91 - Create your own problems to solve

Hello and welcome to the 91st episode of The Spark & The Art creativity podcast. Thank you for subscribing to our weekly podcast, where we alternate between interviews with creative folks from all different career levels and insight and inspiration episodes. All with the intention you’ll get the inspiration you need to get your creative projects started and, more importantly, finished.

I’m your host Tucker and this week is insight and inspiration and we’re going to talk about creating your own problems to solve. 

Creating your own problems has sort of a negative connotation to it. “I can’t really feel sorry for that person because they’ve created those problems for themselves.” That’s the drama queen sort of mentality where people strive to find conflict or drama in their life because it gives them a rush or it’s the state they are used to being in. Something in their life made it so they just love that sort of thing. It’s the reason reality shows are popular it’s the drama. It’s the reason some soap operas have been on the air for 40 years. It’s the drama. 

Drama isn’t the kind of problem I’m talking about. I’m talking about challenges to figure out and questions to be answered. I’m talking about figuring out what you can’t do and wondering how you can. 

In last week’s episode we talked with Chelsea Klukas and one of the things she mentioned was what she considered the difference between art and design. In design you are given a problem to solve. You are given a message to communicate. Whether it’s a poster for swimming lessons or a commercial for peanut butter there is a message given to you and you need to figure out how to best communicate it. 

Now with art you are giving yourself a message to communicate. You are both the message and the messenger. You get to choose how to solve the problem of getting your message into a form that people can interact with. 

I’m a songwriter and Sometimes I write songs that I can't play but Ifigure them out. I can hear it in my head and I just workand work the guitar until I can play what I hear. Sometimes I never really got competent at what I had written until months of playing. Guitar for me was always a tool to get a song out. I never really aspired to be a spectacular guitar player it was just a tool to get the melody and the story of the song together. The problem I gave myself was I wanted to write a song. But I didn’t want to just sing the melody and the words into the air. The solution I gave myself was to figure it out on the guitar. I could have decided to just sing my songs into my four track recorder working on layered harmonies and playing rhythm instruments but I had already been playing guitar for a few years before the recorder came into play so … guitar was the focus.

But when I’m at work doing design the business needs dictate what work I do. There are usually pretty clear goals: Get someone to buy this. Allow someone to manage the features of their phone service through the website. Allow kids to stream TV shows through a mobile app (Like I’ve mentioned before I work for a very large communications company). On those projects I get to use my creativity and design skills to solve those problems but they are given to me. On the other hand, no one told me to write a kids book. No gave me a creative brief that directed me to create a CD with 5 kids songs and to include a colouring book, tattoos and a glow-in-the-dark wristband. That was a problem I gave myself. And I solved it. 

Inside you there are things that can be created that no-one will ever tell you to make. There are ideas and stories to be told that nobody will ever ask you to write down or even ask to hear. How those stories and songs and pictures come out is completely up to you. You have to choose yourself. You have to recognize that those are your own problems to solve. 


Here’s where you get to do some thinking


  • Is the work you are currently doing solving other peoples problems?
  • Is the work you do solving a problem you gave yourself? 
  • Do you enjoy the constraints that designing for others can give you or does it make you feel boxed in?
  • Do you like the freedom that creating for yourself can have or does the idea of infinite possibilities hold you back? 
  • With your current project have you given yourself the proper problem to solve or does it feel like there is something you should be doing first? 


Do you think I got this right today? Let me know on twitter @sparkartpodcast or by email tucker@TheSparkAndTheArt.com 


Thanks for listening and remember: you won’t get the art without the work and you won’t do the work without the spark.