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Creating Your CharacterI have an acquaintance I speak with on occasion.

I’ve known this guy for a long time.  Since I’ve known him, he’s always complained to me about his job: he hates it.

His hate for his job isn’t for lack of pay or perks – they are way above average.  The dislike is for the structure of the organization that employs him and the tedious, unchallenging and often pointless work he feels he is doing.

He’s remarked on more than one occasion that a high-school freshman could do his job (90% of his day job is creating PowerPoint slides).

This is beside the point though.

You see, for as long as I’ve known him, he has intended to quit his job and move onto something better (something exciting and challenging).

At least this is what he said he wanted.

You see, the time came when he was finally allowed to leave (when he had finished his initial contract period with his employer), but he didn’t leave.  Instead, he signed another contract with his employer for an indefinite period of time (one that will most certainly last for another 2+ years).

Slightly confused, I asked him why.

Him: “Because there’s nothing else that I really want to do.  I figure I’ll just ride it out and see where it takes me.”

Me: “But I thought you hated your job?”

Him: “Yeah, it’s bad, but it’s not that bad.   I don’t really do anything.  I show up at 9, leave at 3 or 4, and I take a 2 hour lunch.  You can’t beat it.  If it gets really bad, I’ll quit and become a teacher.”

The conversation continued on for a bit, but not into any meaningful territory.  At the end of the conversation, we parted ways, and, for one reason or another, I remembered a quote by Aristotle:

Moral excellence comes about as a result of habit. We become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brave acts.”

What Aristotle is saying is this: we pick and choose and build our character – it is not naturally ingrained in us at birth.

The brave man is made so through brave actions; the just woman is made so through just actions.  Neither one was born this way – they consciously built themselves this way.

This is a powerful truth, one that should give hope to all who strive valiantly, who dare boldly, and who struggle to be better, day in and day out: as long as you never quit, you will most certainly become that which you practice consistently.

But this is also a wake-up call: if we can become virtuous from acts of virtue, then the opposite is true.

We become cowards through acts of cowardice; lazy through acts of laziness; weak through lack of action.

You’ve probably heard the idiom: actions speak louder than words.

They’re also a testament to our character.

What do your actions say about you?

 

The Blockovercoming creative block

Have you ever tried writing a book, a blog, or business copy?

If so, you’ve probably experience writers block: the inability to form your ideas into the perfect words, sentences, and paragraphs.

But this type of block isn’t exclusive to writers.

All creative entrepreneurs – from writers, designers, and inventors, to artists, marketers, and entrepreneurs, experience creative block.

Creative block is the inability to satisfactorily form into something tangible the ephemeral ideas in your mind.

Creative block can hit anyone trying to tell the perfect story, build the perfect product, or produce the perfect piece of art.

And if you’ve experienced creative block, you know what an infuriating pain it is and how quickly it can cripple your project.

You also understand one thing only the few brave enough to create understand: Creative block is real.

The Tool of the Creative Enemy

Creative block is one of the Enemy’s most effective creativity-destroying weapons.

If you’re not careful, the Enemy will use creative block to get you to quit your project prematurely, give up before you even start, or abandon your life’s work althogether.

Don’t give up – there is a way to fight back and overcome creative block, once and for all.

But you must be ready to go to war with yourself and your art.

If you want to conquer fear, don’t sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy. [Dale Carnegie]

The Paradox

There are ideas in your head – ideas that may be vivid, logical and clear before you sit down to write – but the moment you put pen to paper (fingers on keyboard) they vanish.

You sit down to bring these ideas to life but the ideas fade into nothing.

You stare at the screen desperately, hoping through sheer willpower you’ll be able to form your perfect idea into the perfect sentence…but it’s gone.

The worst part – throughout the day you had no problem at all coming up with great ideas.

But they all came at the most inopportune times.

These brilliant ideas come to you in their lucid entirety while driving, showering, or eating; while mindlessly folding clothes, lifting weights, or going on a long run; while in a conversation, reading a book, or listening to a presentation.

But the moment you need them – sitting in front of the blank screen – they vanish.

It seems like when you don’t need the ideas, the ideas come in waves, but when you need the ideas – when you sit down to write; when getting words on paper is the only thing that counts – the ideas disappear.

