Help! All the creativity has left me!

Why did I choose a creative profession!? I’ve been staring at a blank document on my laptop for hours. Well, it’s intermittent staring. I’ve gotten up to make tea, to get cookies, to do laundry, to make more tea, to dance around in the living room, to eat lunch, to make tea, to hang the laundry, to stare at my screen from a different angle and to call my mom. But in the meantime, not a word. Not a single word of story has gotten into my brain, through my fingers onto the screen. Nada, zero, nothing. Why did I choose a creative profession?!

If you have a creative profession yourself or maybe even more so if you don’t, you’ll know the dull, lifeless, rag doll-like feeling of being uninspired. The creative block. It comes in many shapes and sizes. Sometimes it comes up out of nowhere. You’re in the flow creating something beautiful and all of a sudden it stops. It’s almost like you’ve used it all up. That was it, you’ve now exhausted your last bit of creative ability.

Other times it’s like a dark cloud following you around. You have a vague memory of producing something at some point in the distant past but it was probably pretty shit anyway. Because you now know: you suck! Better go work at McDonald’s, hopefully, they don’t require a written application.

Let’s get a little insight into what creative block versus creative flow is. I love this talk by John Cleese. He talks about two different modes: the open mode and the closed mode. The closed mode is the one in which we cannot experience creativity. It’s active and somewhat anxious, it’s purposeful but there’s a lack of playfulness. The open mode, on the other hand, is signified by relaxation, humour and curiosity for the sake of curiosity.

The open mode is where our brain can wander freely to explore options and find solutions. However, we need to be in the closed mode in order to implement our ideas efficiently. Both modes are vital. It’s hard to be around people who are always in open mode just as much as people who are always in closed mode. For the openmoder, everything is always possible, including making me wait for 1,5 half before cancelling our appointment. For the closedmoder nothing is ever possible at all, certainly not storytelling in business.

Creativity is a fickle thing and we’ll never have full control over it, which is a big part of its beauty. We do, however, have figured out some tools to stimulate it. To get the juices flowing, so to say. For some reason, we are all created as individuals so not everything works for everyone. Let me discuss a few different techniques here, find out which ones work well for you. Please do let me know in the comments if you have some secret exercises you use to be able to create the magic you create.

  1. Just get the heck started

It’s idyllic to be the misunderstood, tortured soul when you never actually produce anything. Staring at a blank canvas/sheet of paper/Word doc/stage/fill in your own… Willing the brilliance to come to you and simply waiting for it to happen. NOT GONNA WORK! We’ll actually have to produce something to produce anything of value. Just do it. Allow it to be absolute garbage. Redo it. Grow, learn, evolve! When there’s no creativity, make something absolutely uninspired but just keep at it.

  1. Nature is pretty darn magical

I, personally, only really discovered the intense effects of nature at 26 years old. I am what they call a city gal. I understand cities, drop me in any city and I’ll manage. Plants, on the other hand, seem extremely unpredictable to me. Last April, however, I decided to broaden my horizon. I went on an 800 km hike. This took me 7 weeks and much of it was through nature. Fields, mountains, forests. I will never forget the surge of inspiration I got from touching a horse’s nose for the first time. Exhilarating! Later I heard that most people just venture out into nature for an hour or two. Get in touch with nature, touch a horse’s nose if, like me, you’ve never done that. Maybe it will help you find the inspiration to write a blog post about inspiration!

  1. Marvelling at others’ creativity

For me, this can honestly go both ways. Sometimes, when I’m admiring the product of someone else’s creative process, I feel like a complete and an utter failure. I will never be able to produce something like that, why even try!? At other times, art in any form can lift me up. Makes me want to create, do, become better. It doesn’t only inspire me, it also motivates me. Some of my personal favourites: Hamilton the musical (haven’t actually seen it but know the lyrics by heart), I’ve fallen in love with Botero’s art here in Colombia and books ranging from Harry Potter to 1984.

 

Reading back this article I see it’s dripping with arrogance and insecurity. Two things I, apparently, very much associate with my creative process. When it’s flowing, I feel on top of the world. I feel like nothing can stop me and I will create magic. When it isn’t going I feel miserable and worthless. This brings me to my last point: try to disconnect your creative process from your sense of self-worth. When you can do that, it can be OK to be blocked. You can just walk away from it all, do something else and come back to it later. I still have enough work to do in that respect, I can’t always do it. But just every now and then I can keep believing that I have good ideas and produce valuable work even though it’s not coming right now.

And if all this fails, we can always change professions.

The three elements of public speaking

For the past few years I have been observing many talks and presentations. Most of what I’ve learned and gathered about public speaking comes from these observations. What is the difference between a boring talk, a good talk and a great one? I have found that there are 3 elements of public speaking. Boring talks focus on the first, good talks master number one and two. Great talks manage to incorporate the final element as well.

  1. Content

The content is the information there is. This is what you came to tell. The facts, the figures, the stats. If you give a talk about cats and you know two things about cats: they don’t like dogs but they do like tuna, then this is your content.

You step onto the stage, maybe welcome your audience and tell them your two facts. End of talk.

If you want your audience’s minds to go wandering during your talk, this is the way to go. They will soon into your talk stop really listening and they will certainly not remember your message afterwards.

  1. Technique

Technique is everything that happens in and around your body. Your posture, your voice, your intonation and of course your hands. Just like content, technique is indeed a vital element of a successful talk. You want to practice techniques such as projecting your voice, speaking at a comfortable speed and the art of not fidgeting. But, for a great talk, focussing on only these two element is simply not enough. If you really want your audience to hang on you every word, you need element three!

  1. Form

This is where the magic happens! A well-thought-out form is the missing element in most talks. The form is where you create your story. I’m not talking about a fairytale or any kind of once-upon-a-time here. Your story is the sauce you pour over your content and technique. It is the analogy you use to make your content comprehensible, it’s the slides you show to engage your audience verbally and visually, it is the way you dress to complement your posture. An example of a form that has inspired me is this talk by Latif Nasser where he is having a dialogue with a recording. Or this talk by Anne Lamott in which she brings her content in 12 truths she knows for sure (and a very good dose of humour). I myself have once given a pitch in which I put all my content in a eulogy rather than a list of facts.

So, do you want to give great talks rather than boring or even good ones? Give some thought to the form you want to give to your content and technique. Your speech will be easier and especially more fun to write, to give and to follow.