Do you ever feel like you just can’t get traction on a project? You start something with great enthusiasm and energy and initially you can’t imagine that you will ever grind to a halt? You are constantly thinking about what you are working on and your day to day life seems to be the one thing getting in the way of moving forward.
And then one day, you have all the time you need, the calendar is empty, and finally you can spend all day on your project. And you sit and look at the blank screen or blank canvas. You can’t find any of that initial excitement. You have no idea why you wanted to do it to begin with and you are pretty sure that it was the dumbest idea you ever had. Your motivation has dissipated. Then you remember you really want to clean out your basement.
I am guessing you have. Everyone who has ever started on a project that requires any creative focus has faced the blank screen. We all have those experiences. In fact, there have been diagrams on the creative process to prove that your feelings are universal! You aren’t alone.
The challenge is how to do you get from ‘this might be OK’ to ‘this is awesome’.
I’ve been reading Deep Work by Cal Newport and I think he has some thoughtful insight that can be helpful for us. In his book he says the first first rule is: Work Deeply (I know). Here’s what it means, “The key to developing a deep work habit is to move beyond good intentions and add routines and rituals to your working life designed to minimize the amount of your limited willpower necessary to transition into and maintain a state of unbroken concentration.”
I’m a big fan of routines and rituals. I was already thinking about buying a work candle I could light on my desk (just kidding). But Newport goes much deeper (of course) into this topic encouraging readers to develop their personal depth philosophy. More on this in the future.
The idea in the book that has really captured my attention is the idea of making a grand gesture. In 2007, J.K. Rowling made a grand gesture. As she struggled to complete the writing of The Deathly Hollows, she checked herself into one of Scotland’s most luxurious hotels, The Balmoral Hotel.
Newport says, “By leveraging a radical change to your normal environment, coupled perhaps with significant investment of effort or money, all dedicated toward supporting a deep work task, you increase the perceived importance of the task. This boost in importance reduces your mind’s instinct to procrastinate and delivered an injection of motivation and energy.”
I’ve been thinking about this idea of a Grand Gesture. Ernest Hemingway found his muse in Cuba. Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote Gift from the Sea on Captiva Island in Florida. Henry David Thoreau wrote Walden after two years on Walden Pond. I really think I would be prolific in a villa in Tuscany.
Seriously, if you would like to hear more about how to create rituals and routines that will help you achieve your goals, sign up on this list here. I am planning a product launch in the future on this topic. I’ll send you an email and let you know the details when it is scheduled. But first, Italy is calling me.