A while ago, one of the members of The Cult of Copy Facebook group gave a hilarious account of his recent creative breakthrough:
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to bed defeated, frustrated and convinced I’m the worst copywriter in the multiverse. I spent 12 hours at my laptop yesterday laboring over copy for an EDDM postcard for my carpet cleaning business.
I wrote and re-wrote it so many times I could feel my grasp on reality slipping and I hallucinated that my 9-year-old daughter was Techno Viking.
Then I woke up this morning, slammed a Rockstar energy drink, plowed fresh snow off the driveway with my unstoppable Subaru-engine-powered Ariens snowblower and had an honest-to-god epiphany…
Stormed back inside, ripped my wet clothes off and threw them on the floor, and then, in nothing but my underwear, anger-typed some smokin’ hot sales copy that’s so “straight fire”, I’m at least marginally worried my laptop will collapse into some sort of black hole.
It never ceases to amaze me how stepping away from a project, how sleeping on ideas, almost always leads to a creative flourish.
I love that part about worrying that his laptop would implode into a black hole.
I love even more his point about how it takes plenty of labour and frustration for creativity to happen.
I, too, have gone to bed frustrated at my “incompetence” or worried that I “don’t have what it takes”. I touched on this emotional turmoil a bit in my blog post about my writing process. It’s the same with manga drawing, my other creative pursuit.
Sometimes, I don’t have any ideas or inspiration. A creative rut.
Other times, I have an idea, but when I try to bring it to life, I encounter all kinds of difficulties. What seems like a good idea in theory turns out to be difficult to implement. Or, a small but important detail does not occur to me until I start doing.
It’s not unusual for all of these to occur in the course of one project.
So, why do I bother with being creative anyway? Why subject myself to the inevitable pain? Heck, I’ve even made creativity one of the themes I will live by in 2018!
Because I realised that frustration, self-doubt, impatience, and other scary things are just part of the process. And they shall pass.
Because if I want to grow, I have no choice but to do. Consistently.
Because when I stick around long enough, trying, failing, and iterating, breakthroughs do happen that make everything worth it.
Once I accepted all these, I became more zen about the creative process.
In the meantime, there are many ways to nurture a creative mind. I’ve done all these and found them helpful:
- Develop more than one creative pursuit. If you get stuck in one activity, switching to another can help jolt your creativity.
- Read widely, deeply. All kinds of media, all kinds of subjects.
- Make sure your reading list includes some fiction. Good fiction stirs the imagination and the soul.
- Open your mind. To new ideas, experiences, and adventures.
- Open your heart. To beauty, inspiration, and love.
- Travel far and wide. Travel takes you out of your comfort zone and exposes you to new people, cultures, and perspectives.
- Take care of your mental health. It’s hard to feel inspired or able to generate fresh ideas if you feel anxious or troubled.
But the most important thing to do, is to cut through the insecurities and show up every day. At least one pomodoro’s worth of work (25 minutes). That’s the only way to level up.
“If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), “Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?” chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.”
― Steven Pressfield, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles
Feeling stupid is normal. Feeling like “the worst” is normal.
But keep going. Stay consistent. Somewhere down the road, there’s a creative breakthrough waiting to happen, and it will be magical.
Now go forth and create!