How often do you get paralyzed by the fact that you don’t have an original idea?
Confession time: this has been happening a lot more frequently to me. I know the culprit. It’s Medium and LinkedIn. Everyday, I get two great e-newsletters from Medium and LinkedIn. Within these devilish treats are scores of fascinating content, from the people that I follow on each respective channel. These are smart people, and they are creating and writing really powerful pieces of content. They are, without a doubt, two of the best ways that I have managed to “stay in the loop” with what’s going on in business, technology, marketing, communications, publishing, and culture. They are imperative for me to follow. It’s core to the work that I do. It’s hard to recommend strategies to the clients at Mirum without truly following, understanding and taking in what these big brains are thinking and doing. The problem, of course, is that when it comes time for me to put fingers to type, it can be both intimidating and paralyzing.
This is not about having a creative block or writer’s block!
This is a very important distinction. I’m not suffering from a creative block or writer’s block. It’s more about not wanting to pollute my community’s feed with content and thinking that may have already been covered (by multiple writers in multiple spaces). Why bother creating something that has already been done? It’s not the healthiest of thinking, because most creative people know that it’s not really about having an original idea, it’s about being as creative as possible. It’s bothersome, because I should know better. Fear has a mind of it’s own. We can know to not be anxious, but that doesn’t always stop our hearts from beating faster, our pulses from racing, our palms to get sweaty, and our mouths to not be full of cotton balls. My old combative sports instructor, Tony Blauer, would often tell us that fear is an acronym for “False Evidence Appearing Real.” Easier said than done. I’m also reminded of the time right before I published my first business book, Six Pixels of Separation. I was speaking at an event with someone who was widely regarded as one of the foremost thinkers in the digital marketing space. They were prolific in publishing content, but had never written a book. When we connected for coffee before the event, they smugly congratulated me on signing a book deal and followed it up with, “I get asked by publishers all of the time to write a book, but I won’t do it. There are already too many books on this topic.” This was back in 2006. I retorted back that it’s not about being “the only book on digital marketing” that would make this individual’s book sell well. What would make their book successful is their own perspective on the topic. The topic may not be an original idea, but their perspective would make it very original. I used it to shut down their criticism (jealousy?) of my book deal, but it’s a very true statement when it comes to creating content as well. It’s not about an original idea, but it is about your original perspective on the topic.
I should listen to my own advice every now and again.
I was lamenting my creative struggles with a friend earlier today (who also happens to be a bestselling author), and she referred me to a very powerful video that was just posted. In 2008, The Atlantic sat down with the famed filmmaker David Lynch. He discussed his thoughts on inspiration, how to capture the flow of creativity and not worry about being an original (which can paralyze the creative process). Today, The Atlantic took this audio byte and animated his sage words. I love this part, in particular: “A lot of artists think that suffering is necessary… But in reality, any kind of suffering cramps the flow of creativity.”
Stop thinking that you have to suffer for an original idea. Start creating so that creativity can flow. Start fishing for more ideas. Advice that everyone should follow.