Around Valentine’s Day last year, I posted about the parallels between successful personal relationships and successful creative projects and introduced the concept of a “worthy project”. This year, we’ll take another step down the creativity-as-a-relationship path and explore how to utilize an emotion common both to burgeoning romantic relationships and new creative projects—infatuation.
Infatuation is the source of what some relationship experts call “new relationship energy,” that burst of intensely pleasurable falling-in-love feelings that have been the subject of movies, novels and friendly gossip. If you’re experiencing it, and your beloved is reciprocating, it’s wonderful. If it’s not reciprocated, or you’re watching your friends experience it, it can be painful, or annoying, respectively.
Wild enthusiasm for a creative project serves the same purpose as infatuation for lovers—encouraging deep bonding and connection. Here are some tips for channeling that first flush of love for your art-making into something that helps you sustain the passion long after the initial fun has faded away.
Tips for making the most of creative passion
Enjoy it while it lasts. It’s OK to get a little nuts over your new project, spend long hours playing with and working on it, and think about it all the time when you’re not spending time with it. Go ahead and tell your friends and family about all the good points of your latest creative endeavor—yes, they’ll get tired of it, but hopefully they’ll be happy you are happy and rejoice with you on that account.
Understand and accept it is inherently short-term. Most romantic pairs feel that crazy “in-love” feeling, known as limerence, lessen after two years. Regardless of whether that’s happened in your love life or not, it’s best to realize our relationship with our art will change over time. Our intense passion for a specific project, technique, school of thought or practice will inevitably evolve into something new. That doesn’t mean stop doing whatever you’re doing—it just means you should recognize you’ve reached a new level in your art-making.
Use your infatuation period with your project to establish positive habits. Motivation is high during the passionate period, so it’s a great time to use that creative momentum to establish constructive relationship patterns with your project. Find time to work on your novel, painting, photography, etc., daily. Experiment with the rest of your daily routine to find the mix of activities that facilitates frequent and fulfilling creative endeavors. Look at the “shortcomings” of your project in the overwhelming light of passionate love, and find ways to adapt, accommodate or change those shortcomings.
Continue your positive habits and rituals when the magic starts to fade. Common wisdom about habit formation states that it takes 21 days to establish a habit, less if you repeat your habitual activity multiple times a day. If you are able to build a foundation of creativity-enhancing habits while you’re flush with love for your project, it will be easier to continue to “do the right thing” and work on your project steadily when you are no longer infatuated with it.
Find meaningful ways to document or demonstrate your connection to your project. A blog is a fabulous way to document your passion (The Cycling Artist blog is a great example of this) or even chronicle a challenge you’ve set for yourself (good example: One Mile From Home). If that’s not your thing, you can set up a page on Flickr, a channel on YouTube, or update friends on Facebook on your creative efforts.
If you are in a more analog state of mind about documentation, you can keep a scrapbook of your creative project (maybe crafting a little “making of” book to remind yourself of the highs and lows of the project?), send letters to an understanding friend about your project, keep a journal or diary, or take still photos of each stage of your creative process. The point is to affirm your commitment publicly. Just as weddings and renewal-of-vow ceremonies are terrific opportunities for lovers to soak up their social circle’s support of their relationship, this documenting process is an opportunity to share the inner workings of your relationship with your project with friends and family, or with the reflective side of yourself.