I’m gonna cut to the chase. If you wanna overcome a creative block, keep this in mind:
Doing nothing is great, and it’s alright to do nothing sometimes, but don’t do too much of it. As the writer Flannery O’ Connor would say, sometimes you gotta quit enjoying life and get on with the second novel. So, show up to your workstation with the express intent of working—even if you’ve got no ideas in mind. As Woody Allen said, 80% of success is showing up. And science tells us it takes 66 days to turn something into a habit. Show up to your workstation 66 days in a row and power through. If you’re feeling overwhelmed before you’ve even started, remember the answer Mel Gibson gave to an interviewer when asked, “How did you direct something as massive as Braveheart?”
“A day at a time.”
And if every single day of your 66 days at the workstation are long, unfruitful and like pulling teeth creatively, remember what Winston Churchill said:
“If you’re going through Hell, keep going.”
There’s nothing else to do.
Here are two stories about two great artists and how they dealt with their creative block:
The great Irish writer James Joyce prided himself on being able to work anywhere, at any time, in any state of mind, all while battling blindness (!). Even with such a can-do attitude, it was slow-going a lot of time. One time, family friend came to visit the Joyce household and found James at his writing desk with his face in his hands and tears in his eyes. He turned to his friend and said:
“I’ve been sitting here for 8 hours straight and have only written 7 words.”
“James, that’s not so bad! At least, it’s more than yesterday, right?”
“Yes, that’s 4 more.”
“But I don’t know what order they come in.”
Still, he wasn’t deterred. Despite the creative blocks, he shut up himself up in his room for 10 hours every day, intent on writing the greatest literary work ever conceived by an Irishman. It took him 9 years, but what a book it was! Over 700 pages and a story set in one day. Changed everything.
Every day, the great Russian composer Igor Stravinsky would sit at his piano, staring blankly at an empty page of sheet music for hours on end. Creativity would strike in bits and bobs—and it sure took its time. Soon enough, with enough bobs to his bits (and the other way around, I’m sure) he had the music for the ballet that would not only change the face of music, but of art itself: The Rite of Spring. At its premiere in Paris, it offended the sensibilities of the well-dressed Frenchpeople so much they started to riot, throwing chairs and yelling C’est moi! and all that—which, really, is the only way to gauge how successful you are in your endeavors. None of this would’ve happened had he not a bit for his bobs, which required a lot of sitting down and waiting, but waiting intently.
Take note and keep at it, friends.