When you’re the one in an organization or team or universe who generates the “first draft/concept/idea” for things, you’ll see yourself in this post right away. There can be a lot of pressure in this role – mostly because before there’s any “there” there, no one has anything to react to. But once you’ve put thought to paper / idea to prototype / color to design / post to publish / paint to canvas, people feel free to criticize, analyze, metabolize – suddenly there’s a conversation (that wasn’t happening before you started it.). I know I’ve sometimes felt resentment over this position – other times (most times, actually) I expect it and enjoy it. But someone has to start somewhere, and if that’s you, there’s a certain excitement / burden around it.
You may find yourself occasionally wondering if there’s anything left to say, to create, to make, to express. Looking at nothing before you make something can be intimidating as hell. As a professional writer, I’m usually the first one. The team often waits until I generate the strategy document, the concept, the copy, the tagline…and then base their work on some foundation using that work. Sometimes this feels fine – totally natural. Other times I’ve wondered…is there anything left in here?!?!? What can I say that hasn’t been said?
A few tips I try to give myself when I’m scraping bottom of the barrel:
Aim low. Land high. This is something Tim Ferris and others also use to get out of consternation and into production. A scientist at Stanford uses flossing teeth as the analogy. Want to floss more? Start with your front teeth only. Soon you’ll realize how lame this goal really is, and you’ll be a flosser in no time. When it comes to ideas and creative, just generate bottom of the barrel – knowingly – and let it iterate. Ferris talks about “two crappy pages a day” when writing a book. It’s good advice because by setting the bar low, you can’t help but do better. And then better. And soon really freaking good. But aiming for “opus” out of the gate is a set up to disappoint yourself.
Reach in. Not out. I think a lot of us imagine our creative ideas and energies live somewhere outside of us. This is a myth. Everything you’ve seen, read, experienced, cried about, laughed about, wow’ed about, been about – is in your ecosystem of ideas. Your source material is you – and everything you’re connected to in the current of collective thought and divine (if I might)… energy. Believe that it’s inside you, not outside you – and start there. There’s so much less mileage involved when you start with yourself instead of trying to go to the moon and back.
Great copy, great ideas, great products start as seeds from somewhere – where they end up is up to you. Your mind is a well of creativity that’s never really in danger of running dry. Your machine needs to rest to churn it out, but it’s not going anywhere. It’s one of the only assets that when spent, just keeps growing. To use it is to multiply it.