Robot Mode: Becoming a Creative Machine
Creative work—the process by which we turn nothing into something. There’s something mysterious about it. After spending hours deeply immersed in our work, we sit back and look at what we’ve made with astonishment that it was in fact, our hands that produced it. Despite having been present for every second of its creation, there’s still something puzzling about how exactly it came to be. When we tap into a flow state where we’re so deeply focused on our work, it’s almost like being in a trance. Upon snapping out of it, it can be unclear as to why we made the decisions we did, or where exactly the inspiration may have come from. There’s something intimate about this process that makes it easy to romanticize.
If you look to history, we’ve long thought of creativity as being something ethereal. A gift that, when in the muse’s favor, we’re seemingly blessed with out of nowhere, and when the moment strikes, the work seems to just flow from our fingertips freely. Other times, however, we find ourselves in dry spells that can last weeks, months, or even years, and can feel like some sort of divine punishment. There are many different schools of thought on this and if you look to some of history’s greatest creatives for guidance—writers, painters, etc, there’s no clear consensus. The fact remains, however, that for those of us working in creative fields today, creative work is our job. Yes, it’s creative, but it’s also work.
It’s important to keep that in mind and aim to strike a proper balance between those two things and be able to shift gears between the two depending on what the situation at hand calls for. It’s easy to dream big and formulate lofty plans and another thing entirely to sit there and do the work required to make them a reality. “robot mode”, as I like to call it, is that version of us that just grinds it out and gets things done. If you think of building mood boards and connecting dots as the creative part, then the exhaustive process of properly exploring each direction and testing their validity is the work part. This is where we tap into robot mode.
The key to harnessing the power of your own robot mode and becoming a creative machine is outcome independence. If you take the words of those people throughout history who view creativity as some sort of divine gift seriously, you may start to think of yourself as being special. Don’t. Becoming too attached to your work or wrapping up too much of yourself into it can warp your perception and make it difficult to view your work objectively. This makes critiques feel like personal attacks and ultimately makes it harder to arrive at the best possible product. When working with collaborators or as part of a team, it’s important to remember that you’re all working together toward a shared goal and critiques are just a part of the process and serve to make the work better.
In many ways, robot mode is the antithesis of that romanticized version of a creative that only works when inspiration strikes and figuratively pours their soul into their work. It’s about treating creative work as work—valuing the input from teammates and being an effective part of a team, accepting criticism and treating it as an opportunity to improve, and showing up every day to maintain consistent output whether you feel inspired to or not.
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