Any writer, syndicated cartoonist, innovator or perhaps a podcast host; sooner or later will run into what some would call writers' block. They find themselves drawing a blank. They have a deadline rapidly approaching and they find themselves with nothing — not a single good idea.
It has happened to me more times that I would care to admit. I have a show script that needs writing and I find myself looking at my laptop with nothing. I go for a walk. I read my emails. I check out my social media. Still nothing.
Then start the excuses to do something else. Anything else than setting there struggling. In some cases, I give up with the anticipation that I’ll try later in the hope that something will inspire me. In the rare case, I discipline myself to get back at it and keep working on it.
The best solution to the problem is to just write. Don’t hesitate – just do it. Set down and write something – anything — and then keep going.
Do Not Wait For Inspiration
I love it when “want to be,” creatives and innovators say that they need to wait until they get inspired — wait until they can court their muse. Those who make a living on being creative on a deadline would starve or find themselves looking for other work.
They do not have the luxury of waiting for inspiration.
I once gave a speech a number of years ago to a group of people who were interested in creating their own podcast. At that point, I had been doing my podcast for around 8 years. One piece of advice I gave them on how to create a strong following of listeners was to be consistent and diligent about putting out their shows. If they found themselves in the position where they had no ideas for a show, set down and publish a show anyway.
While I admit I said this, it has come back to haunt me. Over the 15 years of producing a weekly podcast, there have been many times where I wanted to just skip a week. It would have been easy to rationalize why there was no show this week. But we committed to you our listeners back in 2005 that we would be here for the long haul and we have been.
Establish The Right Work Habits
The key to success in producing a podcast is the same as in any other field — you need to establish the right work habits. And the best way to establish the right habits is to do something you know should be done — every day. The more you do it, the easier it becomes — the more confident you become — and the result of your work gets better every day.
I have found that the more I do what needs to be done every day, the more ideas I get for future shows.
Like most people, I am a world-class procrastinator.
We all know that putting something off that we know needs to be done causes us to dread doing it. So once we start down this path, we keep pushing off what needs doing and the task grows larger and larger. Eventually, in desperation, we attack the task and get it done. Upon self-reflection, we admit that it wasn’t that hard and had we just done it, we could have avoided the stress.
Exercise Your Creative Muscle
One of the right work habits for creativity and innovation is the daily exercise of your creative muscle (for example “9 Daily Exercises that I Do to Keep My Creative Muscle in Shape”). How? Brainstorm on a personal project. Create music. Take photographs. Do whatever challenges you creatively. To count it as exercise – you need to do this daily. Not just taking photographs on your two-week vacation once a year.
As any athlete knows, regular exercise is key to achieving success. The same applies to your creative ability. At the same time, how many people do you know who signed up for a gym membership as part of a new year resolution, with all of the intention to use it, to find themselves a few months later not going to the gym?
Just as most of us have put off any form of daily physical exercise, I’m willing to guess that you have been putting off exercising yourcreative muscle.
If you don’t mind taking advice from someone who’s been guilty of the same thing, just do it – now! Just start. Before you know it, you will have completed day 1 of exercising your creative muscle and you will feel proud of yourself.
If every day each of us would do the things we know we really should be doing to exercise our creative muscle, we would always be ahead of the game, instead of lagging forever behind and then having to run like mad to catch up.
So — what creative exercise are you going to do today?
I’m Phil McKinney – and thanks for listening.