A woman brought her two Pomeranians to a barbecue I recently attended. I had never met her before, but overhearing her give the dogs commands in Norwegian, Italian, and English sparked a conversation between us and another guest.
Hamburger in hand, the other barbecue-goer explained why he’s always had trouble learning a language other than English.
“I want there to be a word-for-word translation and get stuck because it doesn’t work like that,” he said.
I resonated with that experience and thought about where that outlook might pop up in other aspects of life and business:
There’s a reasonable question virtually everyone asks when they want to start a new creative project.
We all know I like questions, but if you dedicate too much time to this one, it can be more harmful than helpful.
“What’s the best way to do that?”
And when you’re out of your comfort zone, you often want a guide — a set of steps to follow.
Those steps are necessary at first, but large creative strides happen when you start operating with more fluidity. When you stop looking at your new endeavor like translating one language into another, word for word.
The common belief that could be blocking your creative potential is that you need to learn “the best way” to do something.
The desire to learn “the best way” often leads to asking endless questions rather than trying out the activity for yourself.
It’s understandable. You want to avoid making mistakes. But making (and learning from) your own mistakes will help you more than any question you could ask an expert.
The importance of being a Pomeranian
The Pomeranians weren’t bothered by the challenges of learning new languages. And their owner likely had to overcome the belief that it would be difficult to teach her dogs the languages she speaks.
They simply figured out ways to communicate that work for them.
Once you’ve learned the basics, you have to give your project your own color and richness, rather than try to mimic or duplicate someone else’s “best way.”
“The best way” to do something may not work for you at all.
If you keep searching for “the best way,” you’ll never discover your way.
Creativity is not linear
“Messy” is an understatement for my creative process.
It’s full of nonsensical phrases, tangents, mistakes, and experiments.
Certain articles I write begin with clear bullet points. Others begin as vague concepts. There’s no formula (which is convenient, because I don’t like that word anyway.)
Sometimes writing is easy; sometimes writing is hard.
The trick is to not get too attached to either experience. If you’re having a bad writing day, it won’t always be like that. If you’re having a good writing day, it won’t always be like that. You write (and keep writing) either way.
No matter what you’re working on, give yourself the freedom to try different techniques without getting discouraged if one method isn’t right for you. You can cross it off your list and try something else.
Move your creative project forward
Decide what you want to do, and do it your way.
Of course, you need to follow through to make sure you achieve your goals.
Since we like to pair creativity with productivity on Copyblogger, tomorrow’s post will outline a simple plan for managing a content project until it’s done.
See you then.