Creative Something

“You’re going to have to do certain things to make money and certain things to fulfill yourself creatively and they’re not always the same thing…”

Sara Blake via The Great Discontent, on feeling satisfied creatively

Posted at 1:24 pm

Know a good idea when you see one


How do you ever really know if an idea is worthwhile or not?

Nobody can really tell for sure. I certainly couldn’t tell you.

It seems that the best thing to do is have a purpose or a goal on which to evaluate your ideas. The goal can be anything: to write the book outline, to doodle the plan, to tap out a rhythm, then do what it takes to accomplish that goal.

With a goal in place, any idea that meets or exceeds that marker can be identified as a good one.

This way there’s no confusion, no wondering. The idea is good – no matter what it looks like, how it works, or how far away it is from what you originally envisioned – because it accomplishes what you set out for it to do.

One of the best ways to determine whether an idea is a good one or not isn’t whether it fails. It’s whether you created what you set out to do, whether someone (somewhere) connects to the idea, and whether you keep being drawn to it in some way or another.

If you can address all of those things and the idea doesn’t seem sound, it’s time to consider that all of the other factors – the environment, the presentation, the timing – may be off, not the idea itself.

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Give yourself a break: everyone gets stuck


It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you’re not feeling as creative as you’d like. But frustration is just another hinderance in the creative process, one that we must find a way to overcome in order to get back to creating.

But here you are, stuck.

You’ve tried everything you heard would help. Maybe you went for a walk, tried brainstorming with a friend or coworker, or you spent the equivalent of a full work day browsing for inspiration online.

You should have had a good idea by now, you think to yourself.

I don’t want you think having creative ideas is easy. The insights don’t always fly in when you need them most. In-fact: they hardly ever will.

We see and hear about these geniuses of our time, they seem to consistently have one good idea after the other, but the reality is quite the opposite: everyone gets stuck, even creative geniuses.

The difference between them and you is that they keep trying, they don’t let the fact that no good ideas are coming right now (or tomorrow, or the next day) stop them from doing the work.

Of course, there are things you can try to calm your brain and (with some luck) get the ideas flowing. One thing you can do right now to try and break away from the frustration is to literally break away for a while. Go for a walk with a friend and talk about anything but the creative work you’re trying to do. Go take a nap. Go watch a new movie. You could also try using any of the 150 techniques in the creative app oflow.

What’s important isn’t to get the ideas going again right away. More important is allowing yourself to not feel overwhelmed by the fact that ideas aren’t coming. Accept that it’s normal! It doesn’t mean you’re any less creative or intelligent or useful.

The reason you’re stuck isn’t that you can’t have good ideas, or that you don’t have all you need to have them, it’s much more likely that you’re stressing yourself out and restricting your attention. That’s it.

If you feel like you should be having good ideas, but aren’t, don’t worry, it happens to all of us. Give yourself a break, give yourself some slack.

Read this next: Get out of your own way

“There could be something 10 times greater than what you’re doing, but you don’t realize it because you’re fixated on the thing you feel like you should be doing.”

Love this blurb from The Great Discontent interview with Merlin Mann.

It’s a good reminder to stay foolish and curious for what comes next. Try new things, experiment, don’t be afraid to step away from what you think you’re supposed to be doing.

Posted at 12:22 pm

All you need is five minutes to do creative work


What are you waiting for?

If you want to write a book, you need to write. But maybe you’re not at your desk, maybe you’re too tired, maybe you’ve lost track of the storyline. What do you do?

The answer – whether you’re writing a book, or anything – is: anything you can.

Even if you don’t have all the tools, or all the answers, even if you aren’t exactly sure what comes next, there is something you can do.

Maybe that something is to get out your notebook or phone and create a simple list of what you need to move forward. Better yet: make the list, then set a reminder for yourself. Because it’s that list, and that reminder, that will not only serve as the first step, but they also provide you with the actionable momentum to take that next step.

If you want to start a new painting project, or a website, or a business, or a song, or whatever, do whatever you can right now. Give yourself five minutes to do it. Just five minutes. Here’s a free online timer to get you started (pro-tip: click on the “short break” button near the top of the page).

Even if that means you spend the next five minutes only outlining what it is you need to do when you get more time later in the day, that’s something, that’s progress. For creative work, progress is everything.

Small steps add-up fast. You spend five minutes today, and tomorrow, and the next day, working on these little steps and before you know it you have a completed book draft, or a first layer of paint, a business plan, or whatever.

Like dominoes falling into place.

There’s no excuse for why you can’t spend the next five minutes making some small progress on what it is you need to be doing to make progress on your creative art.

Read this next: How to write a novel

Photo via Flickr.