Creative entrepreneurship is a wonderful field to be in at the moment. It is full of disruption and interesting people causing it. On the flip side, it’s bringing us issues previous generations didn’t have to face to this extent – writer’s block, the impostor syndrome and fear of burnout. How do you deal with them? I don’t know, but I can tell you what’s worked for me…
It’s in my head; I just can’t get it on paper!
This sounds like something George R. R. Martin has got, but he’s afraid to admit it publicly. Writer’s block is by far the most annoying and the most common occurrences in the business. Sometimes a campaign or a proposal for one needs great copy. I know I could supply it. So, I sit down, open a blank page in Q10 and… nothing happens.
The best thing to do? Nobody can suggest universal fix.; I can only share what’s worked for me. I close the laptop, flip the table in a fit of psychotic rage and go for a walk. Clearing my head helps a lot and it makes you look at the challenge at hand with different eyes. Corporate office-dwellers will have to find another way of resetting their minds. I’d recommend a management meeting. 😀
Once I’m done with pausing for a while, I just sit down and get it done. There’s no secret to it.
Update (2013/11/19/01:38): Toby Knott at badlanguage.net claims there is no such thing as the writer’s block. We might not agree on premises, but we certainly agree on the conclusion. It’s easier to edit with your head cleared up.
Impostors… impostors everywhere
About the impostor syndrome… It’s the feeling that leads to this thought process: “My work, the offspring of my creativity, is not good enough. I am not good enough for this job. I suck, because I am a fraud. I should kill myself.” In other words, it’s the feeling of having failed yours and other people’s expectations. It is an inevitable ingredient of every creative process, yet I hate it nevertheless. Fortunately, the feeling passes as quickly as it overwhelms the mind.
The best way to fight this uncertainty about yourself is to invite it into your life. The creative industry has no fixed rules and boundaries, so feeling like a fraud is just a by-product of pushing the limits you have set for yourself. If you don’t suffer from the impostor syndrome, you are probably doing something wrong. Embrace the uncertainty and plunge head first into the void.
Burn, baby, burn!
Burnout. This word has an infernal ring to it among the creative people and entrepreneurs. It signals the end. The inevitable. The final stop. Your mind shuts down and you will never be able to come up with a campaign or a decent idea ever again. Many creative people live in fear of burnout. Don’t do that; it’s a waste of time.
Fear of burnout comes from a fallacious argument that our creative mind is like a repository of ideas. Once you run out, it’s over. Fortunately, our creative mind is like a muscle. Exercise it long enough and it becomes strong. Leave it without any exercise and it weakens. You can overstretch it at times, but it always comes back to the relaxed state. Granted, sometimes you need a holiday in Hawaii to get it to come back, but it always does.
Bonus pet peeve: poorly executed brainstorming
Let me finish on a personal note. My experience has taught me that unless a master creative leads the brainstorming, it’s a recipe for a disaster. A couple of years back, I felt I couldn’t escape the judgmental scrutiny of my peers and my superior who was trying to maintain the creative flow by shooting down every idea the group had produced. It was like watching a grouse shoot from the soon-to-be-dead bird’s perspective. “Hey, I thought of…” BANG!* “Never mind.”
I work best if you give me something to think about, a pack of product brochures and competitive research and send me off for a glass of beer with my pals. I’ll deliver something better than on the picture below. Promise. I am not alone in this and I know it – there are many bright young minds in the communications industry that prefer quiet contemplation over organized brainstorming. Give it a shot.
*Usually manifested in the words “Do you really think that’s going to work?” or “You really thought of that?” and “Pffft, all right… Does anyone else have a better idea?”