How to Build Your “Creative Mojo”

by be.


I got this message via Facebook from someone I’ve never met or heard of, and I was pretty humbled. I find it really exciting and amazing that there are things that we can do that will inspire others to aspire to what we’ve attained. The amazing part about this is that, while we haven’t necessarily reached all of our goals, we very likely have reached some of the goals necessary along the way. But this message wasn’t about goals. It was about someone aspiring to have the same creative “mojo” as me.

So here are my thoughts on how I’ve built my “Creative Mojo” and some tips on how you can build yours too.

1. Realizing Your Ideas

Number one at all times is the realization of ideas. A lot of times I do things strictly because I want to see if they work. That’s all. I just try stuff because I know that if I don’t give it a shot, I’ll go crazy not knowing what the outcome would be. So I attempt stupid things creatively like making a woman out of 2 letters, or trying to build a wooden puppet of a Pop icon. It’s not about recognition. It’s about expression. Be expressive by making your ideas solid and real works and don’t worry about the response.

2. Skill & Talent

High School basketball teams notoriously push tall people to play on their teams. Why? Because you can’t teach height. But with practice, a naturally tall person can gain the skills necessary to be competitive on the court. This is also true when it comes to creating, but not creativity. You can’t teach somebody how to be creative because that comes from talent. You can only teach them the skills required to display their talents. For instance, I’ve always been able to draw. So when I first did any work on a computer, I used the brush tools to paint pictures. I didn’t know about masking, or bezier tools, or filters, or anything like that. I stuck to what I knew without maximizing the capabilities of the tools I had in front of me. As years went on, I worked at my technical skills, and they were able to enhance my ability to display my natural talents. It’s always important to work on your skills. Know what your tools are and how they are to be used. They have purposes and functions, and without a proper understanding of them, your creativity can’t fully be displayed to it’s greatest potential.

3. Restraint

My friend and fellow designer, Christine Mangosing, once told me that the biggest thing an amateur designer fails to exercise is restraint. This is relative in many ways. It’s not necessary to use every single filter in Photoshop or use every technique that’s in style at the moment for mixtapes or photo retouching. You have a goal of communicating an idea or message, and we all know that the girl with the most make-up on her face is the least attractive at the end of the day. So show some restraint in your over usage of techniques. Another important way that restraint is useful is in being tactical when letting out your work. You don’t need to show everything that you’ve done all at once, because surely everything you’ve done isn’t worth putting out into the public. At the same time, if you have a million brilliant ideas executed, it might be smarter to restrain yourself from putting them all out at the same time. Be wise with your moves. It’ll pay off in due time.

4. Due Time

When I was young, I was always reminded that it was necessary to “Pay Dues”. This usually referred to jobs that sucked or paid little or nothing, and working for slime buckets and dirtbags. Often, the thought of “paying dues” was so aggravating that you would want to quit. So as I got older and more experienced, I thought of the concept of respecting “Due Time”. Having the realization that your time will come if you are patient in your progression will allow you to realize the value of every job that you are doing in a way that says: This might not be my destination, but it’s a step to getting there. I have had some huge failures in my career as a designer. Some came from my own frantic psychological issues that became dropped opportunities with major athletic brands. Others came from my overconfidence in my concepts and unwillingness to conform to the job specifics resulting in failed projects for the biggest names in show business. These jobs were opportunities for me to look at my “Due Time” as a minute that may have come at the moment that the job was complete. But as they came and passed I looked at my failures or faults as necessary time passed and experienced so I could advance into my own world of creative chances and opportunities from learning. Remember that your failures are strengths in themselves and they allow for you to arrive at your “Due Time” with supreme confidence and experience.

5. Influence

The Legends League was built on the premise of showing love and respect to influences and inspirations both good and bad. This is incredibly important as a creative individual. Look at your life for fuel. Look at the lives of others for inspiration. Think about what you have never had, how much you want it, and what you can do to attain it. Whether it is fame, fortune, a house, or a hug, it is entirely attainable through the passion created by influence. Be forever inspired by what happens in life in general and your creativity will flow so naturally that you’ll feel like everything you create is solely made out of fun. What more could you ask for? Also, be aware of urgency and how it may cloud influence and inspiration. Often we’re trapped by deadlines and expectations. If you cannot understand the concept of rules you cannot shape and shift your creativity in a way that molds your passion into what it needs to be. Influence, inspiration, passion and purpose. These things are your fire. And you control them in whole. Be empowered by them.

6. What they do.

The Legendary Roots Crew have a song called “What They Do” that simply states: Never do what they do. The video for the song is over ran with cliché rap video scenarios and illustrates not only how simple it is to be like everyone else, but also how foolish everyone looks when we’re all clones of one another. Be yourself. And I purposely didn’t say, “Be Original” because sometimes this gets confused with being outlandishly different. If being yourself results in you being different than the norm, than you are already original. There is no effort required in being an honest portrayal of the person you are inside, and this is what garners the most creative respect. Sure, there are things that are tested and true and work well that you shouldn’t stray away from just for the sake of being different. A huge inspiration of mine, Adrian X of Too Black Guys, once told me that unless I’m making a t-shirt with 3 sleeves, there’s nothing in the form of any t-shirt that I construct that will be remarkably new. Don’t be a 3 sleeved shirt just for the sake of standing out. That’s not the type of “Stand Out” artist anyone really wants to be. Is it?

7. You actually suck.

Nobody likes a show-off. So unless you’re a rapper, a boxer or a pro-wrestler, keep the “I’m the best” talks under wraps. Saying and/or thinking that you’re the best at anything will give you the delusion that you’re in the creative lead of a race that isn’t actually happening. Knowing that you can be the best will give you the confidence that you need to get there. This way of thinking will also help cushion your falls if/when you get an artist block. Because you will get them. And when all those people who hear you claiming you’re the bees knees come to realize that you’re in a rut, it’s more laughable than it is respectable. So be humble. Someone is out there working harder to make it to second place than you are to retain first.

8. You have a genius.

This is a concept that I learned from watching a video of Elizabeth Gilbert on TED, and it actually goes hand in hand with the fact that “You actually suck”. The western world has adopted this insane idea that among us are geniuses. It’s a thought that puts some individuals into a category of higher power within their specific fields, and creates this impenetrable iron casing around them that aids their invincibility. The Romans had the belief that rather than individuals being geniuses, we all had a genius; a creative spirit that embodied the brilliance of our potentials and lived in the walls of an artist’s studio, aiding and assisting the outcome of their work. This concept creates distance between you as the artist and your work by mentally crediting the genius that you have for their role in what you create. Maintaining this slight distance relieves psychological pressure for you to be brilliant at all turns and allows you to create in a more expressive and free fashion. You are the channel for what your genius can conceive. You don’t gotta say that, just keep it in mind.

I don’t know everything there is to know about maximizing your “Creative Mojo”. I just know what’s worked for me. Sharing information with other artists is a great way to push one another to improve and alter the boundaries, and I hope that some of what I’ve shared above helps you on your road to realizing your full creative potential.


- Bryan 'be.' Espiritu