It’s surprisingly easy to get into a rut when you’re trying to be professionally creative. This is where the dreaded “writer’s block” get blamed and where you can feel drained or frustrated. Here’s how to maintain the battery and keep your creativity and productivity fueled.
OK. Hi, everybody.
All right, we’re going to see–the last two weeks when I’ve gone live,
I’ve forgotten to turn my mic on, so I’m pretty sure I did it all right this time.
You know, what I did forgetwas my, was my earphones.
Oh, my gosh.I swear, I’m an adult.
I’m a responsible person.
Worked so hard on my remembering my mic,I forgot to turn on my headphones.
All right, let me adjust this real quick
So that we don’t get circular.
Are you going to, do you know what?
It’s not even goingto give me that option.
Oh, my gosh.OK, there we go.
It’s all good now, right, so quick wipe.
Look, I just started and I did itall correctly, like a real adult.
OK, so thank you guys for coming back and
Oh, good, thanks.We do have sound.
That’s awesome.I just needed to, you know,
put my own headphones on so I could tellif something was going terribly wrong.
I thought it was funny.
I just saw a comment and I had to laugh.
So I’m going to bedistracted for a moment
right as we get started.
I had a haircut today,
finally my first haircut of the yearnow that we’re like well into September.
And it kind of needed it, it was bad.
But one thing my stylist likes to do is
she likes to give me a super,super smooth blowout.
So it looks very,
very professional and very awesome and notat all like what I look like normally
because I don’t take the time to dosuper smooth blowouts or anything.
But she likes to do it whenwhen I get my hair cut.
So that’s usually how I do.
But I told her specifically today,
I’m like, I’ve got this video thingthat I’m doing tonight and I don’t want
to show up looking completely differentfrom normal and spend a ton of time
talking about why my hair is different,because that always comes up
every time I get, every timeI get a cut and she blows me out.
It’s a major topic of conversationfor a couple of days.
then it’s like, so let’s just skip that.
I just, you know, do my hair, you know,
but just let it dry and let it doits own thing and I’ll be fine.
And but it still looksa little bit different.
And I ran the little teaser video for thistoday and somebody just commented,
“Oh, I see you’re doing something different
with your hair for the ‘dosomething different.'”
And I was like, it’s I’m doomed.
I’m doomed to get called out.
So but no, I got a haircut today and I was
I’m very pleased with my with my nowproperly, properly.
I don’t know even know what it is.
It’ll, it’ll, it’ll looklike itself again next week.
So.OK, all right.
Thanks for joining me.Hi.
We’re going to talk aboutsomething new again.
And last time we talked aboutdoing something new creatively and
No, Kate, we’re good.I liked it.
It made me laugh.
The last time we talkedabout doing something new,
in marketing. This week,we’re going to talk about doing something
new in your you’re creating it becauseit’s really easy when you’re trying
to make a career of being creative,to stop being creative.
And so you just get in a rut because you
have goals and you have responsibilitiesand deadlines and stuff.
So I want to talk a little bit about
staying creative and trying something newto make your productivity better.
So that’s what we’re on about tonight.
So I guess the logicalplace to start with this is
“doom hair!” Thanks, Seeker.
The logical place to start with
this tonight is talking about writer’s
block, which you can heara lot about writer’s block.
And I’m not going to spend a lot of time
on it now, just kind of use it asa launch pad to get into the rest of it.
But I’m going to tell you that for themost part, writer’s block does not exist.
This does not in any way, shape orform mean that writing is not hard.
Sometimes it’s really hard.
Sometimes creating in anymedium is going to be hard sometimes.
But writer’s block,
the way it is traditionally spoken of isthat it is some mystical thing where
the muses just come down and bopyou on the head and stop the flow,
that doesn’t exist.
That’s largely a myth.
And it comes, I think,out of two things that on the surface
appear to be very different,but actually are kind of related.
The first one is that you are,
you’re editing too much while you’re
producing, you know,you’re trying to write and at the same
time you’re trying to evaluate if whatyou’re making is any good
and you can’t make and evaluateat the same time,
you can do very rapid task switchingsometimes so that it feels like you’re
doing that, but it’s really notthe most efficient way to do it.
the way, the reason it looks like more
advanced practitioners can do that is notbecause they’re actually
making and evaluating in the same moment,but because they have practiced making so
much that they’re making stuff startingat a better and a more advanced level
so that, you know, they’re not actuallyevaluating and redoing it on the fly.
