Jan 082013

Here’s a question for you: Can you forget that dream without any consequences?

Trust me. I’ve tried. When I walked away from writing I hoped it would quit bugging me eventually. Every time I looked at a newspaper I missed the business, and it got worse instead of better.

Tear that dream, that calling away from the heavily committed, and you’re going to get lots of blood and pain. Guaranteed.


Jan 022013

Confession time: I’m a GTD (Getting Things Done) geek. I love productivity systems. I love to tweak stuff.

Systems are great. The best ones are easy to set up, intuitive, and can run in set-and-forget mode. But I love to experiment, which becomes a problem.

Could it be this tweaking is merely a dodge, an excuse so I son’t have to do my work?


Nov 272012

While most of the roadblocks to creativity really come from within, the outside world has enough obstacles and temptations to knock you off track. Sometimes this reads like a grocery list:

Lack of time. Shortage of money. Naysayers. Criticism. Too many rules. Gatekeepers. Standardization. The devil made me do it. Dogma. Focus groups. Conspiracies of the day. Corporate culture. Fluorescent lights. Lack of recognition. The opposite sex. Demanding family members and friends. That enough for you?

The question remains, though. How many of these are honest-to-goodness obstacles, and how many are merely convenient excuses?


Oct 112012

One of the biggest excuses you’ll hear against trying something new or difficult is, “what if I fail?” You might as well take this one to the bank. Failure happens. I’ll guarantee it. But then, so what?

The winner isn’t the one who fails the fewest times. You can try all the metrics here: Total number of failures, failure rate per 100 attempts, failures compared to someone else, or all that other nonsense. None of ’em amount to a hill of beans, and no one of any significance is keeping score there.

The winner is the one who, after falling a number of times, is standing when the game is over.


Oct 092012

It’s real easy to plead ignorance as a reason to not try something. I do it all the time. I’ve turned down jobs because I feel I don’t know enough about tech trends to write intelligently about them, and turned down music gigs because I didn’t know the songs.

Here’s the thing, though. Creating is a learning process. A writer is a perpetual student. A musician learns stuff on the fly. There’s a lot of flying by the seat of the pants when you’re an artist, entrepreneur, or problem solver.

If you know just half of what you think you should, that’s probably enough. Companies promote people with no management experience all the time. You’ll learn the rest by doing, by just getting into it up to your elbows, and growing from there.


Oct 082012

I’ve heard that a good way to get a read on a person is to look at his five closest friends. Chances are they’ll all be at the same income level and will have a similar outlook on life.

This is true in the creative world, too. If you hang with a bunch of cynics who just float through life, seeking any possible excuse and who flat gave up on putting flesh on their old dreams, watch it. You’ll probably catch whatever it is they’ve got. Negativity breeds negativity.

If you have an inner circle of folks who create freely, know how to grow that dream and reject all excuses, you’re in much better surroundings. Just being around folks like that will challenge you to go with your utmost and highest.


Jul 252012

A favorite objection for not creating is the interference caused by the normal everyday world.

Everything from working the “real” day job to keeping the bills paid, the kids fed and the spouse happy will pressure the artist, and the idea of suspending the dream seems a viable alternative (interesting we always say “putting it on hold,” never “giving it up”).

Before considering that step, keep in mind that using your gift may be the safe harbor, the one bit of sanity in a crazy world.


Jul 162012

I’ve heard that it takes anywhere from 21 to 45 days (depending on which source you cite) for a daily activity to become a habit. While I don’t feel like quibbling over the actual day count, let’s just say something done daily will become a habit over time.

Writers may develop a habit by banging out a predetermined word count every day. For me, that’s 1,000 words, or four pages. Musicians do their daily practice, as does any creator. On the other hand, if I lean on an excuse to avoid doing my work long enough (pick one: Don’t have enough time, have a family to feed, have a full time job, don’t have the right equipment), that also develops into a habit.

Habits tend to stay with you a long time, so choose them with care.


Jun 292012

If Edison laid down on the job, the light bulb would still have been invented ... by someone else.

