Writer’s block isn’t something I worry too much about. Rather, staying fresh is constantly on my mind when I create (write, draw, song-write etc). In my mind, there’s nothing worse than repeating yourself. In my mind, there’s nothing worse than repeating yourself. (Had to… 😉 The last thing I want is for my work to feel creatively bankrupt or stale. Mmm, smells like bankruptcy. (<- Inside joke from high school that only one person, who isn’t reading this, will understand. Had to… 😉
Stale work is saying the same thing over and over, without improving upon the ideas or having a new resolution.
Letting other creative work inspire you? All day.
Stealing something and putting your own spin on it? Awesome.
Selling your work? Great job.
But repeatedly creating the same thing without improving? No thanks.
There’s no growth. No positive change. No intention behind the repetition. Just the same old same old.
It’s like that friend or relative you have that repeatedly says they are going to do something, but never does (and usually does the opposite). They really want too, but because they don’t, they rarely ever do. (We can easily fall into this rut as well. I know I have.)
Creative staleness can happen on a micro and macro level.
On a micro level, we can easily lean into using familiar tricks and patterns which ultimately can plateau our progress. Writing for example. Lazy writing is using the same words, sentences or structure. One example for me is using ‘—‘ too much to break up a sentence and to give dramatic pause to an idea. (I even had them in this blog post, but edited them out.) Another lazy one I have to watch out for is ending every blog with a “blah blah blah, this is how you can have a meaningful life.” This phrase, “meaningful life”, is a part of my mission statement and tagline for Renaissance Life “The Pursuit of Creativity, Mastery and a Meaningful Life”, so it naturally pops up when I’m writing. Moderation is key here. Adding a line about having a ‘meaningful life’ at the end of every josh dang blog post is sloppy, isn’t winning me any brownie points and quickly detracts from the meaningfulness I’m trying to create.
This happens in all types of creative pursuits, not just writing. Comedy, acting, art, songwriting, lyrics, poems, speeches and more.
Example: Rappers relying on ‘uhh’ or a specific curse too much as filler words.
Example: Speakers saying the word ‘um’ or ‘pretty’ or ‘like’ too much.
Example: Musicians using the same chord, tempo or scale progression in every song they make. Like a continuous thump thump thump thump drum kick in 4/4 on every song.
Good Example: Comedians throwing out there material after they finish their one-hour special. This allows them to focus on new ideas instead of treading on old ideas.
Good Example: Actors or film makers who continuously change themselves by taking on new and different roles and projects.
TAKEAWAY: Observe how you create in your practice. Go granular; Observe the specifics. Avoid repeating yourself too much to keep things fresh and interesting. Try challenge yourself with rules and restrictions (i.g. If you write a word too much, like using the word ‘maybe’, challenge yourself it to not using ‘maybe’ next time — or ever again.)
On a macro level, we can fall into traps of or work retreading on the same old topics and themes without any clear variation or difference. Giving old ideas life by adding new ideas are great, but having the same idea repeatedly? Not so much. This usually happens to me when I’m trying to convince myself to do something. For example, an idea I want to do, like experiment with filmmaking, loops in my head, but I haven’t done it yet so I’ll keep talking about it to convince myself to do it. (Which never works.) I’ll end up repeating myself into the ground trying to convince myself. Eventually, I’ll get tired of hearing myself and I’ll shut up and do it already.
Repetition + growth is what we want.
Repetition + repetition is actually what makes us feel stuck. As Mark Twain has said, “is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results”.
TAKEAWAY: Watch out for too much repetition that ends you in the same place you started.
How to Stay Creatively Fresh
Ideas spark ideas.
Let others influence you into your own ideas.
One great way of staying fresh is surrounding yourself with the ideas of others, anyone who inspires you to create.
Another great way is to also surround yourself with new ideas and topics you would normally not explore.
STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner
Daily Blog #638