You know those moments when your big dreams and creative ideas emerge?
Your mind begins racing with possibility of what could be. You imagine what the journey might feel like and how great you’ll feel once you’ve reached that goal.
Then you start taking action. Your dream suddenly feels more daunting and challenging that you initially anticipated.
Before long you wonder, "Is this really worth it?"
I’m here to tell you that it is.
Some people talk about starting projects, and often dabble from idea to idea without committing to the hard work that comes along with it. Others have the courage to commit and execute, regardless of the obstacles that arise. One of those people is my dear friend Smiley Poswolsky.
Three months ago he told me he was going to write the book he always dreamed of reading. Sure enough, he’s gone from idea, to completing the first draft, to launching the project on Indiegogo. All in three months.
His book, The Quarter-Life Breakthrough, is a handbook for young professionals who refuse to settle for mediocrity, and want to find work that matches who they are and what they believe in. Like me, Smiley believes everyone deserves to realize their full potential, and share their unique gifts with the world.
I asked Smiley what tips he had for others looking to break through creative blocks and the "Is this really worth it?" moments.
"First of all, you have to start. As in, not tomorrow or next week or next year, but right now," Smiley tells me. "Starting is the hardest part. Just pick up a piece of paper, start jotting down some thoughts," he says. "The sooner you begin, the better."
"With writing, or any creative pursuit, the final product is not important," explains Smiley. "What matters is your creative process, your ability to learn how you write, how you create. Once you figure out how to channel your inner creative genius, you can accomplish any goal and make anything come to life."
Whether you are writing a book, starting a company, or building a product, here are six simple strategies Smiley uses that will help you break through your creative blocks and launch your dream project:
If your heart is telling you to do something, that’s all that matters. Ignore the voice in your head, your inner-critic that says, "you can’t" or "that’s not possible." When I first had the idea to write a book, I gave myself every single excuse imaginable. I said, "maybe next year," "I’m not ready," and "I’m not good enough." And yet, despite my excuses, the next day I still woke up with this fierce desire to write a book. So, I sat down and I wrote. In a week, I had written 25 pages. In a month, I had written 100 pages. Clearly, my heart overcame the critic in my head.
A project without deadlines is not a project. It’s an idea. The moment an idea becomes real is when you set a date for when it’s going to be finished. Back in April, I told myself I wanted to write a first draft and launch the crowdfunding campaign before my 30th birthday (June 29), which gave me about three months. So, I sat down with my editor, and carved the calendar. I realized I only needed to write about 10 pages each week—which was entirely manageable. I didn’t think about the finishing the whole first draft—just each week’s modest assignment.
Every artist and entrepreneur is different. Our personalities and styles define our work. Each of us needs to find out where we enter our creative zone of genius and where we do our best work. Take time to find your sacred space and figure out how you work. Do you do your best work first thing in the morning, or late at night? Are you alone at your apartment or with a group at a co-working space? What type of music (if any) is playing? Are you drinking tea or a glass of red wine? When you enter your zone, turn off your phone and don’t check your email or Facebook—it’s time to be creative, not to waste time.
Launching your dream project takes time. You have to schedule blocks for your work, but most importantly: You have to avoid doing other things. Over the last three months, I’ve said no to friends wanting to meet for coffee, colleagues asking for help on projects, and even other writing opportunities. It’s difficult to say no, but you’re not being rude, you’re being honest. Your plate is simply too full. Others will be grateful for your honesty, they’ll respect your dedication to your work, and best of all, they’ll even offer to help.
I wrote the first draft of a book in three months. Some pages are crap. Some are really good. You have to write a first draft before you can write a second or third or final draft. You have to make a prototype before you can break it apart and make a better one. Accept that the first version of what you make will suck—it will suck, awesome! The next version will be a little bit better. The sooner you can embrace imperfection, the sooner you will fail, and fail a second time, maybe even fail a third time, and then, finally, reach your goal.
Two weeks ago, I woke up one morning in bed, sweating, and I said to myself: I need to push back the campaign launch. I was about to send an email to my friends, telling them I was putting the project on hold. Then, I took a deep breath, and looked at my calendar: I saw June 29th circled in red Sharpie. I was only two weeks away from accomplishing my goal of finishing the first draft and launching before my 30th birthday. There was no actual reason to hold off, I was freaking out for no reason. Don’t flinch right before you are about to share your work with the world. The world is waiting to hear your story.
What strategies do you use for breaking through creative blocks and launching projects? Share in the comments below!
[Dynamite: Fer Gregory via Shutterstock]
Slideshow Credits: 02 / Flickr user Tambako The Jaguar; 03 / Flickr user AG Gilmore; 04 / Flickr user Klearchos Kapoutsis; 05 / Flickr user Deika Morrison; 06 / Flickr user Gavin St. Ours; 07 / Flickr user Linda Tanner;