Creative Constipation, Pt. II

I’ve had a huge shift in my creative output and relationship with my own creativity since I first drafted my first post on Creative Constipation (about a month ago). Turns out all I needed was to start drinking more coffee to get things moving. Just kidding.

Jokes aside, that post was a catalyst for committing to moving at the pace of my creativity and honoring my sometimes-raging-river pace of inspiration with equally free flowing action. When moving at my own pace (fast!) I feel more steady, more safe. I feel like I am moving with the river, not being batted around by it or swimming upstream. I am channeling, not “producing”.

Like I mentioned in a recent video post, I mention that one of my clients, Steve Raymond, recently reminded me of The Cult of Done Manifesto. I’ve re-upped my commitment to shipping unfinished, imperfect work. I feel aligned with the spirit of not judging creativity (not ‘my creativity’ but creativity itself), with the idea of not playing the role of ‘master’ or even ‘prison guard’ for my work, but rather to experience myself as a mere channel. Seeing the work as ‘not mine’ but rather a gift that I have been asked to deliver the world has been a welcome shift.

This way of looking at creativity is not a revelation for me. My wonderful mother Cinthia Joyce taught me this at a young age. It’s something I believed and valued for a long time, but have so often been scared to experience. I was committed to avoiding things I was scared of before. I’d try to make myself comfortable before acting. Now I am more committed to channeling regardless of fear. The current challenge is now not simply with channeling, but how to channel constructively, to create value and impact with intention, grace, and ease. David Penner I’ve always been in awe and admiration of your constructive creative expression through your music and so much else. I’ve wondered so many times how you do it without fear. Thanks for chiming in here.

What I’ve written or made since writing Creative Constipation:

  • Five blog post drafts that have been sent to my editor for feedback – works in progress include (Why the Best CEOs and Founders are the ones who need coaching the most, The Perfect Setup: life-hacking tips from me and my crew, and The Culture Diagram: The complexities of company culture broken down into x and y)
  • Eight pages of high level creative strategy docs to give myself a framework for channeling my creativity and creating more impact and value for my community through content and other work
  • Three video posts including one 4-part series of me in conversation with one of my kickass friends and collaborators, Terry Lee about what we call our colleagues (family? team?)  and checking in (emotionally) with the people we work with.
  • A new website for you to keep up with me! — stay tuned for news on that in the coming month(s)

I also find that collaborating gets me into a creative flow, whether it’s in person, over video chat, or in the comments on my posts. Feeding off of your ideas and momentum helped me write this post. I want to thank those of you who commented either here or on Facebook. Karen Penner, who recommended this book: What Highly Effective Women Know. Rhianna Brandt-Bangs, who reminded me that the first step of self-expression is accepting vulnerability.  Sherry Wong, who suggests a 24 hour tech “laxative” in keeping with the constipation theme, which I love. David Penner, who also kept with the theme, addressing the deleterious desire to self-edit: “Creating doesn’t mean you have to create something GOOD. Just create. Even if you think it’s bad, keep doing it. Realtime self editing will inevitably lead to blockage.” Danny Trinh, who gave 3 concrete steps for overcoming writer’s block:

1) “Just 15” – Silence the inner critic and just produce for 15 minutes. Just 15 minutes with no worry about editing/refining or if it’ll be shared with anyone. Sometimes it’s a complete mess and sometimes it turns out some real gems. That’s all fine. Sometimes my biggest blocker is just starting and this helps.

2) Crazy 8’s – something I learned from a mentor. Set a timer for 20 minutes and fold a piece of paper until it has 8 sections. Within 20 minutes, fill each of the 8 sections with a different idea / way to solve a problem you’re thinking about. Forcing myself to be very different, very quickly helps me avoid getting stuck on small details or getting too smitten with one idea. Doing this with colleagues also helps generate a lot of things to discuss quickly.

3) 30 minute jams – if I’m super stuck on something, sometimes I absolutely just need to talk to someone else about it for 30 minutes. Phone call / FaceTime for a fixed amount of time with a clear agenda sometimes really saves the day for me.

And last but not least, Paul Shaheen, who reminded me of priorities! “Figure out your personal / professional mission and be sure to give your most attention to the most relevant ones,” he says. Thanks Paul! That’s exactly what I’m going to do.

Creative Constipation

Once again, I woke up in the middle of the night flooded with ideas of things I want to do, make, and write about. A familiar voice deep inside of me said “This is too overwhelming, there are too many ideas here to possibly even capture, you will spin out of control and create an oceanic vomit of confusion if you even attempt to start writing… safer to do none of it. You have tried this before…. you always fail. Calm down and go back to sleep instead.”

This overwhelmed-with-creativity voice that says “You are too much, nobody understands you, better to stay small and tidy” needs a name, and I’m taking suggestions.

What happened next: At 5am I decided to get up and start writing anyway. I bounced out of bed, relieved to be up and so inspired!

I felt sweaty and still had the ocean salt and sand from last night on my legs. I knew that I’d feel better if I could sneak in a shower before my kids woke up, so I jumped in the shower to rinse off. Filled with excitement and ideas, I decided to try to meditate first to still my mind. I set up a little candle and a mat and flipped through three meditation apps exploring each one. Then I did a short 10 minute unguided with the candle and experienced vivid visuals.

Next, I sat down to write. I had to pick which app to use…. was I about to journal or blog? I read about some on my phone for the 100th time and relatively quickly (for me) settled on committing to Evernote after reading a great set of posts by Michael Hyatt. I downloaded the app and made coffee.

At that point, I’d been out of bed for about two hours. It was 7am and the kids were still not up. “Good,” I thought, “I can still do this.”

I opened my computer, and the first thing I saw was a search for a piano I was running on Craigslist. I got distracted and decided to search some more, then ask for advice about the decision on Facebook.

Finally, I got my focus back and opened up a new note. That got me here, writing about all of the things that get in the way when we feel inspired to create.

I’m going to call this pattern Creative Constipation. It’s what happens when I have SO many ideas backed up in me that I’m scared to let them out—scared it will hurt and make a mess.

I want to reflect on the reasons this back up occurs and what lessons we can learn from bodily blockages that also apply to spiritual and intellectual ones like this. I’ll follow up on this once I’ve had a little more time to think. In the meantime, does anyone else experience creative constipation like this? What do you do to find release and relief?