So the 4 Week Project has come to an end. Not the kind of end I was hoping for, but probably the most logical end, given the circumstances that surrounded it.
Let me try to be more specific.
When I first wrote about the project, we had just finished our group brainstorming. It all sounded great – lots of ideas, people discussing concepts and feeling really engaged with the project. It was our first day back at uni, so we were all excited to start working and making beautiful things. The energy was there, the creative spirit was there – we were trying to put things in context, to plan details, to consider different solutions and approaches.
And then we lost it. We killed the inspiration.
I’m trying to figure out what happened – but the more I’m thinking about it, the more I’m starting to feel I was one of the main reasons our group lost its creative energy.
See, I have this unhealthy level of self-confidence. I’m always the most adequate, the most competent, the most engaged, the most you-name-it. Or at least that’s what my mind wants me to believe. As a result, I develop an ‘I’m too good, no one else can do it and no one else knows better than me’ attitude, and I start treating other people as something ‘less’ than me. Which, of course, is as far from truth as it can get – yes, I have a certain way of thinking about things, but if people don’t understand it or don’t think the same way as I do, it simply means we’re different – there’s no rights and wrongs. Especially in a creative project, where the most random idea could lead to the most unexpected results. And in a group of people with all sorts of different cultural, creative and professional backgrounds. But my mind hadn’t quite come to that conclusion yet – so instead, it tricked me to believe I’m right and everyone else is wrong, and my approach is the only right and valid approach, disregarding and not respecting other people’s ideas. Ridiculous when I write it down now. But tell that to my mind three weeks ago.
So as a result of all this unhealthy thinking, I had developed a bad feeling about the project. I was thinking ‘it’s all going to collapse, someone needs to save it, I need to do something or we will fail’. The problem is, once you go into the thinking pattern of ‘things are going bad, there’s no hope’, you start expecting failure as the only possible result. You lose faith, you lose trust, you think the smallest step in a different direction could break the already fragile structure. You approach things with fear. You respond to anything with fear. You don’t trust anything.
When there’s fear and no trust, it’s almost impossible to be creative. When you don’t allow things to happen, when you are always expecting the worst, you end up with a bad result. You play it ‘safe’ and small, you allow no experimentation, no steps back, no changes. You want to retain control… What I didn’t realise, of course, was that it’s better to have no control over something good, than to have lots of control over something bad.
The other problem with control is not allowing people to identify with the project – because you don’t trust them with it. If people don’t have a vision for the project, if they don’t ‘own’ it, they can’t be inspired to work on it, they don’t feel the drive to experiment, to challenge themselves – they simply don’t believe in it and don’t care.
I guess that’s what went wrong in our project. It wasn’t a failure in creativity. It wasn’t a technical failure. It was a failure of trust.