April 28, 2014 42 comments

How Creative Flex is Messing with Your Brand (and 5 Steps to Fix It)

by Regina

How Creative Flex is Messing with Your Brand and How to Fix It

If you are a freelancer or entrepreneur, you are creative. You are (to some larger extent than the average person) driven by your desire and ability to create. You may have even concluded that your purpose in life is to create the things you do. And I understand, my homie. I do.

That’s why I want to talk to you about creative flex today, because if you’re like me, then this flex has hurt your brand in the past or is hurting it right now (or will hurt it in the future).

What is creative flex Regina? Are you just making up terms again?

Uh huh. But this one is important.

Creative thinkers have the need to work out, stretch, and flex their creative muscles. This comes in the form of brilliant brainstorming sessions, amazing content creation, passionate side projects, spectacular client deliverables, business ideas, and more. Again, we must create. Life is not right for us if we’re not creating. So, creative flex can be the most amazing thing in the world. It’s more than a “creative itch” or “bug,” because flex is necessary, healthy in the right amounts, and crucial for growth as a creative business person or blogger.

But your creative flex may be suffocating your brand right now. I’ll use my own organized and “always 100% on track life” as an example:

Let’s see. There was the time five months ago I wanted to start a food blog with a friend, then there was the time three months after that in which I felt a burning desire to create my own stock photography site because, can I be honest with y’all . . . it is so SO difficult to find great stock photography of people of color doing a wide range of activities. And I want all the colors on my blog. All of them.

I actually have 16 more examples of this stuff, but I’ll spare myself the embarrassment.

Creative flex can distract you from building the brand that is #1 to you. The brand you know you’d suffer a creative death without.

Wow, I’m extra dramatic on Mondays, but I’m also extra serious. Show of virtual hands: how many of you have come up with an “epic idea” that you abandoned a few weeks/months later and never returned to? How many of you have sought out partnerships and projects and even clients that your heart knew were not a good match for you?

Can I tell you why you’re doing these things? Why I do these things? Because you aren’t being creative and critical enough with your own brand. There’s something off with your brand, you can’t quite pinpoint it, but something is not what you intend it to be. Maybe you’re experiencing a little disconnect between who you think your ideal reader is and who your ideal reader actually is. Maybe you’ve outgrown your brand and you need to pivot. Maybe you’re no longer offering the products and services (and prices) that best fit your skill level and passion. Maybe you haven’t taken the time to brainstorm better content and a better brand.

And you know what we creatives sometimes do instead of critical thinking (about our brand)? We go all middle school relationship on our brand and decide we need something new. Some new boy or girl creative fancy catches our eye. An idea scribbled down in a notebook is the most important thing ever (!!!) now. A client or friend comes along with a project that we’d normally see doesn’t play into the bigger picture of our brand, but all of the sudden this idea is literally the most genius concept we’ve ever heard. And then, our creativity consumes us. We go “cray” (or is it “crae”–that seems more sophisticated Kanye) on this idea and pour all our available thought, excitement + creativity into it. All the while our one true love is sitting around like, “For real? THIS guy? This is what you’re going with now? You’re better than that.”

You ARE better than that. But it takes practice. And friends who will be honest with you. And the ever-important skill of critical thinking. How much further could you have gone with your one true brand if you could get back those 50 planning hours on your food blog and the 20 website building hours? How much saner would you be had you said no to the clearly unideal client with the unideal project? Do not be a middle schooler who hops to the greener grass the moment they feel discontent or disconnect.

hrHere’s how to avoid the bad kind of creative flex:

