I’m on the constant search to find what motivates us to act and what keeps us moving forward. Especially important are motivators that are not far from us when we are anything but motivated. The most enduring I have seen so far, is calling:
n.1. a vocation, profession, or trade.2. a divine call or summons: a calling to the priesthood.3. a strong impulse or inclination: an inner calling.
You know you have calling by checking your history and by watching what you do, what you regularly day-dream about, and where you go. Past or present, look for (some or all):
Thank goodness for movies, teaching tales, analogies, symbols, illustrations, and whatever else we can hold in our hand and explore in detail. These are condensed representations of fast-paced, ever flowing, and complex reality. Condensation slows time, simplifies and reduces details, and freezes processes to a small set of steps. All of this gives us a chance to explore and learn.
The following condensed view shows clearly: everyone goes through creative obstacles; the obstacles are basically the same; obstacles suck; obstacles can be overcome; even so, obstacles suck but that is part of creative life.
A 2005 film has condensed a lifetime of creative obstacles down to two hours.The fact based movie, The Greatest Game Ever Played, uses the 1913 U.S. Open challenge between professional golfers and a highly talented outsider amateur to show what each faced to get to a pivotal playoff. We get a glimpse of their childhood and current situation. On top of that, brilliant photography swings from beautiful nature and dramatic shots to special effect representations showing us how champion minds focus and how they must face inner critics.
1. View the film all the way through for enjoyment’s sake (golfer or not, you are likely to enjoy this film).
2. Watch again and list all the shown and inferred obstacles the main golfers had to face.
3. Indicate which ones cause stuckness for you.
4. Work on accepting: these obstacles are not unique to you; obstacles suck but we have to keep working; obstacles can be overcome.
5. For fun and for additional surprising insights, step into the mindset as you imagine it of the two main characters. Play with imagining how they might overcome your obstacles.
Wikipedia film info
Image above: “The Greatest Game Ever Played poster” Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia
This is a Talking Typewriter Production – Which means this blog post has also been turned into a video. So…you can read this post below or you may watch the video version at You Tube, above. It’s the same stuff. It’s your choice.
This coming year, month, week, or whatever time period is going to zip by, fast. Everything will suck up its own level of time and if we are not really smart and prepared, there will be no time for our projects. We really don’t have time to spare.
One source of wasted time is setting and working on the wrong resolutions. Wrong resolutions come in many shapes. The most well known shape are goals that are wildly general with no backbone of steps listed to accomplish those goals. You hear a lot around New Year’s Day on how to rectify this mistake by being much more specific and taking the time to map the steps.
However, there is another shape of wrong resolution that is less mentioned. Probably because it takes a bit to explain. These are resolutions that are off- target. Off-target in the sense they don’t match where we are in: our creative development or development as producers of creative output.
These resolutions have us jumping around, jumping way ahead, jumping out of what should come next for us, jumping sideways, or jumping into the less important.
They pull us away from what we could be doing to get where we need to be going. Wrong resolutions, waste time and carry costs. They can cost us opportunities lost, energy spent, and discouragement earned.
Right resolutions, if we follow through and actually implement them, produce results that run deep and wide and serve us everyday or almost everyday. They make us stronger, smarter, more creative, and more productive.
How to Get Your Resolutions On Target
Answer the questions below honestly and carefully, and you will have three resolutions that will keep you on-target:
> Resolution: Pick One Important Way to Be More Productive
- Start from the ground up. What basic, small method of productivity, if mastered could make a large difference in your productivity?
- Hints: Working 15 to 30 minutes everyday; setting a daily target such as a word count; meeting with an accountability partner by phone once a week; setting weekly goals. This is your resolution number one.
> Resolution: Pick an Important Skill in your Field That You Need to Master
- What skill within your craft, have you been putting off learning well but is an important part of your future work? This is your resolution number two.
> Resolution: Pick a Project That You Are Certain You Can Achieve
- Which of your projects fits this description? The emphasis here is achievable. Let’s hear that word again: a-c-h-i-e-v-a-b-l-e. Achievable is considered to be 90 to 100% certain that you can do it if you put your energy and time into it. Achievable for you and where you are in your creative development, now. Not a project that should be within your grasp, or that would be great if you got done, but a project that is achievable for YOU, NOW. Be realistic about where you are in your training, knowledge, practice, etc.
