If you’re anything like me, you’ve got a zillion ideas in your head, but the trouble is getting it out of your head and on paper. That transition is the most painful experience, because not only do you not know how to start, you’re also fighting that monster that thinks that nothing you have inside you is worth anything, nobody will like it, and then there’s it’s twin brother, the monster that fights you bringing what’s inside you to the physical world. It tells you there’s a Pay Per view on, and shouldn’t you be hosing down the cat or something? That’s why your brain hates every single time you sit down to write, and you sit there staring at a clean white screen. Worse yet, you may have even had a sentence or two on there that you’ve deleted a million times because you (or the monsters) hate it.
Then you get discouraged because everything you try to write sucks and walk away. What a waste.
This happens to me ALL the time, and I totally get the irony of a guy trying to help you create things telling you that he gets stuck all the time. It’s part of being any kind of a creator. You either learn to live with it or your don’t. It’s getting to that point that’s the hard slog. If I can’t get something out of my head today, I’ve had to learn the patience to just let it come out when it wants to. it sucks for consistency—like doing a podcast, for example—but when I rush things, they suck. When I let it happen, it’s been some of my best work.
Let’s talk about creativity under some kind of structure and deadline for a moment, and why I think that’s the worst thing you can do if you’re just beginning.
Every year, there’s an event called Nanowrimo, where the idea is to write a 50,000 word novel. It doesn’t matter if you suck, the point is to get you unstuck. However, I can’t tell you the number of people that start and don’t finish because getting stuck is commonplace. They look at that final number and shut down the second they get stuck. “I’ll never get it done”, they say. Even if they’ve broken it down to the daily equivalent—1,667 words a day—it’s still too big if you’re still staring at a blank sheet of paper a week in. So they give up.
As much as I admire the purpose of Nanowrimo, I have to wonder if it’s done more damage to people who secretly harbor an aspiration for writing, but are still fighting those monsters.
So, I’m gonna tell you not to fight the monsters. I’m also gonna tell you not to participate in Nanowrimo.
What I AM going to say is that if you really want to write—if you really want to create something—one day that need to make something is going to outweigh the desire to avoid the monsters. That’s the day whatever it is you want to make will get made. But in the meantime, fly under the monster’s radar. Can you write a sentence a day? Can you take one step towards your creation a day? One little baby step? Here’s the deal, though: you have to say to yourself, “I’m going to take this one step today. I don’t care right now if it’s good or bad. I’m not going to listen to the monsters, I’m just gonna do this one little thing today and walk away.”
Then write your sentence, save your document, and go do something else. Tomorrow, do the same thing. There’s no clock, there’s no judgement, there’s just one little baby step. Commit to the baby step, and that’s all. No more. There’s no reason you can’t go back and edit or revise later. We’re not worried about that now. We’re just taking a baby step.
This is based off an idea I heard once about a guy who hates running. He just said to himself, I’m just gonna put on my shoes. Then it became, I’m just gonna put on my shoes and go outside. Then, it was I’m just gonna go for a walk to the end of the driveway.
You see where this leads? Running.
You won’t go from zero to NaNoWrimo tomorrow. You can go from Zero to a paragraph in a week, if you’re taking baby steps. Try it.
Then, here’s a bonus...look at other areas where baby steps might be the key to getting other things done. You’ve heard the story of the compounding pennies, right? I won’t rehash it here, but the point here is that little things add up to big things, if you let them.
So let them.