Don’t give up. Don’t give up. Don’t give up. As a professional creative for more than five years, I’ve found myself chanting this mantra from time to time. Today, we’ll take a look at a technique for breaking the “I can’t do this” barrier.
This business is harsh and subjective, and to be truly successful, you need to keep producing and keep submitting your projects anywhere and everywhere. Sometimes you’ll hit and sometimes you’ll miss. And sometimes, if you’re anything like me, you’ll wonder whether you ought to just quit it all and get a job scanning groceries. Quitting is rarely the answer, particularly if you’ve had some successes, however small, that show that you have the potential to live the creative life you’re dreaming of.
For today’s thought-provoker, I’ll return to the debunked idea of the Positive Mental Attitude. Saying, “if I think I can, then I can,” is not enough at this point. We’re going to learn how to “prove” that you can. If you have solid evidence against the fact that you can’t produce your project, then those feelings of “I can’t” will fade further away from your mind. Like the initial negativity removal devices we’ve looked at in this course, a clear brain is a productive one.
This is called the Enforcement Principle. It’s adapted from cognitive behavioral techniques, which teach good habits to overcome obstacles that seem overwhelming. There are two key areas I like to focus on that make this principle really work for me and others I’ve coached over the years.
The first principle is to always enforce for a small, timed amount. So, if you’re supposed to be working out plot holes in your latest script or cutting together a tricky bit of film, choose a slot of no more than ten minutes to begin with. Time yourself by setting an alarm, and begin the work even if it’s difficult. You’ll be amazed how quickly the timer beeps for you to stop once you’ve enforced your concentration on the work.
The second principle is something I often have to say to myself: “I don’t care if it’s difficult. Just do it.” I’ve nicknamed this one the Nike Principle, since I stole their tagline! “Just do it” is quite a reasonable idea if your timer is only set for ten minutes. What have you got to lose? It’s a tiny chunk of your day doing something you might be stuck on or feeling fearful about, but once it’s done, you know you’ve made a small amount of progress toward your goal. And that’s always worth celebrating, rather than beating yourself up for not trying at all!
Nine times out of ten, a ten-minute enforcement on my writing allows me to carry on freely, up to several hours afterward. This is possibly the hardest task I’ve asked of you during this course because it’s facing some very basic truths and trying to turn them around. We’d all rather be on a beach than working, or sipping cocktails in a bar rather than staying up late to meet that last deadline. But the beach and cocktails lifestyle has a price tag, and achieving that has to come before we can let go and reward ourselves. Although we all know this to be true deep down, it often doesn’t make it any easier to get through difficult sections of our work.
But hope is at hand! Not only does Enforcement add real progress to your work, but it proves to you that you can thrive even when you don’t want to take the bull by the horns. When I teach writing to groups, I like to start with five or ten minutes on a random project they have never seen before. This timed (and often difficult) task engages the brain and proves that pen to paper is possible, and the results in the following session are always plentiful once they’re warmed up. So I say, be your own teacher in this one and be strict about it.
Tomorrow, we’ll wrap everything up with a look at how you can incorporate all these techniques into a daily schedule that will keep your creativity flowing at its peak.
It’s almost time to say goodbye!
This further reading comes from the writing world, but I think the principles apply to all creative people. Read how NaNoWriMo encourages ten-minute word sprints to help writers complete their novels in just 30 days!
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