Insurmountable?

Hardly.

The Reality of Creative Block

There are ways to overcome creative block.

It starts with identifying the reality of the situation: yes, creative block exists…

But only when we care deeply about what we create and how people will perceive it.

If you don’t care about what you write, or you’re not concerned with how it’s perceived, you can write freely and unencumbered (think personal journal or email to a close friend).

For those who care about their work and about how it’s perceived, overcoming creative block can be a bit trickier.

Two Techniques that Don’t Work for Overcoming the Block

Fighting back against creative block is hard if we do it through force.

The two most common techniques are:

  1. Forcing the “Right” Words
  2. Waiting for “Inspiration”

Both of these techniques are equally ineffective and will wreck you in different ways.

Both are tools of the Enemy.

Both will bury you.

The only way to overcome creative block is through the circumvention of disempowering thoughts, and focused discipline of good habits.

Simply Create

Forcing the right words never works.

When we sit in front of a computer all day, stressing and straining to get the “right” words onto the screen, we begin our descent into the self-perpetuating abyss of wasted time.

If the words don’t come out right the first hour at your computer, they sure won’t come out right by hour five.

They won’t come out right because they can’t: the words you write are never right.  They’re also never wrong. 

When we focus on creating the perfect sentence, the perfect flow, the perfect tone, style, or theme, we forget what’s ACTUALLY important: the message. 

We forget our purpose; we forget our why; we forget the entire concept of art, which is this: art is never right or wrong.

The first and often most effective way to overcome creative block is to forget forcing the right words and begin allowing the wrong words…

People have writer’s block not because they can’t write, but because they despair of writing eloquently. [Anna Quindlen]

Eventually, once you allow enough of the wrong words, you’ll forget right and wrong altogether and simply create.

Disciplined Inspiration

Waiting for inspiration is pointless and futile.

Often, when we’re burned out, tired, or simply unmotivated, we rationalize taking off days, weeks, or months so we can reset and recharge.

The thought process: if I’m well rested, if I take some days of to reset my mind, I’ll come back better and stronger.  Plus, the best writing is inspired writing, so I must wait until I’m inspired before I write.

This is the Enemy at work.

The Enemy will justify why you should rest and save strength, why taking a break for an indefinite period is essential for creativity, and why avoiding writing is the surest way to clear your mind for more writing.

Lies.

The Enemy uses creative block to dismantle and destroy your project because it needs you sedated, compromised and passive.

The Enemy’s survival depends on keeping you safely hidden inside the group so as not to expose yourself through your art.

The Enemy fears you as an outlier and uses thoughts of ‘waiting for inspiration’ to cripple your dreams.

Don’t accept this for one second.

Here’s the reality: inspiration comes to those who grind, work, and create.

Inspiration comes to those who allow it to happen through movement, through action, through consistent, repeated behavior.

Inspiration comes to those who are disciplined.

I only write when I am inspired. Fortunately I am inspired at 9 o’clock every morning. [William Faulkner]

Sit down and create every day and you will find your inspiration.

The Courage to Create

When we put our words, ideas, and art out there; when we produce publicly; when we tell everyone who we are and what we’re about, we expose ourselves to the tribe.

And the tribe isn’t always on our side.

This fear of the tribe, of judgment and criticism, keeps many people from starting, finishing, and shipping their great work.

Overcoming creative block really isn’t a secret.  It just means doing the work every day.

But you already knew that.

The real question is: do you have the courage to create in spite of these fears?

And that, like everything important in life, is your choice.

 Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear. [Mark Twain]

 

Starting a Project is Thrilling Starting

There’s something about that moment – the moment we finally write our ideas on paper – that’s both invigorating and scary.

We move from day-dreaming to actualizing and everything seems at once entirely possible and wholly reachable.

The goals we set not only excite us by their grandeur, but by the thought of actually reaching them.

The moment you write your ideas on paper and form coherent objectives (clear, precise goals), a shift occurs.  This shift brings about two important realizations:

  1. You’ve been ready to start this entire time
  2. Your future circumstances are entirely in your hands

And knowing these two things makes everything in this life possible.

The question is: what will you create?