In a previous letter I wrote about the creative process. This letter is about creative crisis– an emergency in the process of putting something new into the world.
Every time you create something new, you’re putting yourself in a hopeless situation.
The only way out is to rescue yourself from that situation. Here’s my lifesaving procedure:
Start the Reactor
Don’t create. Consume. Make one idea collide with the next. When the process stalls, fuel the reaction by inserting ideas from the richest possible sources.
The high order bit. Don’t create. Divine. What am I trying to say? Where is my audience and where do I want to take them? Put toplines in all caps.
Don’t make a grab for insight. Just give yourself something to grab.
Look Up and Find the Right Thought
Don’t type words. Tape this to your desk: “Let the meaning choose the word, and not the other way around.” -George Orwell
Say what you mean. State your main idea loud and clear. Put similar ideas next to each other and then design an argument.
Sometimes we need “education in the obvious over investigation into the obscure.” - Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr
Celebrate Your Nut Graph
Enjoy the moment you discover what you’re creating. This is when the underlying ideas resolve into a self-evident structure.
Move non-essential ideas to the bottom of the document. Save them to a separate document later.
Kill Your Darlings / Beware the Novel Phrase
Locate your absolute favorite sentence and delete it.
The best part of the creative process is discovery by deletion.
Can You Make It Better?
Don’t waste your readers’ time. Make sure you have a worthy product before you show it. Enjoy what the work itself is teaching you.
“To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle.” -George Orwell
Don’t Polish the Cannonball
Yes, you can make it better. Share it in the meantime!
Many thanks to Ken Bunnell for the drawing!