  1. Every time a new project or idea comes in, write it down. Give yourself a few minutes to get excited, plan a little and really think what it would look like if you ran with it. Then take a break. Don’t come back to the idea for 48 – 72 hours. Is it still really important to you? Are you burning with desire? If not, keep it locked away in your idea journal and return your focus to your #1 brand. How can you capture some of that original creativity in your “real” brand?
  2. But, if you come back to the idea and it’s still really exciting, confer with a trusted friend or advisor who knows your life goals and #1 brand goals. Ask that friend if they see how this new thing fits into your vision or could be healthy for you.
  3. If your trusted friend agrees it’s a good thing (or if they don’t agree but you still love it), now it’s time to put some critical thought into your #1 brand. Is something off? Revisit your business plan: what have you done to meet those goals lately? Look over the products and services you offer: are they everything you want them to be, and do they reflect where you are as an artist or business person? Browse through your blog: is there anything you can expand into a series or a product that would be in line with your vision? Go on a date with yourself and have a brainstorming session about expansion. Review the products you currently have: is there a new way you can reach your target customers with them or a new way to market them? Ask your friends if they’ve had any ideas for your business lately. Time yourself for 30 minutes and don’t stop writing down what you love about your business and what you want to do to grow it. Finally, write one new blog post, an epic one, for your #1 brand.
  4. Are you still in love with this extra project or idea? Figure out if it’s something that actually ties in with your current brand. Can it be tweaked to add value to your #1 love? If not, analyze whether or not it might be an amazing idea for someone else. You could have a golden nugget, but is it someone else’s ship to build and you just had the great experience of thinking it up? “Vision” it through to its end result: do you maintain interest + love for it all the way down? Does it fit your lifestyle? Do you need it?
  5. And if you’re still convinced about your new idea after all the above, then create the heck out of it. Do it. Don’t feel bad about it. Own it. But make a solid plan on how you’ll grow your #1 brand while you pursue this other thing.

I don’t consider any of my creative tangents a waste, because I learned a lot, but I srrrsly wish I had done the process above with all my other ideas. I would have figured out that my real brand needed adjustments and love and attention, and that since I wasn’t giving my creative energy to my business, another flashy, beautiful, tempting idea came along because we creatives die when we can’t flex.

Has creative flex messed with your #1 brand? Sometimes it can be a valuable jostle that gives us the energy to go back to our #1 with renewed creativity, but sometimes creative flex can harm our real passions and get in the way of growth. As an actual example, my blog traffic grew a literal 1,000 percent when I focused all my flex on my #1 (but that’s a story for another blog post that’s coming soon–and hopefully it will help you grow your traffic too).

What can you accomplish when you direct your creative energies in one direction? Why do you think we give into the “bad” kind of creative flex so often? Do you think the steps above will help you next time? Are you willing to try them with an idea you have right now?

Photo of woman stretching: © EpicStockMedia – Fotolia.com

42 responses to “How Creative Flex is Messing with Your Brand (and 5 Steps to Fix It)”

  1. Julie says:

    WOW, Regina!!! I feel like I was a bullseye and this post was the arrow hitting dead center! Actually got emotional while reading it….thank you for your insight! It seems my mind can’t help but create new “ideas” or business ventures on a daily basis and I fight to ward off the ones that will waste my time and energy. However some still get through and I pursue them with the best intentions, thinking it’s the next greatest thing I just HAVE to do. Your action steps for how to avoid this bad effect of our creativity are awesome! I’m actually printing them to be in plain site on my desk at all times, lol 🙂

    • regina says:

      Ha, Julie. I guess we can all benefit or suffer a bit from our creativity, depending on how we use it and where we apply it. It’s hard to think of any creativity as “negative” so I’ll just say “misdirected.”

      Printing is a good idea. I need to do the same because I can only hope to take these steps next time something comes up. I’ve gone down both roads multiple times and I waste so much of my energy each time I don’t take the proper steps.

      I think it’s such a special, amazing gift that your mind can’t help but create new ideas. Can you imagine life any other way? We just need to harness/train our creative muscles a bit so we don’t overdo it.

      Thanks for commenting!

  2. Maru says:

    Okay, once again, another great article! I’ve had a couple of ideas that I get so excited about at first, but end up realizing later that it doesn’t fit my brand. I will definitely follow this steps next time I come up with a new topic for the blog!

    • regina says:

      Hey Maru, I appreciate that. Thank you for taking the time to stop by. I’m like you, it just usually takes me WAY too long to figure it out. Ha. Ahh the life of a “creative.”