Ha! Kate, “Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey.
Stop looking over my shoulderat my creative process, Laura.”
Thank you. That’s,I’m just going to tell you that the way I
know these things is notfrom spying on other people.
Yeah, there’s there’s a reason I feltlike I was able to speak to this topic.
But you areyou know, when you’re trying to evaluate
while you’re making you’re really notgoing to do a good job either one.
Multitasking is, generallyspeaking, not your friend.
And that’s true in this thisparticular task as well.
So that is a major,major source of writer’s block is well,
I can’t write this down or Ican’t draw this picture,
I can’t do whatever, because as I’m makingit, I’m deciding it’s not good enough.
Well, of course, you can’t make itwhile you’re making that judgment.
OK, that’s fine.
Like, again, the job of a firstdraft is simply to exist.
So you have something to fixfor the second draft.
Don’t make it
don’t ask it to be more than that.
It’s really not fair to anybody involved,
the draft, you, anybody.
So so that is that is the first.
And I think the bigger cause of writer’sblock, the other cause of writer’s block
just comes from fundamentally notunderstanding that being a writer is more
than sipping coffeeand complaining about writing.
So if, you know,that’s the “I need to sit and wait
for the muse to come down and descendfrom the sky with angelic chorus
and and just proffer meon a platter on a gilded platter.
Here is your completed project.
Now, just sign your nameon it and we’re done.”
And that’s not how it works either.I’m really sorry,
That’s not a thing.
So, you know, it’s it’s
one is not a runner because you sit
on the couch and complainabout running being difficult.
Lots of people can sit on the couch.
By the way, I’m not saying this to beelitist about people who are not runners.
I am not a runnerin any way, shape or form.
In fact, if you should ever see merunning, do not hesitate to ask questions.
Don’t just just start running because
there’s obviouslysomething bad going down.
Right.So so that’s the case.
But I say that becauseit’s incredibly obvious.
It’s a great example of, you know,you can’t be a runner or get better
at running by sitting on the couchand talking about running.
So you’re not going to get betterat creating by talking about creating.
You need to sit down and create and not
stop yourself from creatingin the moment by
evaluating, “oh, what I’m making isn’t good.”
OK, that’s fine, that’s notits job, it’s a rough draft.
OK, you can’t edit a blank page, you can’tsteer a parked car, just make the thing.
So that’s where to start with whatyou know, that that form of writer’s
block, I’m going to sayin most cases, does not exist.
Now, there are times when you can getblocked or have difficulty creating.
And one of those we talked about,you know, a few weeks ago when we talked
about creating in 2020,where there’s a lot of external stresses
and distractions and things that areinterfering with your creative process.
Those are real.
OK, if you’re if you’re worried about howyou’re going to make rent this month and
so you’re trying to squeezeextra hours into your day job.
So you’re not working outthat one finicky plot problem.
That’s fine.You got priorities.
OK, that’s that’s that’s no big deal.
I got excited for a moment.
I missed the chat and I just lookedover and saw all the comments.
And so Grace points out quite aptly,let’s not mix
what we traditionally call right and leftbrain tasks, you know, so that those are
they’re not literallyright and left brain.
We know that now.
But they’re but they’re very definitelydifferent kinds of functions.
So leave them don’t tryto squish them together.
And I love Kate’s over here.
This all caps, “LIES! /sips coffee/”
So that is again, I speak here
with some knowledge of this topic,except I don’t drink coffee.
So that is
that’s my out that I’m definitely not
talking about myself becauseI don’t drink coffee.
OK, yeah, so great observation here
from Natalie, you guys, thanks,just keep just keep feeding me my lines.
This is good.
Natalie says “the frustrating thing isthat the effortless inspiration
from the sky happens just often enoughfor me to spend the rest of the year
going, well, obviously you can do it likethat because it happened to that one time.”
Yeah, absolutely.I’m there.
I’m right there with you.
So I have a story in my
authorial history that I sat down.
I’m going to say probablyseven or eight p.m.
with a big old pile of caffeine.
It’s not that I don’t docaffeine, I said I don’t do coffee.
I just get it in a very unhealthy form,which is soft drinks and.
