We have all had that feeling when you sit down, teeming with excitement, you lean forward, settle in, and prepare yourself to release your creativity. That's when it happens. You stare at your notebook, canvas, screen, typewriter, guitar, piano, notepad, block of wood, and you find yourself stuck.
Depending on your craft, there are all sorts of names for this phenomenon, but for the sake of today, let's take craft, and describe it as our creative outlet, therefore, the issue that is before us, the matter at hand is none other than a CREATIVE BLOCK. I'm not sure about you and your block, but I find that I always seem to get the worst case of CREATIVE BLOCK after I have received my greatest inspirations, the problem with this of course is that THE BLOCK always sets in after these ideas have arrived, and well after I forgot to preserve that idea. I find that I willingly condemn myself to a CREATIVE BLOCK by thinking that, OF COURSE I AM GOING TO REMEMBER THE GREATEST IDEA THAT I HAVE EVER COME WITH!
Do you know how many times I remember that GREATEST IDEA EVER, about 10% of the time. But what about all of those other times that you just can't seem to get those creative juices flowing? What about then? What about those times it's not SELF-INFLICTED!
Well... is it possible that all CREATIVE BLOCK is self-inflicted?
How about a WWII analogy courtesy of author Steven Pressfield? In this story a German is the good guy. Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, “the Desert Fox,” the setting is North Africa.
In February of 1941, Rommel was given command of the brand-new Afrika Korps and sent from Europe to Libya, with orders to hold back the British, who had defeated Germany’s Axis allies, the Italians, and had pushed them back a thousand miles to the gates of Tripoli. Rommel landed with less than half of his tanks and men. He had strict orders from the high command to take no aggressive action. His superiors wanted him to wait till all his forces had landed and the Afrika Korps was at full strength.
Instead Rommel hopped into his Fieseler Storch scout plane and flew east to take a peek at the British lines. What he saw, amazed him. The Brits had pulled back; their defenses were thin to nonexistent.
Rommel attacked. He had only a handful of tanks and virtually no fuel. But the audacity of his assault rocked the British so hard, they wheeled and withdrew. One of the quirks of warfare in the desert, where there are no natural defensive barriers like rivers or mountain ranges, is that, once one side gets the other on the run, that “run” can go on for a long time. In this case it was a thousand miles, all because Rommel started before he was ready.
So what does WWII have to do with my CREATIVE BLOCK? The answer is simple... START BEFORE YOU'RE READY! I think W. Somerset Maugham said it best:
If you are looking for your breakthrough moment, and if you are looking to conquer the dragon known as CREATIVE BLOCK, then here are a few actions items that you can start now!
1) SCHEDULE YOUR CREATIVITY
The first thing we can do to combat CREATIVE BLOCK is schedule our creativity. I am a classic procrastinator. In college, I would always wait to write my papers until the very last minute, mainly because I failed to understand my own creativity. I was convinced that the pressure of the clock combined with the magical late night hour would cause my creativity to crystallize, when in reality, I just wanted to avoid the work until the last possible moment, and maximize the amount of time I had at my disposal for non-academic activities.
If we are being honest, you and I both know that there are any number of strategies to maximize your work/life balance, and procrastination isn't a top performer. Because our inspiration seems elusive and mystical, we like to hide behind our own artistry. But what if we took a blue collar approach? I believe It's time to punch the creative clock.
Schedule a time. Every day if possible. Set aside all other distractions, you have to remember that this is the most important meeting of the day. Go to your happy place (we will get to that in a minute), roll up your sleeves and get to work. Somedays, you are going to strike gold, other days you are going to plug away, and in a strange twist of events you will find other days where you find yourself thinking, reflecting, and creating things far beyond your current realm of mastery. Your craft is your day job. So get to work.
2) BUILD YOUR CREATIVITY A HOME
So now that you have a time for your CREATIVITY, it's about time that you built your CREATIVITY A HOME! Depending on your craft you may or may not already have a place to create. It might be a workshop, or a garage, a coffee shop, or a studio, no matter what that space looks like, you need a place where you can go to create. CREATIVITY IS A CREATURE OF COMFORT.
President Obama keeps a very limited selection of suits, dress shirts and ties. He has limited his wardrobe, and limited his selections, so that he can better channel his decision making and deploy his creativity in matters of National importance , and not his fashion sense. Your creativity needs a home, so that you can be free to create in the comfort of some place safe, familiar, and some place that tells your brain when I am here, it's GAME TIME!
3) THE CREATIVE PROCESS
It is called the CREATIVE PROCESS for a reason. Do you have a process for your CREATIVITY or do you just do your best to ride the wave, if and when you can catch it? The latter method is a lot like throwing spaghetti at the wall and hoping it sticks. If you have a TIME, and you have a SPACE why not create a PROCESS for your creativity.
Their are all sorts of great tools to help you get organized and to capture those world changing ideas. I mentioned earlier that I get the worst case of CREATIVE BLOCK when trying to chase down one of those ideas that got away, that I forgot to record! Why am I self-inflicting these blocks on myself, wasting my CREATIVITY on recollection inside of inspiration? I am self-inflicting by failing to have a process.
Whatever your craft is, it is time to find the best tools available to capture your CREATIVITY and start putting them to use! Personally, I am a huge fan of EVERNOTE, and unfortunately, I am not even getting paid to mention them. This tool allows me to capture all of my ideas, and media, and even allows me to present them (Evernote Premium)... this one app has revolutionized my CREATIVE PROCESS by becoming the HUB of all my productivity.
Not all that long ago, Apple released a new MUSIC MEMO App that is going to change the game for all of my songwriter friends. The truth is, we are in a golden age of technology that is enabling us to CREATE like never before.
If you have a tool you love, be sure to share it in the comments below or send me a message, I would love to hear about it! Most importantly, I'd love to hear about the next big thing that you are working on, and how you are owning your process to create more quality, consistently!
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Brett Esslinger is a Husband, Dad, Son, Brother, Pastor, Speaker, Leader, Writer whose life goal is to help people unlock their potential and fulfill their life's purpose.
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