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Problems Starting a New Project: The Musical

While it may seem easy to start working on a new project, it’s actually one of the hardest things for any creative to do. There are a lot of reasons for this, including the need to market all of the earlier projects, the need to make money at a regular job, housework needs to be done, too many ideas without the corresponding time, not knowing which idea will be profitable, the last project isn’t truly finished but the creative person is waiting on someone else to do his or her job… The list goes on and on and includes at least one-part procrastination and one-part relaxation.

Money, Money, Money, Money, Money

As much as everyone wants artists to make art for its own sake – it’s such a rewarding experience – that’s not how the world works. Creative people have to eat to live. They have to feel safe enough to create, and they need a place where they can create. If the basic necessities of life aren’t present, it becomes infinitely more difficult to create. Some creators are lucky enough to have made songs about money that have then made money. “Money makes the world go ‘round.” “It’s all about the Benjamins, baby.” “Money, it’s a gas. Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash.” “Dollar, dollar Bill, y’all.”

Unless a creator is already famous or runs into an incredible amount of good luck, he or she has to spend 80 percent of her time on marketing and 20 percent of her time on creating. If all goes well, sales will go up and the created income will allow the creator to make more time for creating. The marketing never goes away, and according to some people, it doesn’t get down to less than 60 percent. Now, if the person has a job because eating is important, you can see where the time slips away and nothing new gets done. (Everyone has housework to be done; it’s another place to deposit creativity time instead of making something new.)

Time Keeps on Tickin’ Tickin’

Time never stops. It can’t be saved in a bottle. It can’t be used later. Every moment passed is a moment past, regardless of what you’re doing with that moment. Most creators are extremely aware of this problem, and it can be debilitating. You want to do your best work. You want to do what’s going to be successful, and you want to make something that will make the world a better place. You have 10 or 20 or more ideas, but you don’t have the time to make all of those ideas right now. Worse, you may never have the time to do them in the future because there could be no future.

How do you pick the idea you should move forward with? Most of the time, it’s a crap shoot. Sometimes, it’s inspiration. Sometimes, it’s desperation, especially if you have a project you know you could put together easily but it won’t have a huge impact. Unlike the Field of Dreams, people don’t just show up because you made a thing or things, so you need to find the thing that more people will show up for and make that. Or the thing you can put together quickly, so you can get to the more important stuff later while still having a new thing to sell. In between projects, this thought process gets convoluted.

That Naggin’ Suspicion Something’s Missin’

(Not a song lyric, but it could be.) There’s a time in between projects where the creator may be waiting on an editor or a book cover. You can’t do anything with the project until that person does his or her work. As in other jobs, when you’re waiting for someone else to do his or her job, so you can go back to doing yours, it may be difficult to concentrate on other tasks in the interim. It may feel like it’s okay to put forth the “waiting” effort; when making something new, the “waiting” effort isn’t enough. Some how the creative has to break through that block and move on or use the time for other pursuits, including marketing, side jobs, or the day job.

Waitin’ on the World to Change

There is at least one writer I admire because of the work he’s been able to do. He wrote a book a month for 18 months. That’s crazy work and amazing work! I get that part of my issue is procrastination rolled up with a pat of fear. There’s no wrong project to choose, but there feels like there is because of the whole money issue. If I choose the right project, I’ll be free to do a couple of wrong projects. If I choose the wrong project, I won’t make enough money to find out what the right project is. On the other hand, if I choose the wrong project, I’ll be one step closer to finding the right project. It’s circular.

During that author’s streak of writing, he got sick. Everyone needs time off to recharge the batteries. I understand that, too; it’s just hard to justify taking time off when the bills are coming due, and nothing is bringing in the revenue you planned on. Especially as a freelancer, it’s often feast or famine, and you gotta eat when the food is there because it may not be there next week.

Getting to the Point

(Who knew it was a song?) The whole point of this was really because I need your help. I created a poll on Patreon that I need people to answer, even if it’s just for my ego’s sake. This wasn’t the article I was going to write about the poll. I guess I’ll try writing that one tomorrow!