“If (these guys) didn’t do their work, it still would have been accomplished. Only Joe Smoe might have invented the light bulb, Joe Sixpack might have created the airplane, and Joe Lunchmeat might have written The Godfather.”

* * *

“They stole my idea!”

I’m sure you’ve heard that one, and probably enough times to know what it actually means.

Every time something brilliant comes down the pike, you know someone will say he had the idea first and someone stole it. Right out from under him, just snatched it right from his brain or something. Or he didn’t have the a) chance, b) money or c) backing to pull it off.

Try d): Didn’t have the vision or the motivation or the ‘nads necessary to make it work.

Who is the person who would utter such a lament?

I can guarantee you, this is the person who doesn’t get ideas very often, and when he does he’s clueless what to do with it.

One of the hard truths about the creative’s life is that ideas are cheap.


This bears repeating: Ideas are cheap.

And if you’re creative, you learn these ideas are like buses. Another will be along directly. A true creative never has a shortage of ideas; more often than not he’ll have more of them than he has time to execute them. He has to decide, which ones are worth the effort?

It’s like fishing. Some ideas are keepers. Others may put up more of a fight than you are able and/or willing to handle. And some are not developed enough and should be thrown back. Maybe you’ll catch it later, or maybe someone else will. It does not matter.

But that is indeed the way things are. Ideas are not exclusive. Among minds, they’re public domain. If you don’t pick it up and do something with it, someone else will.

Things will get done whether you decide to show up for work or not. That’s how things work in the great scheme of things. While you’re out playing with the squirrels your brilliant idea will be given to someone else, and it’ll become real at some point — only without your participation, without your fingerprints. Then you might say someone stole your idea.

That’s nonsense. By default you threw it back.

An idea is intrinsically worthless until someone can catch it and has the gumption and the ability to develop it. To make it into reality. A whole bunch of folks may have conceived the idea of the incandescent light bulb, but it took an Edison to pull it off. More than a few tried to be the first to get a flying machine off the ground, to reach the South Pole, to design an operating system that would put computers into the hands of the masses. Several people might have had the idea to write the mother of all Mafia novels, but a relative unknown named Mario Puzo finally penned The Godfather — and triggered a whole franchise in the process, with sequels and everything.

But the funny thing is, if Edison or the Wright Brothers or Roald Amundsen or Mario Puzo didn’t do their work, it still would have been accomplished. Only Joe Smoe might have invented the light bulb, Joe Sixpack might have created the airplane, and Joe Lunchmeat might have written The Godfather.

Grab that idea. Assess it. If you can’t make it real, throw it back. Someone else will do something with it; applaud his success.

But if you can, pick it up. Run with it. Move it from the idea stage to the physical stage. Write that novel that’s bouncing around in your head. Compose that song you keep hearing. Invent that email reader that also checks your morning news, gives you your daily schedule and brews your morning coffee. Create that life-changing Android app. Develop that business plan and hang up your shingle.

Then you can claim it.


As I was getting ready to post, this article by Anne Wayman (About Freelance Writing) slipped across my transom. And yes, it shows how plentiful these ideas are. Check out her comments section to see how folks cope with the mental flood.

And while you’re about it, leave a comment here.


Jun 232012

In his book On Writing, Stephen King told of his son taking saxophone lessons. The youngster was seven at the time, really liked hearing Clarence Clemons of Bruce Springsteen’s band, and wanted to sound like him. But this didn’t last, and King knew the boy’s ambitions were taking a dogleg left.

“Owen mastered the scales and the scores,” King wrote. “Nothing wrong with his memory, his lungs, or his hand-eye coordination — but we never heard him taking off, surprising himself with something new, blissing himself out … if there’s no joy in it, it’s just no good. It’s best to go on to some other area, where the deposits of talent may be richer and the fun quotient higher.”

Creating is hard work. You really will sweat it out, and you may feel drained after a long session at the computer or at your instrument. But if you’re not having fun with it, you may be at the wrong address.