Don’t judge me, it’s 2020,I have my biases
and I sat down in the evening and I wrotethis story and by four or five a.m. I put
out somewhere just over10000 words and I changed.
I reread it, changed like two words,sent it off,
sold it on its first submission,and it won an award later that year.
Or actually it was later that it won, it doesn’tmatter, it eventually won an award.
The heck, OK, that does not happen,
and that is one of those things that youjust absolutely thank you, God,
I really appreciate that gift,but let’s not get used to that,
because if I just sit around waitingfor that to happen again,
I’m going to be doing a lot of sittingand not a lot of writing.
So now there are absolutely times when youget into a flow state and things are
amazing and there are ways you can trainyourself to get into a flow state.
So that’s a thing that, you know,just put away for the future.
But but yet the fact that ithappened the one time you
will know the beginner’s luck situationwhere, you know, you went to you went to
the pool game, the shooting match,whatever, and and you you nailed that one
shot and then you’re like, OK,walk away before it goes bad.
You can’t assume that it’salways going to go like that.
From that perspective,
writer’s block is is a myth,but it’s still there’s still times when
it’s really, reallyhard to make something.
That’s for me right now.Hi, Kyle.
Thanks for stopping by.
Yeah, this water story that I’m working
on is kicking my butt,and there’s no good reason for it.
I don’t know why I’m writingit in the same setting
a, you know, World War two fantasy.
I’ve written threestories here previously.
I feel like I know exactlywhere I want the story to go.
It’s just not going there.
And I have no idea why it’sgiving me so much trouble.
But it is.
But that’s OK, because I had other thingsto be working on at the same time.
that’s one of the things we’re talkingabout, is having multiple projects.
So, yeah.Natalie says her first nonfiction
draft went from zero to nearly publishablein ten days,
which makes everything else feel deathlyslow and extinction by comparison.
Yeah, when it gets, right,
it’s like when you know you know,Natalie and I both work in behavior.
And when you have that that client who,
you know has like, oh no, no, I had thisone dog who would never leave the yard.
We didn’t have to put her on leash.We didn’t have to have a fence.
She just naturally stayedon the front porch.
I’m like, well, I’m real glad that you hadthat perfect stuffed animal the one time.
But that’s not normal.
And we can’t expect to the rest
of the rest of the naturalpopulation to to act like that.
So, OK, and and Grace says shedoesn’t get writer’s block ever.
Well, just quietly beat youup in an alley after class.
Yeah, that’s great.
But she says there’s the thing calledavoidance that totally happens.
Especially when the manuscript isbeating me up on the playground.
Avoidance is a real thing becauseI’m going to go in there.
I’m going to stare at these words.
They’re the same words that they’re there
last time and the time beforethat they have not gotten better.
I’m not going to make anything better.
And it’s so frustrating.
And so why would I want to goand do that? Good question.
That’s why we have some things.
We have some things to talk about,
so I’m trying to read the talkand read the chat at the same time.
Natalie,I’m sorry, you are,”but my last dog-ing,”
heart to heart, you are,that person right now.
OK, here we go.
So we’ll move past.We got things to do.
Oh, my gosh, I have a drinking problem
that’s 2020, and I’m going down.I swear it’s water, it’s not gin.
I’m that guy on Airplane.
all right, OK, let’s let’s move on.
Here’s the thing where people get
into trouble with the writer’s block mythor the creator’s block myth.
Again, this applies to all media.
There’s there’s too muchfocus on willpower.
I’m just going to sit down and if I am
a moral person, I can just will thisproject to come into existence.
I mean, maybe maybe for some people
that might happen, that’s notreally how it works for me.
So actually, if I’mworking on deadline where,
funny story for you.
I’ll tell you just a minute.
But a number of cases in my authorial
career, actually more that I’m thinkingabout it than I probably want to admit to.
I have sat down and said, “OK,
I need to produce this story this week”or sometimes in the next 24 hours.
And the way the only way I can make
that happen is by giving myselfpermission to utterly fail.
I am going to start typing and I’m goingto keep typing and I’m going to produce
a phenomenal number of obscenely bad words–and not bad words, but inferior words.
This is still a PG rated event.
I’m just going to, you know,
absolutely just puke up, you know,something that remotely resembles prose.