- The goal here is not only to get the project done, but provide you the opportunity to learn more about how you work and where there needs to be improvement in that process. Keeping it achievable allows you to have enough room to step back and observe yourself in action and to make notes. Projects beyond your capacity rarely allow the opportunity for objective self-examination because the project’s daily needs are just too demanding.
> STOP: You are done.
- No more than 3 resolutions, please. Hey, if you get these done in two months, make some new ones but don’t go over 3 at any given time.
I admit that these resolutions are not as exciting as many other resolutions you have made or friends tell you about, but they do have these things in common:
- They are closely customized to You.
- They are all about You developing as a stronger and sharper Creative.
Starting comes from taking small energetic steps, daily. One step, then another step, and then another step.
Starting can be simple but many of us seek to pack so much before taking the first step on the creative road.
We think we have to cram education, a full resume of achievements, workshops, and other credentials into a suitcase.
Next comes the inner stuff. We know on the creative road we will bump into all manner of inner chatter coming from the internalization of the big influences in our lives. Such as what our parents, siblings, and grade school friends thought about creativity, our chances of getting anything done, and other judgments we soaked up from them.
We think if we just get all of those inner people lined up, we can then head out on the creative road. This is putting our creative journey on hold until we can pack “permission slips” from these inner critics. Good luck. We will be waiting decades to get those inner permission slips.
Our packing is way out of control. How many trunks are we going to need?
Keep in mind, as we are packing and packing, more and more people are walking past us with small, simple bags thrown over their shoulders. There not waiting to get everything together. These people are getting way down the road, out of our sight and living an adventure, experiencing a life we know nothing about. Yet, we continue our packing.
No one who has ever walked the creative road had everything he/she needed before taking the first steps.
No one has had all the character traits, abilities, accomplishments, education, or native interests before starting down the creative road. The creative road is way too complex. We don’t know of every twist and turn and need before we get out there and travel.
Something is always missing.
Some things can’t be packed because they are only developed travelling ON the road, not in our heads, thinking about travel.
We can’t pack what we don’t know to pack. Most of us have projects and project areas where we have never worked before so how can we know what to pack?
1. Consider your risk
Of course, we need to be cautious with some journeys, such as those requiring a sharp departure. For instance, quitting a job and jumping into something else. That takes more preparation, but the majority of people visiting The Stuck Creative are looking at low risk activities and projects. Starting a blog post, a painting, a first screenplay, first song, etc. Low risks activities require very, very little packing.
- Stop thinking so much
Over-thinking is sure sign of not thinking well. It is not proportional to the job at hand. It’s a sign of fear, not prudent smarts. Don’t trust over-thinking so much.
- Put emphasis on getting on the road and finding any means: tiny, semi-tiny, small, or medium to get you out there a.s.a.p.
looking around for opportunities to do tasks that are already out on the road so you have to go out there and work on them. Examples: workplace projects; volunteer work; offering your skills to friends; competitions…anything that can challenge you to do work in your field sooner than you might otherwise do things, ending the cycle of holding back and packing, packing and holding back.
Don’t delay. Simply start, start simply.
I haven’t been dead…just learning video.
Let my return be announced with this very first video of the series on Getting Started on the Creative Road.
Obviously, I have nothing against people getting opportunities. However, let me caution you about a type of opportunity that you might want to pass up. There is a type of opportunity that we have to carefully consider and approach. It is an opportunity that is way beyond our current skill level and very unlike anything we have done before. We all can stretch some to press beyond our limits but none of us can jump the Grand Canyon.
How It Unfolds
A great opportunity comes up. This comes because we have made an idea pitch or because someone knows we work within particular creative field. It is a project that is so great we can’t pass it up. We are so flattered, so excited. A breakthrough is right around the corner if we can deliver. At last, we are getting the recognition we have deserved.
But we have to slow down and look clearly and honestly if this project is right for us. I know, I know, this sounds like such heresy. It is so hard to get people’s attention or get them to say “yes”, who wants to slow down? Speed up, speed up! our head and heart screams.
It is so tempting, but listen to me, someone who has been in this situation more than once, an opportunity can turn into a curse.
How to Turn a Great Opportunity Into a Curse in 13 Steps
Step 1: Accept the offer.
Step 2: Be overjoyed that you got “the nod”
Step 3: Party for a few days or week(s)
Step 4: Start working on the project you promised to deliver by going out and getting the materials you need
Step 5: Start working.
