The Thrill of the Blank Canvas
Us highly creative people, we thrive on the start. Creating something brand new is a heady elixir. Whether it’s a new book or a new business, a new site or a new song—life simply bursts forth in endless possibilities. The only limitation is what’s in our skulls.
The passage of time is where the rubber meats the road. Work slows. Ideas grow thin. The intense sensations of excitement and perhaps a little fear give way to tedium. Difficulties, deadlines, and delays zap away all the fun.
That’s when The Thought occurs. Maybe this isn’t working out. Maybe I suck at this. Maybe nobody cares what I’m doing.
Maybe it’s time to start something new.
That’s always the answer, isn’t it? That thing you were once so excited about…well, the love is gone, man. Gone. If you could just…you know…start over again and try something new, all those amazing feelings of euphoria would return in an instant!
Us highly creative people, we all go through this cycle. Every. Single. One. Of. Us. If you’re going through this existential crisis right now, hear me out:
This is normal.
The first step to climbing up out of this funk is to let go of your guilt. Guilt over letting yourself down and letting other people down. Great art doesn’t materialize out of guilt. Great art is born of passion. If you decide to bail on a project gone awry, that is your choice. Don’t be afraid to let go and move on. (Bear in mind I’m not talking about work for hire here. If you’re under contract to provide a creative service, then the show must go on!)
The second step is to rediscover your passion. Take a step back from the daily grind of your creative endeavor and search for fresh inspiration. If you’re stuck musically, try looking for some new artists in a different genre than you normally listen to. If you’re trying to write an app and are in a bind, play a game or read a riveting biography. Do something to shake up your routine.
The third step is to come up with a list of reasons why you found this particular project so interesting in the first ploace. What initially drew you to blogging, or vlogging, or designing logos, or data-driven market research, or…? What was it that got your heart pumping? Write some thoughts down and shift your mindset.
If none of these techniques work and your enthusiasm remains elusive, then that’s a tell you should probably call it a day and move on. But if you find yourself feeling reinvigorated and rife with fresh insight, then you know you’re back on track.
Artistry doesn’t flourish under a microscope or on an assembly line. Give yourself permission to ride the ebb and flow of the creative process. There will be times when you’re leaping to crank out awesomeness, and there will be times when you’re dry. It’s OK. Understanding your strengths and limitations is a key milestone along the path to true mastery.