And and then I’ll just put enough of it
out that by the law of statistics,you know, an infinite number of monkeys,
I will get a few wordsthat I can work with and
then we can take take piecesof that and put them together.
What I have found is that by givingmyself permission to be awful.
I can I turn off that evaluationthing that, again,
you can’t do at the same time that we justtalked about a moment ago,
and by turning off that evaluation mode,it actually allows me to be a better
creator because I’m not getting in my ownway so I can produce faster and I actually
produce better when I give myselfpermission to produce junk,
because by having permission to produce
junk, I get out of the wayand I produce good stuff.
I hope that makes sense.
It’s completely counterintuitive,but I hope it makes sense.
And I’m sorry, I just saw the chat likea fly by, so I’m going to try to catch up
and see what’s going on becauseI don’t want to miss people.
Oh, Kyle, you can totally write like this
is this is exactly what we’re talkingabout right here, right here.
Like just,you know, the whole point
of this is absolutely somethingyou can do and you don’t, nobody starts by,
I do not,
there’s no way I can just sit up off
my couch and be like, “hey,I’mma run a marathon today.”
It’s not how it works.You get to start with the jogging
and nobody likes the jogging,but that’s how you get started.
Grace is, “I’ve been ready for three weeks
to start my next novel, but do youthink I’ve ever sat down to do it?
Nope.”Hey, Grace, virtual high five.
Yeah, that’s definitely notwhat I’m doing right now.
So but yeah, absolutely.
Give yourselves permission to fail.
You know, that to me is one of the
biggest and most freeing things and I havefound is completely counterintuitively,
the worse I allow myself to be,the better my product actually is.
And I found that to be the caseon multiple occasions.
So that is my.
A few years ago, I, I started noticinglike this is this just random things?
I started noticing I would swaphow homophones and homonyms and.
That is not something that I had ever done
personally like this is something that Ihave, you know, for decades I have known
there, they’re, and their aredifferent words I can think.
But I would catch myself as I was writing
that I would use the wrong there or
the wrong your and I’m not going to lie,it kind of creeped me out because that is
something that I had neverstruggled with my entire life.
And then I noticed that I was having
trouble staying on task and stayingfocused, cut to the chase.
Those were the first signs of what
actually turned out to bea thyroid infection.
So I started having weird things goingon with my thyroid, which, of course,
affects your brainand all this other stuff.
So good news, everything’s fine.
But where I was at this time,I went through a prolonged period of.
I felt very stupid and I wasalso doing some major lifestyle changes,
you know, I was on a diet which wasincredibly restrictive,
trying to get this back undercontrol and that sort of thing.
the short version is that I wasmy productivity was absolutely shot.
Like I was getting nothing donein the fiction department and
staying focused and writing goodwords was really, really hard.
There was also an anthology that I really
wanted to participate in, and becauseit sounded like a lot of fun and
its deadline was approachingand I was not able to.
And so I sat down, I remember I think we
were closing on like the lastseven or nine days before deadline.
And I just sat down and I consciously said
to myself, I’m just goingto keep my fingers moving.
I don’t know what’s going to come out.It doesn’t matter.
I’ll sort that later.
I’m just going to keep my fingers moving.
And in the beginning,it was really, really rough.
I’m not going to lie, pretty ugly,
but as I kept going,I started getting more into a flow state
and I started, because my jobwas just to keep things coming.
And there was no time to wonderif it was a good idea or not.
Just puke it on the page.
And then anyway, the shortversion is, that I love that story.
That’s my Mrs.Claus story.
It’s in the Mrs. Claus anthology, which Rhonda Parrishedited, and I just resold it.
It’s going to be out in an audio
fiction podcast this this winter,this Christmas.
And it’s a lot of fun.
the idea being that you can getstuff done even
under duress with that sort of thing.
I think that had a point to tie into the thyroidthing and everything else when I started.
It doesn’t matter now.
It’s gone like my brainis my brain is gone.
So, yeah, Grace is confirming,you know, “pay close attention
to the initial output and itactually gets better.
Quantity leads to quality.”Yeah.
And it feels very wrong to saythat way, but it really does.
And here’s the thing.
You as a normal functioning human,you’re trained
personally and sociallyto focus on the negative.
So you will sit down and you’ll say, OK,
I’m going to write 5000 words and you’llwrite 5000 words, but you’ll look at it
and you’ll go like, “oh,man, this scene is really choppy.
