“Here, you can color here, Uncle Dan.”
She flipped open her sketch book, which looked exactly like a book you would expect a four and a half year old to own. It was ripped in places, bent, crinkled, and completely covered with random splashes of color.
“Here, use this black pen to make the outline. What are you going to draw?”
She had already started creating, a long skinny creature with a beak.
“It’s a duck princess leaving the castle,” she proudly announced. Of course.
My page was still blank. I was stuck. I had absolutely no idea what to put there. Totally empty. I certainly could remember a time where I had the picture in my head, and the excitement of helping it come to life, but here I was with a pen and a blank sheet of paper, and absolutely zero idea on what to put there. I’ll admit there was a part of me that even thought about giving up, just leaving it, and going with a safe scribble of a rainbow. But why? Why was I stuck? There are no rules, there is no judging..from her. I realized there was a filter in me, that was judging, and was slowing me down. Seriously?
Based on this post from James Altucher (one of my favorite blogs), I’ve been taking time, even if just 10 minutes, to have a wide open, anything goes, ideas brainstorming session each day. I’ve been at it for about a week, and I must say it has been far more difficult than I thought. I very much had the same feeling as I did with my niece, staring at a blank piece of paper and no idea where to start. The filter, the judge, was even more active there. But also, quite honestly, I think my “creative” muscle is a bit weak. It’s like I’m trying to do crunches again for the first time in years. The first few weeks are always the hardest, and also the time you most likely want to throw in the towel. I have considered it several times…but have stuck with the practice so far. I’m honestly a bit surprised that this muscle is weak. I would have thought all the work I’ve done over the years, certainly would have kept me sharp. I must admit, it’s weak. But it’s getting stronger. It takes time and practice.
Ultimately, I just dove in. She had a duck princess, and I had to deliver something. A frog came to mind, so I drew it. It came out deformed with a confused arrangement of legs and arms. I found myself saying out loud “whoa, that’s bad,” but kept at it. After a few minutes, she looked up from the Duck princess and said:
“Wow, Uncle Dan, that’s a great Frog!” Ha…she was right, what a great teacher.
- James Altucher Headline/Book Naming Contest (ritholtz.com)