I’ve been in a rather massive creative rut since roughly the start of this year (though I think the problem’s roots go back further than that). I don’t know how useful it is to try to find the reason behind it; at a certain point it stops mattering, and all that matters is just doing something, ceasing the rumination and getting to work. It’s so easy to look at the job ahead, be it creative task or sometimes even a simple widget-cranking, and get overwhelmed, particularly the bigger it gets. And it’s easy then to realize how silly this is, but then instead of taking positive action, to end up in a downward spiral of guilt and self-pity.
One thing that’s helped me move forward in these situations is to simply make the task as small as possible. Perhaps make the project smaller; what was once a giant symphony or double album might just become a single miniature. Forget the massive project list, the massive list of bugs. Let them be. Allow them to be completely forgotten (at least temporarily). And once the project itself is down to its tiniest form, focus on just the next possible physical action. Perhaps it’s just “write a melodic phrase.” It doesn’t have to be a good phrase, even. Just a phrase. No harmony. Just a silly little line. Got that? Good. Now write another to make it a period. Now add some harmony. Again, it doesn’t have to be good. Just do it.
And lo and behold, look at that. The beginnings of something. This something may now grow into its original, beastly size, but with the new-found armaments of Confidence and Perspective, the beast loses some of its power.
I’ve heard this advice many times in many forms from many sources, and yet it always seems to hit me in new ways just when I need it most. Try playing with the idea; see just how small the task at hand can become. What single tiny action can be taken that can move it forward.
The smallest wins can drill massive holes through the thickest creative walls, can shatter the illusion of a monstrous project and reveal its malleable, achievable nature.
Another course of action to defeat “writer’s block” is to make as much space as possible to act in, to cut out all the unnecessary activities, leaving only what matters most. This is one thing I’m about to try as I quit my “day job” to take full responsibility of my time and how I spend it, starting this July. I’m excited and terrified, to say the least. I will be occasionally writing here about the transition into full-time freelancing, struggles and triumphs, in the hopes that I can 1.) work through challenges publicly, and hence hopefully more quickly and easily with the help of others, 2.) maintain an active presence and avoid shutting myself out from the outside world (as I might otherwise be prone to do), 3.) leave some kind of a trail through the woods of the freelance world for others to potentially follow (and improve upon) later.
I can’t pretend to know how successful I’ll be, but I can’t remember ever feeling so sure that I was moving in the right direction.