The Weight of What’s Undone

You’re creative, right? You’ve got great ideas. You’re doing great work and gaining traction. Then suddenly, it seems like you can’t get moving on your work. Ideas aren’t flowing like they once were, and there is little movement on your projects. Have you just “lost it”? Probably not – there is likely something else going on.

One of the challenges of doing creative work – working with your mind – is that you are largely responsible for not only conceiving of new opportunities, but also making your concepts real, tangible and preferably effective, through whatever means necessary. After all, you’re getting paid to produce results, not to dream all day.

YOU bear the weight of this. YOU are responsible for moving the ball forward. Even as a part of a team, you feel the pressure of each idea you introduce because you know it’s going to mean more work for you, and possibly for others. In fact, you probably begin to calculate the weight of the work involved in making something happen pretty early in the process. It’s a snap judgment, but sometimes it’s sufficient to get you to nix an idea before it even takes its first breath.

And then there’s the work you’re charged with, but are still looking for insights on. After a while, the weight of all that’s left undone can become oppressive. It can cause you to limit the number of ideas you introduce. (After all, you have plenty on your plate as it is, right?)

How can you deal with the weight of what’s undone while still being realistic and pragmatic?

First, it’s important to recognize this “weight bearing” dynamic so that you can diffuse any unnecessary pressure and begin to look objectively at your work. Ideas have no power to harm until they are implemented, so there is no need to self-limit too early in the process.

Second, it can be helpful to give yourself dedicated “dream time” for your projects without the accompanying pressure of executing any of the ideas. While this may seem inefficient on the surface, what you’re actually doing is giving yourself permission to get your big, potentially ridiculous, potentially impossible ideas out so that they aren’t hovering just beneath the surface of your thoughts and clouding your critical thinking. Simply recognize that this twenty minutes has little to do with pragmatics and everything to do with possibility.

Finally, list out all that’s left undone on your most important work with a special emphasis on needed creative insights. Sometimes the weight of needed ideas can impose unnecessary pressure on your creative process. Listing these “question mark” areas helps you gain an accurate assessment of all of your true outstanding issues.

Don’t become paralyzed by “the undone”. Stay engaged and aware of how these pressures affect your creating.

Do you feel this pressure too? Any other thoughts or tips for how to deal with it?

~ By Todd Henry, The Accidental Creative