It’d be great if you’d join my Patreon and help my wife and I realize our dreams of “Love. Friendship. Travel. Penguins.” But right now, I’ll be happy if you go to the Patreon page and answer the poll about which book you’d want to read. If you’re not sure, come back to the blog tomorrow (you can sign up on the right for blog notifications) and check out what the titles mean and why they are on the list. Thank you.

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Two Causes of Creative Blocks and How to Break Them

Overcome your creative blocks

The most common cause of creative blocks is fear. Fear of failure, fear of not living up to the hype of a previous success, fear of doing something wrong, fear of not being accepted, fear of rejection, fear of disappointing someone – yourself, your families, you friends… There are a thousand fears that can stymie creativity.

While you will never be able to eliminate fear, you can face it and break through it. Sit down in your creative space and get to work. It doesn’t matter what you create, just start the work. Once you get started, the fear will go away. You don’t even have to work on your next project. Give yourself 20 minutes of freestyle creativity to get the juices flowing and then start on the project that has you scared. And it is always the project that scares you the most that you should work on. It will be the most truthful, the most artistic and lead you to the most happiness and success. Facing your fear and working on that which you fear is the only way to overcome a fear-based creative block.

Another cause is the exhaustion of the creative well. If you’re a full-time creator, chances are you’re on the treadmill of having to produce content or something creative every day. Day after day, you have to have new ideas, make new art, and do everything that comes with marketing because if you don’t you may not eat next month. If you have a job and are creating on the side, just the job can be taxing enough that it makes it hard to come home and spend time on doing what’s really important, being with your family, creating, and not succumbing to (insert addictive entertainment of choice here).

Creators will tell you that ideas come from nowhere or everywhere. But the truth of the matter is, ideas can only come to you when you have a well full of information, experiences and emotion. Being numb is the artist’s worst affliction. Hopefully, you have some tricks that will help you be creative even when you feel like you’re out of ideas.

Keeping a journal, going for a walk, and faking it ‘til you make it are among tried and true strategies. Read a magazine or a book that’s outside your normal reading material. Travel to someplace new, even if it’s a nearby park. Contact your inner child and explore the edges of your yard. Observe, observe closer, observe again; too much of life is spent on auto-pilot engage with your surroundings, ignore your phone and see what you’ve been missing.

For more on creativity, order “Disneyland Is Creativity.” Get “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories: Improving Your Creativity for a Better Life and World.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.”

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Is Brainstorming a Good Thing?

woman looking at sticky notes

In “How to Fly a Horse: The Secret History of Creation, Invention, and Discovery,” Kevin Ashton questions the validity of brainstorming for creativity. His main objection stems from the fact that brainstorming doesn’t have a way to turn ideas into reality. For Ashton, having ideas is not being creative; the ideas must be realized in order for creativity to result.

Ashton is not the only creativity author to poke this particular hole in brainstorming. Edward de Bono also believes that brainstorming is inefficient and a bad way to come up with ideas. Having more ideas doesn’t mean having better ideas, and businesses need better ideas.

Another failure of brainstorming is the exclusion of people who are shy. Even with instructions involving no judgement and participating, those who are afraid of failure, making mistakes, public speaking, or being laughed at, may hold their ideas back. Instead, Ashton says the research suggests that people working alone come up with as many ideas as people working together, and the ideas will be better. Groups tend to fixate on one idea as the brainstorming goes on.

Brainstorming was originally used in advertising to come up with ideas. What makes it work is how you use it and what you do when done. Brainstorming sessions have their place in creativity, but it needs someone to guide the ideas from the whiteboard to reality. If you’re using it in a business, the person implementing must have the power to do so.

For more on creativity, get “Disneyland Is Creativity: 25 Tips for Becoming More Creative.” Order “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories: Improving Creativity for a Better Life and World.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.”