Though many tortured artists might disagree, the challenges of being creative are a lot like the struggles we all face, whether you’re an accountant, parent, engineer, or soccer coach (or somehow, all four).
The creative process has countless prerequisites — confidence, self-reflection, inspiration, resilience, the building up and breaking down of routines, not to mention a seemingly endless battle with impostor syndrome.
At Unstuck, we believe that all of us can learn from and be inspired by the work of creative people, who are constantly in the act of problem-solving. It’s in this spirit that we are very proud to announce Unstuck’s new artist-in-residency program. We first encountered the very talented Bridgette Zou much in the way that she encountered us — by chance. We are impressed as much by the emotional intelligence and skill of her work as we are by her energy, openness, and wisdom.
Over the next few months, we’ll be featuring her work alongside our content and conducting an ongoing conversation about the creative process. As a means of introduction, Bridgette talked to us about her work, how she picks up new ideas and skills, and how she battles procrastination.
We hope you enjoy! And keep your eyes peeled for her work.
Tell us a little bit yourself.
BZ: I like to create artwork that is whimsical and detailed, focusing on the color palette blue and white with a touch of yellow. I’m currently working on a few projects such as: my debut children’s book, a year-long daily inspirational painting project (called This Feels Nice), Dreamweaving at Eleven Madison Park, and anything else I can paint into existence.
When I’m not painting or scribbling ideas, I can be found wandering the streets for good ice cream and dreaming of the day that I can get a Portuguese water dog and name it Barc Chagall.
How did you first come across Unstuck and what aspects of it spoke to you?
BZ: Unstuck found me at an interesting time of my life, a soon-to-be graduating college senior, and then the first two and a half years of post-grad life. It’s a time in one’s life (at least mine), when you’re lost and everyone who gives you advice you just want to yell, “You don’t know my problems! Because my problems are special to me. I’m special!”
But now I can easily say, my problems are not special and neither am I. The true difference is between the people that take action and those that don’t. It is this clear understanding of action versus inaction that changed my life and it is the main reason that I was attracted to Unstuck. Do or do not do. There is no try. (Thanks Yoda!)
Unstuck was about doing, and that was what spoke to me. Helping you pinpoint with laser precision that “unsatisfied” feeling you had, that nagging in the back of your mind, the churning in your stomach. Just living in the world you are surrounded by greatness and inevitably, at some point, drowning in comparison. Maybe you want to be great, or you just want to change, but you don’t know how or don’t even know what it is you want.
Unstuck was a platform that gave me the emotion-free, simple questions and steps to identify my weaknesses and pain points, and ultimately helped me start to understand what I had to become a different, hopefully, better version of myself. Unstuck was the first thing I encountered that me feel like if maybe I had this problem, so did other people.
Five years later, Unstuck found me again when I started my own daily inspirational painting project called This Feels Nice. I was reminded by the simplicity of inspiration, but also the necessity to commit to change and work at it, relentlessly, and frequently. Five years later, I also physically found myself at the office of SYPartners and Unstuck. Maybe it was timing, maybe it was all the new things I had been trying in my life, but I ended up being at the very place that had inspired me at the beginning of my journey.
As a creative person, how do you handle the daunting challenges of finding new ideas and literally making art of them? Where do you look for inspiration?
BZ: One of my favorite quotes is, “If you want to have good ideas, you must have many ideas.” Any time I have an idea, question, potentially cringe-worthy joke, wherever I might be, I’ll stop and write it down (in my phone, on a receipt, sketchbook, whatever).
I’m under the impression that most people (myself included) always believe that unless an idea is great and you can make it as amazing as you imagine, there’s no point in even trying. But after a lot of trial and error, I realized that the best ideas come from trying lots of things, and frankly, making a lot of stuff that ends up being total garbage. So, my candid advice on making ideas into art? Admit that you’re going to inevitably make some trash, you’ll probably embarrass yourself at least once, laugh, cry, and then get to work and make it. Because no matter what, at the end of the day you’ll have made something and no one can take that from you; two, you’ll probably learn something new along the way; and three, you might actually like what you ended up making more than what you originally had in mind.
Now where do I find these ideas and inspiration? Well, “everywhere” seems like way too obvious of an answer, so instead 1) by meeting new people 2) saying “yes” to new things 3) revisiting my old notes.
For #1: everyone has something to share, and if we are open and kind enough, they might just share it with us and teach us something new and fantastic. One of my children’s books was inspired by a lecture a friend of mine gave about creating websites and apps. Note: my children’s book is in no way related to apps or websites, but he said something that struck me, which made me write it down, which led me to a doodle, which long story short led me to my debut children’s book.
For #2: Say yes! You’ll probably end up in a new place that you probably never knew existed. It’ll make you feel feelings (good and bad!) and probably change your perspective.
Lastly, #3: Sometimes an idea you have now can’t fully come to life at that moment. Sometimes you need distance from an idea to truly let it form. So, write everything down, ask a friend, get some coffee and then come back to it. You never know the wonders of distance and time.
And how about battling procrastination?
I have a three-part strategy:
1) Make a list. If it doesn’t need to take up space in your mind, put it down on paper. Then, you get the satisfaction of crossing these items when you’ve completed them.
2) Get up and go outside. Walk to the nearest park or bookstore and then get yourself an ice cream. And if that doesn’t work…
3) Do something nice for somebody else. This doesn’t have to be a grand gesture (it can be!) or it can be as simple as sending something a message reminding them that you love and appreciate them. The best way to help yourself is to help others.
Where else can we find your work?
A few places! I have a mural in the Lower East Side in New York City that I did for the New Allen project on Allen Street between Delancey and Rivington. Check it out if you’re ever in the area.
Otherwise, you can check out my portfolio on my website at www.BridgetteZou.com, my daily musings on my Instagram @TheChairmanZou. Or follow my daily inspiration painting project at www.ThisFeelsNice.com or on Instagram @ThisFeelsNice. Also, my debut children’s book (called Norman and the Nom Nom Factory) will also be out this Spring 2018!
Tips to ignite your creative spark
Bust through obstacles on your way to greatness with Unstuck Tip Cards — four reusable decks that help you fight procrastination, stop negative thinking, boost productivity, and get more creative.