This was originally sent as a newsletter on July 27, 2014. I had recently gotten back from my vacation and wrote this on the plane. Sign up ↓
Here’s the truth: I struggle every time I have to show up.
Every time I need to write a new blog post, record a new podcast, or prepare a newsletter—it’s tough for me.
You don’t really ever get to a point where your first iteration of any new thing you make is perfect. It’s always a process. It always takes effort, sweat, and trudging through a lot of failed attempts.
You’re always going to be met with a blank page. It’s something you have to get used to! You don’t get better at creating gold on a whim—you get better at recognizing the things that aren’t gold. You get better at getting out the iterations that don’t work so you can make it to the ones that do.
What does get easier is showing up. The more you show up, the easier it gets. You know you’re always going to come face to face with a blank page. Your first attempt almost certainly won’t make the final cut, but you know you’re going to show up.
It’s daunting when you’re focused on the result of this session and what it needs to be. It’s scary when you feel the pressure of living up to any past success you’ve had or any current precedent you’ve set.
This thing needs to be awesome.
This thing needs to live up to my standards.
But satiating those standards comes as a result of an iterative process. Fixating on that minimum quality threshold at the beginning will only stunt you. You’re putting too much pressure on yourself!
To start, all you need is a commitment. Say to yourself, “I’m going to bleed a little.”
Start first with a commitment to show up regularly.
The motivation will come after you show up.
Commit to showing up, then just be willing to be human. When I say “bleed a little,” I mean show some of your vulnerabilities. Show some of your humanness.
Think of ways you can be genuine:
- How can I connect with people?
- How can I help people?
- How can I be real with people?
Get Outside Your Element for a Fresh Perspective
I’m currently on a plane flying back from our week-long vacation. It was an incredibly refreshing time and change of scenery. As I type, I see the state of Washington growing smaller below us, with its lush trees slowly fading in detail as we climb higher.
This last week, my wife and I took a road trip up the west coast from San Francisco to Seattle. The incredible variety in landscape and culture was fascinating. Getting outside my element was enough to supercharge me with inspiration.
Getting away allowed me to think. Long drives with ever-changing views of the rolling California hills, vineyards, forests and coastlines—combined with stretches of silence—produced a fertile breeding ground for new ideas and a fresh perspective.
Back to the plane.
With noise canceling headphones and no notifications to distract, there’s nothing to do but write. I may be on my way back from vacation, and I may have been up since 3:00am this morning to catch our early flight, but It’s Sunday and Sunday is newsletter day and that means I’m going to show up.
Even still, I struggle. Every time I need to show up, I struggle. I know it’s going to be a process, and I know I’m going to produce and write things that don’t make the final cut, but it’s ok. I know I’m going to be met with a blank page every time, but I’m showing up. I’m willing to bleed a little. I’m willing to be real and I know that only after showing up will the motivation come.
Not on a plane? Close the door. Turn off notifications. Use only one tool.
Purpose to find ways to create your own distraction-free environment.
Productivity Booster: Airplane Mode
How to Kickstart Your Creativity
Maybe you’re feeling overwhelmed by the possible directions you can take your current project. Maybe the infinite number of topics, products, or directions you could choose is causing paralysis.
If this is you, it’s time to impose some limitations:
- Limit your tools
- Limit your medium
- Limit your time
- Limit your context
- Limit your audience
- Limit your objectives
The situation we’re trying to avoid here is one where we have too much freedom.
If your project has no inherent constraints, you must add your own constraints.
Without a box, there can be no outside-the-box thinking.
Get outside your element to force creativity. Change up the routine and impose new restrictions.
You might think greater freedom results in greater creativity: “The more room I have to roam, the more free I can be, right?”
This is simply not true.
The fewer choices you have, the faster you can make decisions. The decisions you make define the context in which you create. So the more you limit your options, the easier decisions become. When decisions become easier to make, you’re able to make decisions faster. The faster you make decisions, the more quickly you can define your constraints. Having clearly defined constraints is what breeds creativity. Knowing the confines you have to work with brings freedom.
Instead of a menu with 50 food choices: Chicken or Vegetarian?
Instead of a bag of assorted pen options: Micron or Pencil?
The faster you make the decisions, the quicker you can get to the completed product. The more limited your tools, the more creative you are forced to be.
- What limitations can you impose to force yourself to be creative?
- How often will you commit to showing up this week?
- How might you “bleed a little” and allow yourself to publicly be human?
- How can you be relatable so that you can connect with and help people?