So the villain in this story and the antagonist to any creative professional is the Lizard Brain. The Lizard Brain represents your fears, your doubts, your excuses, your sloth, and your self-imposed limitations—anything that prevents you from shipping and doing the work. Seth Godin also calls it “The Resistance”. Here’s an all too familiar situation. It’s the over-dramatized scene of the potentially prolific author staring at the aged Underwood typewriter in agony. Takes another sip of scotch. This only empowers the desperation and loneliness of that empty page and the passion that used to come with craft seems to be gone. All of it.
The resistance has depleted all substance or style that you once thought was beautiful, anything that once glimmered with significance gone, along with the ephemeral inspiration the moment once brought. Utter emptiness. The infamous creative block. Sometimes this is all you are left with along with the revolting thought and your pathetic inclinations and delusions of grandeur. Why is it that we go through these bouts, these creative ups and downs? What a farce you are! The resistance would say. You have no talent! Why are you even bothering? I would only consider this fact: that if this unyielding drama king of a shadow figure in my psyche has the power to throw me off track and restrain me from exploring my art then the opposite must be true. My Daemon must be within me too. Daemons are good or benevolent supernatural beings between mortals and gods that can be attributed to a greater force within you that empowers you to do great things.
Visionaries are known to be aligned with their inner Daemon. This is because visionaries have acute insight and clarity. Visionaries that can create new paradigms lead the way toward innovation. This is why Steve Jobs has transformed the world through his products. He reinvented six different industries and shifted paradigms in business and personal entertainment. New ideas form into paradigms that will shift and shape the world we live in. If we can climb mountains and travel endless miles across vast plains and sail across oceans to discover new lands and send spaceships to distant planets then I truly believe that there’s a way for anyone to pioneer new innovations with their thoughts, passion, and a yearning for knowledge and words. Words transform lives.
Putting your pen to the grindstone is what will make this happen. From the internal recesses of your psyche to the external place where your dreams become a reality—your platform is a literary narrative about your unique creative process and how you can take original, breathtaking ideas and turn them into works of significance. Just kill those damn phantoms—the lizard brain and the resistance. They suck the life right out of you like a mammoth inspiration slug stuck to your creative instinct. They are the parasites of emptiness, the black plague of a blank page that cares nothing more than to suck the blood from your work, the pulse from your brilliant paradigms.
You’ve heard these negative thoughts before. These phantoms call you “loser.” They tell you that there’s no way that you can make it, no way in hell you can shine despite the fact that you have all the talent in the world and maybe even something of substance to say, something meaningful to provide, something of value. You learn that this is more than just a phantom. It’s the creative antichrist, the innovation cipher, an idea sucker with fangs that feed on anything innovative and anything creative. They lurk in the night and make your dreams unpleasant. They are everywhere. They are negative thoughts conceived by fear. So here are some ways to hurdle past creative blocks and those damn phantoms that keep you from cranking out remarkable work:
Get in tune with your creative rhythm.
When you feel drained of all your creativity, it means that your energy has been zapped. It’s time to rest and focus on getting the right creative stimuli back in you. If you feel completely enervated, get energized. Rest, sleep, eat, or go out with your friends. But you have to tune into your creative rhythm. When you’re on, you can feel it. When you’re not, you don’t know why. Being aware of this will help you stoke your creative bonfire when you need it.
Plow through it.
Sometimes you just have to push forward at all costs—to make your deadlines, you need to sit in front of your task and project until your head bleeds.
Sometimes it’s helpful to work on a completely different creative project. The more abstract, the better. Paint, take an improv workshop, write a short story—even journal in stream of consciousness style by letting your thoughts just flow no matter how scattered they are. This helps getting your creative juices flowing again and pretty soon you’ll be able to leverage that energy and feed it back to your project with the highest priority.
Watch a rom com.
You’d be surprised how something as seemingly superficial as a romantic comedy can help get you going again. There’s something about the consistent plotlines and the superficial trials and tribulations of two star-crossed lovers, and the absurdity of it all. Pay attention to the way each character has changed at the end of the film and think about that arc. I have had dozens of cathartic creative aha moments while watching romantic comedies. If you can’t stand them—watch some stand-up comedy. Laughter and stirring up emotions always enhances creativity.
Go to a party or social gathering.
Going to a social gathering will allow you to get your mind off of your project. I would go to a social gathering with a specific purpose—to learn something new about a friend or even a stranger. Have some wine, but don’t drink too much. Socializing forces you to be in the present moment. If you’d like, you can even discuss your creative challenge—feel free to complain about your mental roadblock but do it in a fun and casual way. But remember, it’s not about you. Make a point to make others feel good about themselves. This is your gift. Socializing itself is an art and can be leveraged to enhance your creativity. This is because the art of conversation is not scripted. You are literally improvising conversations. Just go with the flow. So get out there and be engaging. Intrigue someone. Make them laugh and be authentic.
Write about your challenges.
Writing about your challenges allows you to vent. It allows you to articulate exactly what you are going through. You have to write your challenges then pose questions as to how you can go about solving them. If you identify your challenge as: Having trouble pinning down a minimum viable product for go to market because there are so many features that seem to be priority to team members, your question can be: what are some ways I can identify a minimum viable product that all my team members can agree on?
You can also ideate a new project. This also falls into the category of creative brainstorming. Again, you don’t have to focus on your creative project. You can ideate something new, and often, you’ll find that the new ideas that come to mind will have interesting connections to your creative challenge.
Study a model of something close to what you are trying to accomplish
Is there anyone out there that has already solved your problem? It doesn’t necessarily have to be within your business segment or even your same industry. In fact it’s better if you can identify your challenge in a different industry altogether. This forces you to look at your creative challenge in a different way. This allows you to integrate new ideas that could immediately solve your problem, or solve a future problem that emerges.