Why visioning is so hard

With nothing but clear blue sky overhead, creative work like visioning can at first, seem so enticing. There’s absolutely nothing standing between you and your wildest ideas.

Why then, does a blank page generate so much anxiety? It’s as if the brain locks itself behind a bullet-proof shell. Nothing gets in and nothing gets out.

The solution seems counterintuitive. We need constraints, boundaries, parameters. When we contain our thoughts to meeting a certain need, suddenly the ideas start to flow. Because now you have a challenge. A problem to solve. The old expression that necessity is the mother of invention has never been more apt than when it comes to creative work.

For example, instead of “…today I need to write a blog post”, you might say “today I need to write a blog post to appeal to a reader with X problem.”

“For my design to work, it must be this long, this high and have XYZ characteristics.”

“I will know when I have achieved my vision because my life will look like…”

So next time you’re struggling to get your ideas on the page, start by generating some criteria. Some boundaries for your work.

On who's terms?

If you make an appointment to see your dentist and have certain needs such as sedation or antibiotics or a preferred flavour of flouride, they have systems in place to accommodate you.

But what if you need something that falls outside of their systems?

Perhaps you only want to visit the dentist on Sundays or you want to pay by personal cheque. Or perhaps you don’t want to make an appointment and simply want to walk in off the street and be seen by a dentist at a moment’s notice.

Your dentist simply doesn’t work in these ways. The clinic doesn’t open on Sundays. It requires payment at the time of service by cash or card only. It doesn’t offer a walk-in service unless it’s an bona fide emergency. Despite all of this, you will probably stay loyal to this dentist. After all, they know you. They do good work. You trust them.

We teach our clients how to treat us.

When we begin, we have the capacity to take on urgent work. We are more tolerant to working on our clients’ terms. Pay how you like. By the due date would be great. Just pay me. Thanks.

As you grow and your time becomes more valuable, your capacity to respond to emergencies decreases as does your willingness to absorb late payments, missed meetings and project delays.

Yet you didn’t set up your boundaries this way to begin with so now what?

If there’s fear about the loss of the relationship from being more firm about your process, that will require some examination.

On one hand, you may fear that your client will judge you. How so? They might think you too rigid, greedy, difficult, unprofessional. Do you fear damage to your reputation?

On the other hand, what do you have to fear if the relationship remains the same? Staying frustrated that your client doesn’t respect your process. Staying frustrated at not feeling heard? Arguably, there is much more to fear about not expressing a boundary.

Getting to 'no'

One of the toughest things for anyone in business is saying no to a client. It could be saying no to doing a task a certain way, saying no to a certain timeline or saying no to working with a client at all.

Saying no often means saying no to work, to cash flow. Saying no can sometimes mean hurt feelings. And it’s not always clear when saying no is the right thing to do.

But saying no is also about saying yes. Yes to sticking to your process. Yes to your ideal clients. Yes to maintaining balance - in your business and in your life. Yes to the work that gets you up in the morning.

One way to make saying no easier is to develop a list of client responsibilities in your statement of work. Send it with every proposal. Ensure your client is aware of it even if they don’t take the time to read it. When a project appears to be going off the rails, refer back to this list. It will tell you when saying no is the right thing to do.