The pacing of the scene is awful.
And the characterizationin here is just not good.
And yeah, that was a bad idea.”
That was 500 words of your 5000.
OK, most of it was good stuff.
But then you,you know, got mad about this part,
and so you kind of write off the entirething. I promise you, if you
just sit down and write,not everything is going to be awful
It’s just statisticallyextremely improbable that
everything you producein a session will be awful.
So just get in the habit of producing
something and then going throughand picking out the good parts.
Kate, “STOP READING MY DRAFTS LAURA”All caps, I love it.
It just makes me laugh.
OK, you know, again, I’m notI’m not making this stuff up.
There’s a reason I feellike I can share this, so.
OK, all right.
Let’s move on.
What have I got here?
I had notes when I started.Oh.
I was talking about there’stoo much focus on willpower.
There is.You know, so it’s it’s not about morality.
It’s not just, if I’m a good personand I concentrate really hard.
I can magically I can forceout this good, good product.
That’s not how it works.
You need to be able to setyourself up for success.
And part of that is reducing thatexpectation load like I talked about and.
I’m going to say I don’t know how
I would quantify this scientifically,but just between us,
like very non scientifically, creativitycan be depleted just like anything else.
You can overwork a muscle.
You can run out of airand you can deplete your creativity.
At some point.You need to refill your creativity.
You need to, you know,recharge the battery.
But there are betterand worse ways to do that.
And I’m going to say,
by the way, we are finally rolling aroundto the title screen of tonight’s talk.
One of the best ways to dothat is to try something new.
And that’s not what we often want to do.
Frequently we’re like, “oh,man, things are getting hard.
I’m going to go watch a movie or I’m goingto go play my casual phone game” — guilty of
these kind of things.
You want to go do somethingthat’s completely separate.
Those are not inherently bad ideas,but they’re not always your best idea.
So I’m just going to give youanother thing to keep in mind.
So Grace points out,
“will power is for the first 30 secondsof work when we hate it,
where it might last for a few minutes,but after that it gets easier.”
Absolutely.And I think we talked about this
a few weeks ago in the show when I was
like stupid things like I don’twant to get in the shower.
Oh, I get in the shower and it’s fine.But I just, you know,
that moment if I going to get the showerand back to assuring people, yes,
I know you can’t smell me,it’s the Internet, but I do take showers.
I promise.OK, so
let’s talk about what to do to make yourto to help replenish your creativity.
So where I’m going after this is one
of the big things is to you want to keepyour brain in the habit,
you want to keep yourself in the habitof making rather than consuming.
I am not against consuming.
For one thing, on a purely mercenary
level, if people didn’t consume,I wouldn’t sell books.
So please buy my books.
OK, but there’s nothing wrong.
Like I get ideas, my creativity,my battery is recharged when I read other
books, when I watch movies,when I play games.
OK, like all of these thingsare valid and useful.
But if I always escape from difficultcreating into consuming,
I’m training myself to quitcreating and start consuming again.
Consumption is not bad,but consumption is not creating.
And I’m going to make it harder for myselfto get back in the creating groove if I’m
constantly greasing that groove towardconsumption as an escape route.
So let’s talk about creating something
different, which will stillkeep you in that mode.
But take the pressureof that particular project off.
And here’s one of the great thingswhen you try something brand new.
So I’m not talking about, you know,I’m normally a marathoner and now I’m
going to run on the streetinstead of on the sidewalk.
OK, I don’t know.
I keep using running metaphors because I’m
not a runner, but it’s that Ithink I’m in constant awe of it.
So that’s to me, it sounds like, you know,
it’s a great exampleof a really elite person.
but when you start something completelynew that you are,
that you don’t have a background in,your progress will be so much faster than
if you try something that youhave already done before.
This sounds weird, but hear me out.
If I, I’m going to talk about ice skating,
because it’s another thing that I have noexperience with,
so! But I think it makes a really clearexample, if I’m going to go and learn how
to ice skate, my initial experience is I’mgoing to learn how to stand on the skates.
I’m going to learn how to propel I’m going
to learn how to turn,and I’m going to go from can’t stand up
to making conscious directionalchoices fairly quickly.
I am not going to be doing any triple
axels, but I’m going to go fro