A lot of artists I’ve known throughout the years suffer from the same form of creative guilt as I do. This guilt is that little voice inside of you that says:
“Daniel, you haven’t done any writing today or yesterday! You’ve been working on the same story for a month now! You gotta do something big and monumentous! You have to prove to everyone that you can do it! You gotta drop everything and write for 4 weeks straight, never stopping and not talking to anybody! Everyone is going to think you’re some sort of hack if you don’t deliver some sort of product, and FAST!”
As great as these intentions are, this usually leads to something I like to call “breaking the dam.” It’s a creative act that seeks to do something REALLY BIG, and ALL AT ONCE, like some sort of creative hiroshima massacre.
Sure you got everyone’s attention with your huge explosion of creativity, but this doesn’t give you a good foundation to build on. Instead it gives all artists a false sense of accomplishment.
Please learn from my mistakes, and know that leaps of absurd ambition do not equal productivity… or product. Haven’t you ever heard anybody say, “quality, not quantity?”
I know there is a lot to be said about setting high goals for yourself, and I’m all-for people trying to pursue their dreams. I also understand that there are some artists who can’t help but get a flush of inspiration. This is an enviable aspect of the craft. Yet it is an aspect that is strengthened by a routine, rather than a stand alone occurrence. But if you ‘break the dam’ on your craft… yes you will be doing something big with your life, but at the end of the day you’re left with a broken dam. You’ll be drowning in your own flood waters, and you won’t have any energy left to pick up the pieces.
Try to build a foundation for yourself – brick by brick; a great cement dam that holds back the demons of guilt and doubt. You need to be prepared for failures. I’m sure everyone has heard the bedtime story of the Tortoise and the Hare. Slow and steady wins this race. Don’t tucker yourself out and feel depleted every year. If you do that you won’t get anything done.
Famed director Stephen Spielberg made several made-for-TV movies, and TV-Specials before he even attempted an ambitious project like JAWS. Learn from my mistakes. Please. Small ‘doable’ actions have gotten me further than I ever thought possible.
Practice some self discipline, and map out a plan of action for yourself before making any drastic decisions. Then put your plan into action, and by all means PACE yourself.
Just try to be a doer, and NOT a doer-all-at-once.
- Daniel J. Pike
You’d never believe it, but in a timespan of just four months…
…I’ve locked my keys in my car a total of 7 times.
Oh yes, I’m an idiot.
Thankfully, I’m not capable of misplacing my brain (at least, I hope not), and there is usually always access to paper and pens. You’d be shocked how many coffee stores, or restaurants are willing to part with a few pieces of paper and a pen if you ask nicely.
Now, if you’re a dunce like me, and you need to wait around for people to bring you a spare set of keys, or for a mobile car service to arrive, you can get pretty creative in passing the time. I’ve learned the benefits of using this time to concentrate on my writing.
I get a good chuckle out of picturing the first few times I’ve done this, and literally thinking to myself “Oh no! My cellphone, laptop, and journal are locked in my car! HOW AM I GOING TO WRITE?” … then it dawned on me one day, while waiting for my parents to bring me my spare set of keys, that I could simply ask a local Starbucks for a few pieces of paper and a pen.
Not only did they provide the materials I needed, in feeling sorry for my predicament, they gave me a free latte! Score!
It’s funny how many businesses are so eager to help you when you do something stupid. It’s almost as if the break in routine gives them an excuse to leave their all important burger flipping, in pursuit of some scrap paper… or some band-aids (don’t ask.)
At any rate, the lesson I’ve learned in all of this, was how much ACTUAL writing I completed, not having my cellphone, or an internet connection to actively distract me from doing everything. It’s astonishing how your brain is FORCED to think, when you have nothing to do.
This is also a fantastic way to iron out writer’s block. I’ve climbed out of many plot holes, and character problems this way. It amazes me how much of a creative recovery it can be, not having a gadget at your side. Unless you’re some sort of business tycoon, and your crackberry or i-arm is some sort of appendage, then I highly recommend trying this out. Before the advent of technology, many writers got along just fine without a cellphone, laptop, or what-have-you. “Just turn it off” some might say …
… sorry, I don’t have that kind of willpower. Perhaps that’s also a reason why I’m tubby. Just leave your devices at home, and thank me when you get a crap-load of writing done.
TASK: Set aside a large chunk of time, and leave every precious electronic thing you own that may distract you at home. Bring nothing but some paper, and a pen. (perhaps an extra pen, just in case.)
This writing tip is brought to you by a forgetful idiot.
You can find other tools like this in the Writer’s Toolbox link, at the top of the page.