You decided to show up. “I’m going to do this thing,” you say to yourself. “I’m going to dedicate time every day to practicing hand lettering.”
It’s morning. You sit down at your desk in front of a blank page. The sun is just now starting to come through the blinds in the window. It’s casting a beam of light onto your fresh, white paper.
But there’s a problem: your mind is absolutely blank. You have no idea what to write. You look around frantically for inspiration, but nothing interesting stands out.
What went wrong?
That time when you sit in front of your desk with no distractions and a blank page in front of you is not the time to start thinking about what your topic is or what phrase you’ll hand letter.
Yet, this is what so many of us do. We do the very hardest part of the work (showing up) yet we didn’t prepare at all! The scarcest commodity is our momentum. The easy part is execution. The hard part is getting out of bed! The hard part is the starting and you just did that! You’re here!
But you’re fresh out of ideas and time is wasting away. Where did things get off track?
Well, you were 90% of the way there, but all that was missing was a bit of forethought. The precious time you set aside this morning is your execution time. This is where you sit down and work. Perform the action.
There can be no wasted energy thinking about the concept or topic you want to execute. This work must be done beforehand.
When it comes to this set-aside execution time, the goal is to have a list of very-specific phrases or words already prepared. Shorthand notes won’t do. For hand lettering, it’s ideal to have complete phrases written exactly as they will appear.
Your best ideas will come when you least expect them.
Systematize Your Idea Capturing
You need a system in place to capture your ideas them. Preparation is key. If you have a great idea but you’re unsure of whether you should email it to yourself, add it to you todo app, create a new note, or write it on the back of your hand, you’re going to have a hard time finding it later.
Our brains should not be used as storage devices. We can store our ideas and concepts software and it’s easy to see right at a glance. We don’t have to remember. We don’t have to use some of our mental capacity to hold onto things. We can use it to process things, to think about things, to plan things, and to act on things.
Using a multi-platform todo app that automatically syncs is the simplest solution (I use Wunderlist). Whether you’re grocery shopping, driving in the car, riding the subway, on a walk, sitting at your computer, or reading on your iPad, you have a single place that can capture your ideas as immediately as they come.
Keep Your Eyes Open
Inspiration really is everywhere if you’re looking for it. See a quote you like? Write it down. Advertisement give you an idea? Write it down.
Did something upset you? Why? Write down your answer. Hand letter it.
Maybe you’re a writer. I personally like to write my own phrases. The two lettering pieces you see in this post are phrases that I wrote. I didn’t just letter someone else’s quote.
I see lettering as a form of voice to speak the things I want to say. What is your message? What do you have to say to the world? Write it down.
Hand lettering is beautiful. By creating beauty, you automatically attract attention. People like beautiful things. What message will you speak when you have that attention?
Get It All Out of Your Head
Capture those concepts, ideas, and topics. You don’t want to lose them. You don’t want to spend part of your mental capacity holding on to those ideas, you want to spend that mental capacity thinking about those ideas.
In order to think on them, you need to remember them. In order to remember them, you need to save them—you need to archive them.
You want this list because when you carve out time to do your work, you don’t want to be scrambling to find the concept to hand letter.
That time when you sit in front of your desk with no distractions and a blank page in front of you is not the time to start thinking about your phrase.
Make A List of Ideas & Concepts
Create a new list titled “Hand Lettering Phrases.” This is the single place you will add new concepts. You want to eliminate wasted energy going towards wondering where to store ideas.
Throughout your day and throughout your week, capture these phrases immediately when you think of them.
Only the novice shows up to a blank page without a full list of concepts.
There is nothing like the clarity of focus you will get when your showing up is rewarded with crystal-clear direction. You don’t even have to think. You look at your list and you execute.
What if you don’t like item #1 on your list? It doesn’t matter. Execute anyway. We’re building a muscle here. Learn your lesson, adapt, and don’t write down ideas in the future that you don’t like because the list is sacred. You will execute whatever you add to the list.
The list must remain sacred. If you get to a place where you look at the list and you don’t feel like executing any of the topics you wrote, then the list no longer serves its purpose. It can no longer be a productive function. The list must be the unquestioned reference and source of your topic for today.
The List is Sacred – You Must Execute
Build the muscle of executing the list items. Treat it with care and only add items you will truly do.
Your time is precious and your focus equally as invaluable. Put a time limit on yourself. Carve out a window. When you’ve reached a place where there is no longer a question in your mind of what you will write, that is when you will achieve flow.
There is no question of whether you will show up. There is no question of how long you will spend. There is no question of whether there will be a topic. There is no question of whether you will execute.
You have answered these questions ahead of time. This is how you experience freedom. This is how you combat blank page syndrome.
When you achieve this rhythm and balance, you will experience greatest output capacity of your life.
- Capture ideas.
- Set aside time.
- Show up.
Did you enjoy this post? Subscribe below! It’s a part of a 30-day series on hand lettering leading up to the launch of the new Learn Lettering 2.0.