Books that changed my life: Having To Say Something Vs Having Something To say

This is a post on a topic that I haven’t spent a lot of time writing about of late but it is something that I have been pondering on a lot recently.

The question of creativity. The dreaded blank page.  Where to start. You’ve been there I know you have. I found a great book that has helped me immeasurably with this and I want to share some of what I’ve found in it with you.

The book is called “A Technique for Producing Ideas” by James Webb Young Ideas

Essentially there is one key aspect of James’s technique that has changed everything about how I look at creating.

If you are like me you are a procrastinator. You know the work you have to do but somehow you can’t bring yourself to actually sit down to do it.

It’s the age old question for anyone who has some sort of work to do. Do you..

Have to say something? Or..

Have something to say? (Thanks Rob Bell)

Is the task you face having to sit down and come up with a great inspiring blog post everyday, or writing a paper, or coming up with a book idea or having to think of a new sermon series because it’s due in a few days?
Or…. is the task you have, being so excited by an idea or a thought, by something that you noticed on a walk or something you read in a magazine or a sign you saw on your drive home that caught your attention or a picture that made you think about ‘that’ in a different light, or a story about someone giving their life for someone else which opened your eyes to a new way of thinking about generosity and what that means for your marriage, or a word which when you had the original meaning explained to you made you sit up and realize there was a whole new meaning to ‘this’?

So you made a note of it, or took a picture, or created a folder, or memorized it, or held it, or picked it up, or took it home and placed it on your mantlepiece.

Then after a while you began to discover how a few of these things that seemingly had no connection came together in a way that you couldn’t see coming. This connects with that, and that can be illustrated perfectly by that postcard you saw in the shop.

So when you go to sit down you’re not staring at a blank screen but bringing all these connections and ideas to the table, ready to surprise and delight us.

Are we hoping that inspiration strikes us every morning when we sit down to work or do we have an openness to the world where we are constantly being alert to those ideas or images or words that make us think, “that’s interesting”.

Maybe we use it or maybe we don’t. That doesn’t matter. All that matters is that it was enough in that moment to be of interest.

Editing comes later. Being aware and collecting begins now.

So that when the time comes to do the work, we’re ready.

So when we sit down to work, our blank white screen is already full of color.

Why I live Tweeted the Grammys

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Two nights ago, I did something that I have never done but always intended to and live tweeted an awards ceremony. On Sunday night, as I am sure many of you know, the Grammys took place and so I decided to join in with some of my favorite tweeters/bloggers/writers and have a bit of fun.

What’s the point of this you ask? Here’s a few reasons why I live tweeted the Grammys. Continue reading

There is a bit of Dougal in all of us.

father-dougal-mcguireResistance doesn’t think, “how can I use the fear of failure or the fear of success to stall her from working.”

It thinks, “how can I use the fear of failure and the fear of success.”

If we were afraid of only failure then we would be able to justify working using success. So if I think “I might look stupid but at least I could help one person see something fresh”, then it’s worth it.

So resistance evolves to include the fear of success too.

“If this goes well I may be asked to take on more responsibility, which I’m not ready for” or
“If this post gets people talking and coming back I’ll need to write something just as good or even better”.

Notice how the fear of success quickly turns into the fear of failure.

We might need to come up with other great ideas, or we might need to surprise ourselves.

The good news is that this frees us up to be generous. When we focus on the potential failure or success we are focusing mainly on ourselves. We’re afraid of looking stupid or getting people’s hopes up and then feeling stupid when we let them down or make a mistake.

The antithesis to this is generosity where the only goal is to give without expectation of anything in return. You can’t feel stupid if you don’t care.

I can write a blog post that resonates with people and that’s fantastic so I work to make that happen again. But I do so by simply doing the work and putting it out there because it’s the right thing to do.

Whether it connects or not isn’t so important; it’s part of the active strategy to keep being generous.

Surprisingly though when we keep doing that, eventually something sticks. Something you write encourages someone or even better, the hope to do their own work. If you stop being generous eventually you’ll become so self obsessed and paralyzed with fear that you stop working altogether.

And your work is far too important to us to let that happen.

Matthew McConaughey: Winners and workers.

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Last night Matthew McConaughey won the award for the best Actor at the Golden Globes. The Golden Globes are generally considered an accurate indicator for the winners at the Academy Awards.

He has received plaudits for his role as a homophobic aids patient in Dallas Buyers’s Club and now is winning best actor awards. His new tv show True Detectives has also been getting a lot of attention.

But this is the same Matthew McConaughey who made Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. Which wasn’t very good. The same Matthew McConaughey who is famous for making average Romantic comedies in the 90’s or taking his top off or winning most sexiest man alive awards.

These are the kind of things he is famous for. Continue reading

The greatest lesson I learned about being creative.

Sitting down everyday to write and facing a blank page is one of the hardest things to do as a writer. There is so much space to fill and so little to fill it with. If you face a blank canvass you can be sure that resistance will come along and fill it for you.

Anything to stop you creating.

There is one way to beat resistance. Continue reading