  3. Margo says:

    Soooo much! I could never put a name to it before- I like “creative flex”. In the past year, I’ve actually started to become aware of this. It seems like I have 10 new business ideas everyday, and every hobby I take up doesn’t stay a hobby for long, I’m always thinking “How can I turn this into something more?” and in doing that I lose my passion for that hobby because it becomes work. I am working on it! Thanks for this post, I’m glad I’m not the only one!

    • regina says:

      Margo, thank you for stopping by and reading + for the approval of the made-up term “creative flex.”

      Oh my goodness, I feel your point on the hobby thing. You’re probably a natural business person, naturally resourceful, and thus would have a hard time not thinking about how to get everything possible out of a good idea or fun hobby. That’s a unique skill.

      Maybe you could have a column on your blog where you explore and explain the steps to move from hobby to income in some of your interests. Not that you plan to do so, but they could be helpful posts (+ good web traffic bringers) for people who are interested in that. Just a thought.

      I’m glad creative flex is something you were already aware of; I’m sure it’s helping you make the best decisions for your time. Thank you for your comment!

  4. This is ME. Oh man, it’s so true. The high school boyfriend analogy is spot on. It’s so funny because I literally FEEL myself being pulled, but perhaps I mistook the “pull” of a new idea as brilliants when really it was my own lack of clarity with my brand that is “pushing” me to any new thing that keeps me distracted from the REAL work I need to be doing. Such a great article.

    • regina says:

      Heather, I know that FEELing. It’s so real.

      I think we all get re-excited about our own #1 brands when we’re able to reel it back in and focus, but I also think there’s a sort of “magical” turning point where you start to default to giving your brand its due attention and weighing other options based on the biggest picture you can think of.

      I’m happy to be going through that turning point with others I know because it’s fun to see those around you run with clarity and purpose.

      You sound pretty clear, and that’s exciting. It’s seems like as soon as we acknowledge our tendencies and the reasons behind them, we’re much less likely to allow them to interrupt our big picture. I feel like I could talk about this for half a day . . . geez.

      Thank you for reading + commenting. I really appreciate your time and your words–so that I know I’m making sense.

  5. emma says:

    Regina I have a question…. can you read my mind? Because it seems like it! 🙂

    I loved this post, it is definitely going to help me a lot. I am forever coming up with new ideas or letting my focus wonder onto something new.

    Plus I absolutely loved this ‘Creative flex can distract you from building the brand that is #1 to you. The brand you know you’d suffer a creative death without’.
    Great post!!

    • regina says:

      Emma, I’m the exact same way, so I understand and hope it does help. I wrote these steps as much for me as anyone else, and they really have saved me a lot of time + stress.

      Thank you for reading. I literally am always so happy when I see that you’ve stopped by.

  6. Chrissy says:

    Ok you seriously have read my mind again – have you peeked at the 1500+ notes and the 88+ notebooks in my Evernote account? Because this post right here describes me so perfectly. My business coach calls me a multi-passionate creative. Oh my goodness like the previous commenter I am printing this epic stuff out and keeping it somewhere. Totally was supposed to be working on a blog post and got sucked into your blog – and time well spent too! Like I mentioned in a previous comment, I have two passions that I divide my time in between. One I’m trying to go at it like a hobby, but my friends and family constantly ask me for more. Same with my other business. Love love love this – thank you Regina!

    • regina says:

      Haha. I’m with you on the 1500+ notes–mine are spread across about 12 notebooks at any given time. I thoroughly enjoy all the “multi-passionate” creatives and entrepreneurs I’ve been meeting lately. I guess I’ve always met them, but never had such a fancy ways to describe a person’s varied interests. It can certainly be a lot to manage.

