First thing to do when under pressure, prescribes guru Don Draper is abuse whoever can help you. Then take a nap. Not sure I’d go that way, although the nap may come in handy. Way better than a Youtube binge.
Let’s not fake it in here, I know exactly why “I don’t know where to start” looks like: going through the luggage section of your online trap of choice just to see what’s on, when you don’t need new stuff. Scrolling down on Facebook on autopilot, your hand chain-feeding sesame crackers to your mouth. Before you know it, it’s been an hour. Taking 5 to reply to a quick email that’s really, really, oh, so urgent, generally takes 30.
I tell you, it’s like looking for shampoo in the fridge. Inspiration doesn’t live there. I have a few go tos instead. I treasure hunted through some of the finest minds around and gave them a try. Here’s what I got:
1. Tune in
Let’s just assume that whatever is doing the creating (the ear your daemon whispers into, your brain, your heart or whatever you think it be) is an instrument. A state of the art thing, but still an instrument. You will need to brush it up, oil the joints so that when you push the on button, it starts churning. That’s why you need The Morning Pages.
To cut a long story short, every morning, as soon as you get up, you start handwriting whatever crosses your mind for 20 minutes (about 3 pages). Give it a few weeks before you’ll catch yourself plunging into big work without the water-is-wet diva attitude.
I could go on for hours about this. Here’s what made me do it when I read about it in Tim Ferriss’s book: Brian Koppelman, the guy who recommended it, a great film producer and podcaster, by the way, said he’d give Julia Cameron’s book to 100 people. Out of 100, 10 would open it. Out of 10, 7 would go on to have TV and movies made, books published, and made out successful.
(I do not get a commission off this. But when you find something you love, can you shut up?)
2. Get rhythm and stick to it
Call me crazy, but whatever work I do has a vibe. Mix in the client’s, the project’s and mine, and you get a flavour. Not for a second do I pretend to be able to control it. But what works, works.
So let’s just say I noticed that every-time I need to dive deep for a tagline, for instance, some song will just land in my player. I go for it on repeat again, and again, and again. It gets my writing machine going like no other.
I just did a tech launch. I swam in White Snake’s Sailing ships for days. I switched to Johnny Cash afterwards. Pink does it for me, too. I dare not disturb the Universe with a why, I just get on and say thank you. Hail to the masters!
3. Go for a quickie with Greatness
It can be anything, as long as it’s really well made. Expose yourself to great work, there’s nothing like it to get your creating ducks in order and ready to march.
It needs to get you in a state. It needs to make you see the wave and jump on it. Because, my friend, we are as good as the wave we get on. And when we catch one, we’d better make the most of it.
4. Meditate for 9 minutes. Everyday.
Sorry, buddy. That’s how it works. I didn’t make the rule, I’m just telling you what did it for me. Make it 15 or 20 if you can. But 9 is the minimum. Brace yourself for clear-headedness.
5. Ask the question, if you can stomach the answer
I learned about the I Ching when I was in high school. It’s my go to for major (strategy) questions. Not for everyone, though.
You may have to wrap your mind around taoist metaphors. Like figuring out what “it’s beneficial to cross great rivers. It’s beneficial to have a place to go” could mean (that was an easy one). So I make sure I only toss the coins if I do have a question. Think of it as a meet up with the wise. Don’t trouble them for what you already know.
But if you’re hardcore, here’s another: my friend Monica gifted me her tarot deck. It’s bring-it-on, is-this-for-real accurate. She devised an entire creative journey around it. Her book tells you all about it here.
Most of all, sit down and start.
I’m not being a smart ass, promise. I just read “things are not hard to do. What’s hard is switching gears to creation mode” and I thought you should know, too. Brancusi the sculptor said it, and he should know. I also personally heard one of the greatest painters alive I know say he sometimes doubted himself. But then he paints anyway.
It’s the crispest I can put it: show up. It’s enough to start with.
(Then go to item #1. I’m telling you, it’s dynamite).