What To Do When You Don't Feel Creative But NEED To Be
Some weeks I feel inspired to write. I'll sit down and the words flow with the ease of turning the tap for a glass of water. The flow can be damn right magical. But the flipside is the unrealistic expectation you have for the next time you have to (insert any creative endeavour). A scary realization when you don't feel creative but need to be.
There are weeks like this one. I'll stare at my screen in frustration and wonder why I can't piece anything together. I have an Evernote folder containing hundreds of post ideas and prompts to give me a nudge in the right direction. This week I gazed at them as if they had all been mysteriously translated to Russian. Steven Pressfield in The War of Art describes it as the dreaded fog of Resistance, aptly named after the struggle of creativity. It had seeped into my thinking like an undetectable gas shutting down my ability to be creative.
Chris Gallibeau is best known for visiting every country in the world – a grand total of 193. In one of his pieces chronicling the many lessons he learned along the way, he said something that spits in the face of conventional wisdom. Which probably explains why I love it so much. "It's good that you're frustrated—it shows that you understand the importance of the search. But I think the best thing you can do is be open and explore different paths. The truest one tends to appear as you go along, not before you start."
The less you worry about being perfect and the more you focus on your craft, you learn how to navigate the messy bits. The purpose behind every piece I write is to create something meaningful and impactful in exchange for the time you're sharing with me. And I think this always comes back to the rawness of honesty. The act of loving yourself and others in a way that's not possible when you're afraid of vulnerability. A willingness to embrace looking like you don't know what you're doing. But the fact is, you don't know what you're doing most of the time. And if you feel like you always do, you're not taking enough risk.
Great work lives on the edges of fear. It comes from working in places that feel uncomfortable and challenge us. Each moment we push through expands what we're capable of. I've written a piece every week for the last year-and-a-half (minus a two week vacation). But this is also the first time in my life that I'm doing something I love. I do it with purpose.
The more you do it, the more you find out how to do it. The biggest thing that keeps people from being successful is the desire for planning and perfection, rather than doing. Chase Jarvis CEO of CreativeLive has a motto to live by, 90% doing 10% planning. You're only going to find your voice by exercising your voice over and over. Writing is the clearest way of simplifying your personal view and experience. It's how I've connected the dots while developing a business over the last year-and-a-half. Its helped me find the narrative that fuels my momentum.
The destination is who you want to be, do, or become. The path from here to there is the messiness between here and the mountain you're trying to climb. What I encourage you to think about is the thing that you can start building. There's a story buried in there that needs to be shared. I cannot begin to explain how much you learn about yourself and what you're capable of when you're willing to dance in the unknown.
It's the common thread you'll notice when you look at all the people you admire. It's how they got to where they are. Humans are drawn to story at a primitive level. We want to see if the story will end in comedy or tragedy, be it athletes, entrepreneurs or Luke Skywalker in Star Wars. We will all face obstacles, but some of us will seek a guide or mentor that has been there before to help us learn and grow from their own failures and knowledge. But at a certain point, the choice is up to us to decide what we want to do with our future. Your life will only grow as much as you do. And growth comes from action. And motivation follows action.
Put whatever you want to create into the world, even if it's shit. There is no such thing as great writing, only great editing. This applies to any endeavour. Things will begin to develop with a certain sense of ease when you have a willingness to challenge yourself without judgement.
You don't discover what you're going to do by thinking about it, you uncover it by doing. That's not to say you don't think about it at all. You need to wake up and figure out what you're going to do with your day tomorrow morning. I only found out what I wanted to do by continuing to walk forward and bump into shit along the way. Every experience has given me leverage for the next opportunity I'm presented with. You can do whatever you want. Once I began to look at it more as a sense of opportunity than anxiety, I realized how many cool possibilities are available to everyone. What's difficult for me now is choosing which ones to chase down.
I could have given up and said this isn't for me. I could have gone back to a 9-5 and let someone tell me what I needed to do every day. That's my personal hell. Life's too short. I listen to the words of Hunter S Thompson and it reminds me that my definition of failure is not living by my own set of rules and values. “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming ‘Wow! What a Ride!’”