Almost all of my coaching clients are in some way or another working on a project that I believe will benefit many people.
I am helping a brilliant young man in Germany complete a novel about terrorism—I think it will shake the world. I have also been helping a woman in Austria complete a film.
Almost everybody I have worked with in the last few years has either been finishing a book, a screenplay, an online course, or creating a new company.
That is what I do:
I love to light the candle which causes another person to shine brilliantly.
Of course, just about anybody who has tried to give an original, authentic gift to the world has faced some permutation of what we call “writer’s block.” It is most commonly associated with writing, but really just about any creative endeavor is going to entail a time when you sharpen your pencil for the fifteenth time, stare blankly at the screen, get distracted by Facebook, make another cup of tea, and feel besieged by thoughts like, “Who’s going to listen to me? I’ve got nothing to say. I’m not good enough.”
Because of what I do, I have a million and one tips to get around these blockages of the creative process. The one I find most useful, however, and the one I like the best, involves the use of our friends.
Here is the simple principle:
Imagine we have to write 5,000 words about something we are knowledgeable about. If we sit alone in a room, staring at a blank computer screen, it is extremely likely, and almost inevitable, that a good proportion of the time we are going to go blank.
Now let us rethink the whole scenario:
Imagine we invite half a dozen friends over for dinner who also know something about our field. We make our favorite dish and uncork a couple of bottles of a nice Cabernet. After the appetizers, and at least one glass of wine into the meal, someone asks, “So tell me, what’ve you been working on? I’m excited to hear about your new idea.”
Now we reach out and take another gulp of our good friend Mr. Cabernet, just enough to provide lubrication to our vocal cords. Then we launch in.
When we are called upon to speak about something we are passionate about, with a group of good friends, and possibly a little lubricant, the chances of us drawing a blank are reduced down to almost zero. Hopefully our friends will have some retorts to offer, or even questions, which will get us going even deeper into our topic.
If we’re concerned that the sounds of cutlery on plates and chewing will be too disturbing, we can get together with a group of other creative people and give presentations to each other. We could even have one night where a single person presents their topic, and the others ask questions.
We can prepare this in advance with some bullet points, but here is the great news: when we speak out loud freely, without preparation, the first benefit is that writer’s block goes out the window. But the second thing that may surprise us is that material delivered verbally in this way, once transcribed, is usually fluent, heartfelt, and even funny, and requires very little editing.
Another useful tip is to use a voice recorder. My favorite is the Sony ICD-UX533BLK.
I encourage all creative types to keep this with them at all times. Never leave home without it, take it to the bathroom, keep it on the bedside table. Doing this helps us avoid the creative person’s version of Murphy’s Law, the fear that we will have our best ideas when we have no way to write them down.
These days when I go out to coffee with anybody remotely interesting, including my friends, I always put the voice recorder on the table. If the conversation starts to turn toward something creative and original, I press the little red button (with the other person’s consent, of course).
Using social interactions with those who inspire us as our primary initiator of new and creative content is the the most powerful way I know to kiss creative blocks goodbye.
Author: Arjuna Ardagh
Editor: Nicole Cameron
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