.  However you learn best, just keep learning!

Always photograph your work.  I have a saying that the job is not done until the glamour shots are taken.  Building a photographic portfolio of your body of work will give you the ability to truly “see” how far you have come in building your skill set and refining your end product.  AND it will be a confidence builder!

When I review photos of my work, I inevitably see things that I plan to improve upon on my next piece.  Better polish, more symmetry, better flow of design, etc.

  • Realize that everyone is on the same journey as you.   No matter how accomplished another smith is, never forget that he or she began their journey at the beginning, just like you did.  They have only been traveling down the road to becoming a master longer than you.  You WILL get to where they are someday if you only keep traveling!  Look back from time to time at how far you have already come and confidently continue to forge ahead.



9 Replies to “Some Tips on How to Stay Creative and Productive”

  1. Great information and words of wisdom from a true Artist thankyou as I strive to be better these are helpful words …. again thank you.

    1. Thank you, Warren. I’m glad that you found this useful! Early in my career, I could have used some words of encouragement. I hope this article is just that.

  2. I agree! Especially about turning the phone and computer off at certain hours. Working from home for the past 26 years I found that you have to learn to treat yourself with your own quality time and learned to close the door to my studio and shut the phone and computer down. I enjoy your articles and videos! Thank you Jim!

  3. Jim, great article! Sure we’ve heard it all before, but it was nicely laid out and comes from a guy who I know MUST use these techniques to accomplish all that you do. I’ve seen your videos, been to your Etsy shop and have your tools, follow you on several Facebook groups and therefore know how freaking busy you must be!
    Thanks for sharing!

  4. I agree, whenever I think I don’t have enough time, I think to myself if you had a doctor’s appointment you would make the time. Creative time is essential for my mental wellbeing.

  5. Love this article Jim ! Thanks for helping us stay in the zone! I need it in a daily basis. After raising two kids each my wife and I decided to foster the adopt a brother and sister and we love them dearly it’s hard to find the time sometimes to create ! I did identify with getting up at 3:30am to have that time alone to make and create. ! Thanks Again for everything!

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