There are moments in life when pursuing creativity is easy. I feel inspired! I have all the right tools! I have the time I need! I’m so excited to sit down (or stand up) and CREATE! Those a golden moments that all creatives look forward to. It’s easy to create work in these moments, because we feel like there are no barriers between us and our clearly-visible goal. It’s like road-tripping with your GPS: you know how to get to your fun destination, and you even know how long it will take.
What all creatives quickly discover is that there is no GPS for most projects. There are no quick rides or shortcuts. After the initial burst of motivation, we’re left staring at the vast stretch of just do the work. I’ll be honest: that’s the part that I dread. There’s just so much, and the end seems to be totally out of sight. After I run out of that first explosion of energy, I generally fall flat on my face and wonder how I’ll ever get moving again. It really feels like I tossed myself into a massive wasteland, empty of any clear paths or signs. How do you navigate such a dried up void?
Keep Calm and Carry On
Yes. I just used that. It’s one of those phrases that gets tossed around so much that we start to forget the meaning and purpose. It was originally used by the British government during WWII, in an attempt to fight the fear of air raids. While a lack of inspiration is hardly a life or death threat, Keep Calm and Carry On is possibly the best two-step approach to dealing with paralyzing phobia.
Step 1: Keep Calm…
The first thing to do is try not to give up and/or panic. Feeling overwhelmed is natural, but it doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong. It might just mean you’re facing something harder than you’ve ever faced. Facing down a massive amount of work intimidates everyone, but if you let it scare you away, you’ll never make progress towards your goal. So the first thing you need to do is keep calm.
Step 2: …And Carry On
Don’t give up. Just because you can’t cross the wasteland in a single bound doesn’t mean you shouldn’t move. Even if it’s just baby steps, always find a way to inch forward. Laying down and giving up will fix nothing, and there are no buses or taxis coming to give you a ride. You have to keep moving towards your goal, even if you only give a few minutes a day. Just carry on.
Of course, these two simple steps are far from easy. It takes a lot of willpower and determination to get you through. But that’s pretty much just the nature of being an artist: where inspiration fails, determination keeps pushing you. Working without inspiration is one of my greatest weaknesses, but remembering these two essential steps helps me make progress each day… even if it’s only a tiny bit.
Do you have any tips for working when work seems impossible?