Creative Work: How to Get Started

Last Updated Jul 23, 2009 3:09 PM EDT

In order to do something awesome, you have to start stuff that, for a long time, will fall embarrassingly short of awesome. And as we all know from personal experience, looking at your own lame ideas (or that blank page or blinking cursor) can be extremely demotivating. What we don't all know, at the beginning of our careers, is that getting better at stuff doesn't mean you eventually learn how to be awesome right away. It means getting comfortable with sucking in the early stages of any new project.

In a pretty funny (and not one hundred percent polite) 25-minute talk, Merlin Mann, founder of productivity site 43 Folders, offers tips on how to get over your neuroses and fears (admit it, we all have them) and actually produce results. Earnest and enlightening, the talk offers insights such as:

  • Get started, even if you feel uninspired. We tend to believe that thinking leads to working, but more often, working leads to thoughts.
  • Learn to tolerate the sensation of not knowing where something is going or what exactly it is becoming.
  • Don't judge. Eventually you will need to finish stuff and have a critical eye. Just not right at the beginning.
  • Power through self-doubt by simply continuing to work, even if what you produce sucks. You can always fix it later.
  • Set aside a small amount of time for the work on a regular basis: no email, no interruptions, no excuses.
Listen to the complete talk here (It starts to get good around minute 6:08):

The Sound of Young America

(Image of the dread blank page by mulmatsherm, CC 2.0)
  • Jessica Stillman On Twitter»

    Jessica lives in London where she works as a freelance writer with interests in green business and tech, management, and marketing.