      Thank you for commenting on the post and offering up such great encouragement. That’s an excellent sign when friends and family can’t help but ask for more. It typically means that strangers will become fans, and onlookers will become active participants. It can’t be a coincidence that so many people are interested in your take on the topic. Headed to your site/blog for more info.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  7. Ok….wow. You just became my new favorite blogger. I clicked through to this randomly and I’m SO happy I did. Not only do we have the same blog color scheme happenin’ but your posts are epic! I especially love this one as me and my girlfriends talk and ‘complain’ (not a bad problem to have in the big scheme of things!) about there are so many different things we want to do and complete! Thank you for addressing it and providing your insight! Look forward to digging around you site more! 😀 Keep it up!
    Lauren Jade Martin
    Make It a Double

  8. Cherene says:

    You really got in my head with this one. Love it and had to share with all my BFF’s who also share a new business idea with me like every month. I honestly used to think something was wrong with me. Do you have any recommendations on how to really know your #1. I really have a hard time picking. I need to really dig deep.

  9. Lisa says:

    OMG this is me laid out. I’ve got so many ideas and projects happening and I know they could be epic! But then I’m also wondering which projects to drop. Sigh. I run out of time in the day – I tend to get around 4 hrs sleep just trying to fit everything in. Right. Time to get real and assess the state of play. Thanks for the nudge!

    I’ve been trying to set up some mastermind groups to provide the same critiquing as most of my friends are more bewildered than anything else by the tidal wave of ideas. @Cherene I used to feel a bit the same way – not so much that there was something wrong with me but not really understanding that not everyone else is built to see the possibilities or see into the future with 20/20 vision.

  10. Yetti says:

    Dear Lord, this is me lol.

  11. […] me. You who need professional help because there are so many ideas racing through your head. Use these steps to minimize your […]

  12. Krystal says:

    Woah, this was so spot on! I’ve been reading your tips and posts since I began my blog a few months ago and it has really helped me so much, so thank you for being awesome! This specific article really hit home, I’ve always had the tendency to jump from project to project and I know I have to find a bit more focus. I will definitely be keeping this post in mind while working on my brand. Thanks again, Regina!

  13. Bonita says:

    You wrote from inside my head, didn’t you? I know you must have been in there! This is me, me, me. . . except for the part about “not” trying to do all of those ideas I have swirling. I so needed this advice and checklist! Thank you!

  14. Brandy says:

    So I did the Strengths Finder test, and ‘Ideation’ is my #2 strength. Ideation – Creative Flex…similar concept. Lots of ideas and possibilities, just like so many of the commenters here. I like your term for it, and your suggestions for dealing with it. Especially the part about capturing those ideas somewhere. That really helps to be able to let them go a bit, instead of having them be so all consuming. Finding, and being a good editor of those things is challenging. I am also struggling with what my #1 brand is….but I got your brandi identity workbook on Etsy – and working through that. Thanks for your great content!

  15. Jedidah says:

    OMG! I’m an avid reader of your blog Regina, but this post hit home. I’ve been stuck for years because of my creative flex, I always have a new idea *bows head in shame* This insight will help me stay focused on my #1 brand. Thanks a lot and keep doing what you do

  16. Veronica says:

    This is such a problem for me. I always come up with ideas and they are all failures. I’m even questioning this freelancing blogging business I want to do, because what if it is just another stupid idea. Thanks for the post, really great info.

  17. Dan says:

    Holy macaroni, you busted me. I had incorrectly diagnosed my “creative flex” as Dan’s got an idea but too lazy to do much about it. Now that I think about it, I guess it could be both for me. In any case, thanks for the clarification, I feel better now, I think.

  18. Annette says:

    I realize this is an old post and you may not get this comment, but I have to tell you that I both laughed and cried while reading it. Your words are true on so many levels, and you’ve helped me put things in perspective, and you’ve helped me to confirm that I’m not totally crazy, just creative. Thanks so much.


  19. […] Creative Flex is Messing with Your Brand (+5 Steps tp Fix It) byRegina.com […]

  20. Stephanie says:

    So spot on, thank you!

  21. Emily says:

    Eeeep! I am so guilty of this. I didn’t have a term for it…also, I kept telling myself it was totally normal…I love the idea of keeping an idea notebook and sitting on a new idea until before diving in.

