The Creative Secret
The first barrier to personal creativity is built from the many distractions of modern life. If you successfully clamber over these diversions (smartphone alerts, day-to-day work emails, family life etc) you run into the second barrier: fear of failure.
Anxiety shows up as a cold, quiet and persistent voice warning you of your towering presumption.
“Who am I to try this?”
“What will people think?”
“What if I’m wrong?”
These caustic questions eat away at your creative confidence. Imposter Syndrome makes it so much easier to succumb to distraction. Wasting an hour on Facebook or Twitter is often less scary than forging ahead with your project. Procrastination is often just a disguised fear. You are telling yourself: “If I begin, I’ll simply begin to fail”.
To successfully battle these demons, you need to find a surefire way to ‘begin again’, every day. The legendary New York choreographer Twyler Thwarp kicks off each working day by taking a taxi to her local gym for a 2-hour workout. When she sits in the back of that yellow New York cab, she’s taken the decision to begin her creative process. She has started, whether she likes it or not. For her, this removes the anxiety.
“First steps are hard,” Thwarp argues. She elaborates, saying what helps her to get going are “…automatic, but decisive, patterns of behaviour at the beginning of the creative process, when you are most at peril of turning back, chickening out, giving up, or going the wrong way.” For Thwarp, turning something into a ritual silences the doubting voice and it’s relentless inquisition.
Rituals don’t just break the ice, and allow you to get started each day. They also conserve your creative energy. Albert Einstein often wore the same old sweater and baggy trousers. Similarly, the Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg constantly wears an identical grey T-shirt to work. I’m not sure I agreed with the sartorial solution, but I do understand the logic. To me, these types of behaviours achieve one thing. They ensure your energy is routed to where it has the most value: your creative thinking.
After writing two books, through trial-and-error, I have carved out my own creative rituals. Alarm at 6am, ten minutes of meditation, poached egg on toast, an all-important frothy coffee, carried and plonked on my desk next to my monitor. Open a document, start writing. Try to avoid second guessing if it’s the right place on the page, or even the right thing to say.
Just. get. on. with. it.
You can undercut fear of failure by promising yourself that no one ever needs to see what you make. It’ll be your choice when you review your creation again later. This ‘Get-on-With-It’ mentality embraces a simple fact: without a ‘shitty first draft’ the great last draft never appears.
What rituals might you develop to save time, to defeat procrastination, and to ease the way into creative action?
This blog is adapted from my latest book The Human Edge: How curiosity and creativity are your superpowers in the digital economy (Pearson) which won the Business Book of The Year 2020.
All right reserved Copyright © 2020 Greg Orme
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