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When you think of creative types, what do you think of?
If they are creatives and they work in the marketing industry, most people think of individuals wearing shorts, t-shirts and bouncing rubbery objects off of their walls until its lunchtime or until an idea strikes. For others, it's a scene out of the movie Limitless, where Bradley Cooper is a wannabe writer who has a publishing contract and a literary agent, but he spends his time seeking out inspiration by doing anything (and, I do mean anything) but the hard work of putting the words on to paper or a screen. It's not wrong to say that creatives are often given a bad rap. For the most part, their reputations are often summed up in one word: slackers.
It's simply not true.
Recently, Jerry Seinfeld was on Howard Stern and it was one of the most fascinating pieces of content I've consumed in a very long time (you can listen to it here). Stern (like me) is fascinated with the mechanics of standup comedy and how Jerry puts together a set. Much in the same way that I love the Paris Review because of the way they not only interview authors but dissect their work environment and writing habits. Seinfeld is obsessive. He works on jokes like he's sitting on the assembly line: day in and day out. Tinkering with it. Wordsmithing it. Perfecting the timing. It's the complete opposite of doing nothing. You can't look at authors like Stephen King and J.K. Rowling and not be impressed with their output. It takes other authors years to pull together enough words to call it a book. It's not a question of speed (some have it, while others don't), but it is a question of habits. I was first introduced to the concept of bringing a blue-collar work ethic to the creative space in Steven Pressfield's amazing book, The War Of Art. It was re-introduced to me when he updated some of the concepts for the book, Do The Work (which was a part of Seth Godin's The Domino Project publishing imprint). I used to believe that writing (whether it's a book, article or blog post) is a lot easier when you know you're not the only one suffering to find the idea and the words to match it. I've since changed my ways. My views were further changed during my book launch event for CTRL ALT Delete that happened at the Google office in NYC a few months back. I was fortunate enough to have a live conversation on stage with Seth Godin. Someone in the crowd asked us about our writing output and Godin stated that he doesn't believe in writer's block because there is no such thing as thinker's block or talker's block and he likes to write like he talks (you can watch the video footage of our conversation below).
What it's really all about.
I am about 70% through an amazing book called, Daily Rituals - How Artists Work, by Mason Currey. It looks at everyone from Hemingway to Kafka and beyond. The book features writers, painters, architects and artists. Some entries are short, while others are more well-documented. Through the ages, there are three common threads that keep coming up that, to me, that demonstrate why we consider these individuals great. It also demonstrates just how absurdly wrong our perception is of the creative class.
So, the next time you're not feeling creative, it may be best to stop wondering about where that next idea is going to come from and ask yourself if you have dedicated daily rituals that will let the million flowers bloom.