  22. Yvonne says:

    Reading this post and then the comments, I suddenly realized I’m not the only one who does this! Loved it! 🙂

  23. Chef Keema says:

    This has been me for quite some time now. I’m so happy I ran across your blog!
    GREAT information.

  24. Oh my goodness – yes yes YES! Glad I am not alone. I keep saying I need a manager to grab my feet every few hours and pull me back to the ground. I need someone to threaten me with dismissal if I don’t ‘perform’. This is great advice.

  25. Mindy says:

    THANK YOU!!!! This is exactly how I feel and couldn’t express or explain it.. it’s like you crawled in my mind and figure out how to put it all into words. I cannot wait to read more of your blog.. I’m going to be in here for a while. You have really given me some great ideas on how to go about to ‘organize’ my blog and thoughts. Amazing post!!

  26. […] I read this post at By Regina it finally made sense to me why I do this (and why you might […]

  27. […] about creative flex, losing focus and getting side-tracked by all those endless ideas. This post (read it over here) fitted in very nicely with a rough idea I had on how to life a more creative life… month by […]

  28. […] Too many ideas, thoughts, or projects running through your head? You can clear your mind by taming those ideas or answering these questions to stick to the script. […]

  29. Najah says:

    The truth you speak is mad deep, Regina. Amen. And, thank you.

    I started a series for my blog a while back that helped me find my voice, grow, and connect to my audience. After finishing part 2 of the series, I hijacked my momentum with attention deficit from cuter “boyfriends” that were really just procrastinations from the fear I conjured up from the project I’d put on a pedestal. Your email yesterday synthesized all this for me. All of my boos are going on a shelf until my #1 love gets the love it deserves.

  30. Here’s why I’m creeped out by this post:

    I know that I toss and turn at night – especially lately, because I’ve been struggling to find the POINT behind my blog… the end-game, I mean… like I enjoy sharing my experiences as an opposite-of-perfect mom and wifey, but is that enough to keep readers coming? – and I am probably talking in my sleep.

    And it’s obvious you are in my bedroom, lurking over my sweating, tossing-and-turning-and-talking-out-loud body, taking notes, and THEN you’re writing a post about it the next day, using all the same words I used when I was talking in my sleep.

    It’s creepy and unnerving. I’d like for you to stop doing that, please. The lurking over me part. I still need you to give me all the answers to my questions, so…. you can keep doing that part.

    Thank you and good day.

  31. Chantal says:

    Yep. This is me. So happy I’m normal!!! Oddly I was asking my bf if I was normal last week…if he felt like I was all over the place. He said no, but it feels like I am. I crave beginnings, I love the energy of the possibilities. Its a high.
    Strengthsfinder – I’m an ideation, maximizer, strategic, futuristic and input! You can surely see where this is all coming from lol
    Thank you!!!!

  32. Vassia Sarri says:

    This article is amazing. I have been trying to find out .’what’s wrong with me ‘ changing careers every 3 years and creative ideas every couple of months. I am now into blogging and book coaching and i have decided to stick to it till ot really becomrs a proper steady income. With your advices on this article i feel confident that i will stick to my dream for a long time… thank you indeed…

  33. Alexandra says:

    Wow. This post is exactly what I needed. I recently created a vision board of what I wanted to accomplish in my entire life, then jumped the gun thinking I was going to start them all at once this year. After my honeymoon phase of all these brilliant ideas, I started piecing them one-by-one did I expect to start them. After taking a step back, I started to falter in excitement realizing that I was being unrealistic in not focusing on what I actually needed to do with my brand.

    Thanks to this post, I realize that I need to fix this creative flex by fixing what wrong with my brand. Thank you so much Regina; this post helped me realize exactly what I need to do for my #1 brand

  34. Emily Gaiser says:

    I’ve just discovered your blog and when I read this my mind was blown. NO ONE has EVER put this into words for me. I’m 40, and a small business owner. Oh, what I would give to have had this advice 12 or 15 years ago!!! But, I believe we see things and hear things when the time is right… so THANK YOU!! Way to be, lady!

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