Step 6: Enjoy the first few days of the project as you explore your bright-new materials, ponder the project, and continue to bask in the glow of opportunity seized.
Step 7: Do o.k. for a few days but….get “distracted”, “called away,” or go in search of “inspiration.” Progress stops.
Step 8: Discover that you like the idea of the project more than the idea of working on the project.
Step 9: Intend to get back to your project of promise but…this work, hurts. It is slow, taxing, and challenging. Ouch.
After a few weeks have gone by:
Step 10: Avoid the friends and family members who celebrated with you in step 3. Fear they will ask: “How is that project of yours going?” Ugh.
Step 11: Avoid even thinking about the project. Ugh.
Step 12: Ask yourself: “What’s wrong with me? How did I let this opportunity slip away? I blew it! Idiot!” Ugh.
Step 13: Repeat Steps 10 to 12 about 10,000 times, especially when already feeling down or filled with doubt. Cringe.
A Look at the Curse
What went wrong? We had a great idea, someone else agrees with us, and we have been given an opportunity. What stalls us out?
It starts with a very rational, but unconscious realization that we have never done a project of this size or complexity before. We get push back from within that says something like:
-“Are you crazy, you have never done this before?”
– “This is going to be very, very, very hard.”
– “Do you really want to give up x,y,and z to do this?”
– “Do you know how to start?”
– “Do you see the end?”
– “This going to be painful, do you know how to handle this pain of hard work?”
– “Where are you getting your confidence from?”
These statements rattle around and we can hear them whispering or shouting at us. Or, they can run silent. In all cases, it is all too easy to avoid the project, not really commit to the job, and to stick with our old, usual ways. Unless we are prepared through a history of regular work in our creative field, these voices and our ways of avoidance will overwhelm us and drive us to inaction.
It is too much. We are unpracticed in many of the technical skills but also in the skills of creative work. We are weak. Using an analogy, we are being asked to run a marathon. We may love to run but we have never gone over a 3.2 miles in a single run! Can we fake our way through a 26+ mile run without prep, without knowledge?
How to Turn an Opportunity into a Blessing in 3 Steps
We need to prepare to be ready for opportunities when they pop up and as we cultivate them:
– Start a daily routine of working a bit each and every day, NOW! Fifteen to thirty, well used minutes per day will be make you stronger and stronger with each passing week. Working muscles of body and mind will be built.
– Start learning the methods of getting things done. This is different from studying creative technique. It is an art and science unto itself. Read, go to workshops, and ask people in your creative field: “How do you get things done and not stall out?”
– Right-size your opportunities. Don’t accept projects (be honest here) that are way out of your reach. Be reasonable. Do take projects that require a decent stretch to a new personal best.
– Get support to get it done. Find an accountability partner, support group, mentor, etc. to keep you moving and believing in yourself and your project.
Curse be gone!
Limitless is a perfect expression of our base fantasy: Without work we can achieve great things; without work, our trapped genius can be realized and released; without work, we can know and do everything and anything. Plus, the world knows how great we are.
Is there a word like porn for ideas that keep us dumb, lost, or chasing our tails? Please send so I can add it to this post to more accurately describe Limitless.
Plot summary (no spoiler): Bradley Cooper is a guy with a book contract but no ability to sit down and work. Nor does he have the wherewithal to clean his apartment or pay his bills. Sound familiar? A chance encounter with a drug dealer ex-brother-in-law gives him exactly what he needs for the remaining 90% of the movie: a pill that unlocks every block and barrier. Apparently, the more days you take it the greater genius you are.
O.k., Limitless is fun to watch, but does it provide the prescription we need to get started and keep moving with our projects. Bet none of our ex-brother-in-laws have such a pill. We need to look for creative healing to wellness somewhere else.
Ancient Secret Formula
Perhaps Limitless II (if that happens) could show a true prescription for creative productivity. Something that has been tested throughout time and around the word (only a few listed below):
– Develop a habit for consistent work (do this daily)
– Develop patience because getting good takes time, lots of time. Can’t rush this time. (do this daily)
– Envision where you want to be/do generally and envision specifically your project as it enfolds and becomes clearer to see/understand (do this daily)
– Plan your work but also trust the surprising directions you will be drawn to as you invest more of yourself into your project. Leave the door open. (do this daily)
– Consider your work as a journey with all sorts of landscapes; you will face ups, downs, quick sand, whirlpools, easy flatlands, etc. (do this daily)