Almost all of the people I work with as coaching clients are in some way or another working on a project that will benefit many, many people. I am helping a brilliant young man in Germany complete a novel about terrorism—I think it will shake the world. I have also been helping a woman in Austria complete a film. Almost everybody I have worked with in the last couple years has either been finishing a book, or a screenplay, or an online course, or creating a new company.
That is what I do: I love to light the candle which causes another person to shine brilliantly.
Of course, just about anybody who has tried to give an original, authentic gift to the world has faced some permutation of what we call “writer’s block.” It is most commonly associated with writing a book, but really just about any creative endeavor is going to entail a time when you sharpen your pencil for the fifteenth time, stare blankly at the screen, get distracted by Facebook, make another cup of tea, and feel besieged by thoughts like “Who’s going to listen to me… I’ve got nothing to say… I’m not good enough.” Because of the way that I coach, of course, I have got a million and one tricks to get around these back-eddies of the creative process. The one I find most useful, however, and the one that I like the best, involves the use of your friends.
Here is the principle of the thing, and it is very simple. Imagine you have to write five thousand words about something you are knowledgeable about, or equally if you have to write a chapter of a book. If you sit alone in a room, staring at a blank computer screen, it is extremely likely, and almost inevitable, that a good proportion of the time you are going to go blank.
Now let us rethink the whole scenario: imagine you invite half a dozen friends over for dinner who also know something about your field. You make your favorite dish and uncork a couple of bottles of a nice Cabernet. After the appetizers, and at least one glass of wine into the meal, someone asks you, “So tell me, what’ve you been working on? I’m excited to hear about your new idea.” Now you reach out and take another good gulp of your good friend Mr. Cabernet, just enough to provide lubrication to your vocal cords, and you launch in. When you are called upon to speak about something you are passionate about, with a group of good friends, and possibly a little lubricant, the chances of you drawing a blank are reduced down to next to nothing. Hopefully your friends will have some retorts to offer, or even questions, which will get you going even deeper into your topic.
If you are concerned that the sounds of cutlery on plates and chewing will be too disturbing, you can get together with a group of other creative people and give presentations to each other. You could even have one night each where one person presents their topic, and the others ask questions. Of course you can prepare this in advance with some bullet points, but here is the great, great, great news: when you speak out loud in this way, the first benefit is that writer’s block goes out the window. But the second thing that may surprise you is that material delivered verbally in this way, once transcribed, is usually very fluent, heart-felt, and even funny, and requires very little editing.
You need a useful little piece of equipment here called a voice recorder, which you can buy in just about any electronic store. My favorite is the Sony ICD-UX533BLK and it looks like this:
I encourage all my coaching clients to keep this little handy device with them AT ALL TIMES: never leave home without it, take it to the bathroom with you, keep it on the bedside table when you go to sleep. This gets around Murphy’s law: that you always have the best ideas when there is no way to write them down. These days when I go out to coffee with anybody remotely interesting, I always put the voice recorder on the table: and if the conversation starts to take a turn where it looks like anybody is going to say something new and original, I press the little red button (of course, with the other person’s consent).
Using social interactions as your primary initiator of new and creative content is the the most powerful way I know to kiss creative blocks goodbye forever. This is just one of the tools that I teach and that we practice in the Radical Brilliance weekend. You can find a schedule of when these weekends are coming up here.