Back in early January I got an email from someone named Brett over at ProFlowers.com.
“Now that the holidays have passed,” he wrote,
we’re calling upon some of our favorite creators, crafters, and calligraphists to help prepare for the next major milestone in 2017: Valentine’s Day.
As a part of this fun initiative we’d like for you to dust off your dip pen, grab your ink and favorite paper, and get ready to create a handcrafted card for your own special valentine. To help jumpstart your creativity, ProFlowers would like to send you a bouquet of your choice from our Valentine’s Day collection that you can include within the photoshoot for your DIY Valentine’s Day card, or even incorporate within the card itself!
Leading up to Valentine’s Day, once all the blog posts have gone live, we will be selecting our favorite images from the blog posts that feature our bouquets and putting them together in a roundup post for the ProFlowers blog. This post will link back to yours so our 150K monthly readers can learn more about you and your website. Also, our social media team will be on the lookout for the hashtag #ProFlowers to regram and repin any posts you may make to social media.
Once all the blog posts have gone live, they will select their favorite images that feature their bouquets and put them together in a roundup post for the ProFlowers blog, which could potentially bring some eyeballs and traffic to my site — they claim to have 150K monthly readers.
Plus their social media team will be on the lookout for the hashtag #ProFlowers to regram and repin and posts that go to social media.
So hmm… It was mighty tempting. A free bouquet, an incentive to create some art, and possibly some visibility.
All good, right?
So I said yes. And I picked this bouquet, 30 Purple Tulips, because I love tulips, and purple:
Then reality hit.
Brett at ProFlowers had asked me for a requested delivery date, and this is where my poor time planning muscles really took over.
I asked for the flowers to be delivered January 3oth, thinking that, hey, I’d be home from my week in D.C., but forgetting to take into account that I’d be leaving again on February 3rd for my anniversary trip (though to be fair, I may not have scheduled my anniversary trip at that point, because when I got the initial email from Brett I was recovering from the flu, and we had just canceled our original plans for our anniversary trip, and hadn’t yet rescheduled it).
As it turned out, the week the flowers were delivered was a short week, so just when the flowers were at their peak, I was strapped for time, with no time to make a card or take photographs!
And though of course the smart thing would have been to start work on a card the minute I knew I had the assignment, did I do that? No, I did not…
Meanwhile, do you see that picture of those 30 tulips, arranged in a gorgeous bouquet? Well, the 30 tulips that arrived in a box did not arrange themselves into a gorgeous bouquet like that. Nosireebob.
The flowers themselves were beautiful, but my flower-arranging skills are essentially nonexistent, so as a bouquet, they looked like a big, droopy mess of tightly budded tulips.
And then just as the flowers were coming into their peak, we left for Monterey for our anniversamoon.
(That’s the anniversary of our honeymoon, in case you were wondering.)
We had a wonderful time, and I totally forgot about the flowers, and my commitment, until Monday afternoon, when we came home, and I walked in the door, and there were the beautiful purple tulips, sadly past their prime. AND I didn’t have a card, yet, either.
What to do?
The Creative Sandbox Way to the Rescue!
You may have heard the saying, “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of done.”
How many times have I don’t exactly that? I’ve had some brilliant idea for a card or a present for someone that I wanted to be so spectacularly off-the-charts wonderful, and I kept building up in my mind that there was just no way I would ever in a million years be able to live up to the vision I’d created.
So I did nothing.
Nada. Zip. Zero.
But the beautiful thing about a deadline, combined with external accountability, is that you can’t get away with that.
Though believe me, I thought about it. I’d be lying if I said part of me didn’t want to just bail on this whole thing! But I’d made a commitment. And I was going to follow through if it killed me.
I had two problems:
First, the card. And second, the past-their-peak flowers.
For the first problem, my gremlins were going NUTS, telling me about all the AMAZING, genius works of art that other people would be creating. Nothing I could create would possibly compete.
Truth. But this isn’t a competition.
Sure, my photos may be ignored by the ProFlowers folks, losing me the potential eyeballs and traffic, but that was never guaranteed in the first place. And I didn’t sign up for this to compete anyway.
Besides, a core piece of my message is that the purpose of creative expression / art is not to impress anyone (or win awards, or make money, etc.) — the purpose is JOY.
The purpose is to fill your well, to fuel your tank, to recharge, restore, and refresh you!
All that other stuff — acclaim, awards, money — that stuff is great, but it’s the frosting, not the cake.
If you have that stuff, but you don’t have the joy, what’s the point?
And really, if someone looks at a piece that I’ve created and thinks, “Wow, Melissa’s piece is pretty crappy,” well, maybe someone else will look at that same piece and think, “Hey, maybe I could do that,” and that would make me really happy.
So, with all of the above in mind, and with a deadline of about twenty minutes (because nothing quiets the perfectionist gremlins like a really, really tight deadline), I literally opened my sketchbook, found a piece that I felt like I could cut up, wrote “Be Mine” on it, and doodled. Cut it out, and doodled some more.
Then came the challenge of taking some flowers that were past their prime and making them look beautiful in a photo.
The secret? Close-ups, and Guidepost #3 from The Creative Sandbox Way: Think quantity, not quality.
As any photographer knows, if you take enough photos, if you try enough different camera angles, you’re bound to get one or two good ones!
And indeed, here are four that I thought came out kind of neat.
Are they the glorious spectacle I envisioned when I first said yes to this project? Goodness gracious, no!
But they’re interesting, and they would not exist at all if I had not said “yes,” and if I had not tackled these particular challenges.
And THAT is creativity at work: encountering a challenge (AKA a block), and figuring out how to make it work.
So whether you’re making something for a sweetheart for Valentine’s Day, or just contemplating your next creative project, I hope you’ll take a little inspiration from my experience.
Don’t let perfect be the enemy of done — just crank out something!
Even if it’s not as spectacular as you wish, at least you’ll be able to say, “I did that.” Not a lot is more satisfying in life than being able to say those three little words.
Even if you’re not 100% thrilled with the outcome, the fact that there IS an outcome is something to be proud of.
Go get creating!
Thanks for Listening!
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Now go get creating!
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