30 days ago, I was creatively stuck. The combination of a) growing bored of writing about my previous vocation and b) being immersed in some deep philosophical and spiritual studies resulted in a creative upheaval followed by doldrums.
I felt lost. Like I didn’t have a “thing” to write about. For the longest time, I wrote mostly about copywriting and content marketing. And then, 30 days ago, I decided I frankly didn’t want to write about that any longer.
So, in taking the advice of creative coach Julia Cameron, I started writing morning pages—a daily three-page stream of consciousness written upon waking.
As I started writing, I had no idea what would come out. But when I was finished, something had emerged. Every day. These entries weren’t pretty. I guess you could say they were beautifully disastrous. Genuinely mangled and messy.
But I loved this exercise.
Out of those pages came blog posts where I carefully shaped each morning’s ramblings into something comprehensible for public consumption.
As much as I always write for the reader, I must admit, this exercise was almost entirely selfish. It was my reward after being a writer mercenary for the last three years.
Well, today is day number 30 in a row. And I wanted to share a couple of the biggest lessons I learned.
1) Being lost is miserable. Until it isn’t.
On day one of this exercise, I was incredibly frustrated. I wanted to find my “thing.” I’ve always had a “thing” to write about and now I didn’t.
I was lost. And I was of the mindset that being lost sucks. But now I realize something. On day 30, I’m still lost. But I’m good with it.
Being lost is actually quite enjoyable if you can just accept it. If we always knew the answers, what would be the use? Isn’t life about the hunt? Isn’t it about the adventure? Sure, it’s exhausting, but we can sleep when we’re dead.
“Finding yourself” sounds quite boring when you think of it that way, doesn’t it?
What I’ve learned is that there’s nothing to be found. Trying to find one “X” on the treasure map is a fool’s journey. Because as soon as you find that “X” an infinite number of other “Xs” pop up.
Find peace in the fact that the journey is never over. Be forgiving to yourself when you leave the trail of one “X” to find another. The ego will hate you for it. It likes predictability and certainty. Which are illusions in themselves. But that’s for another post.
2) Creating something every day for public consumption is like mental steroids
Seth Godin has been preaching this for the longest time: Blog every day. (Or create and share something every day.)
Godin writes, “Blogging every day clarifies my thoughts—it helps me notice things. It’s one of the most important practices of my profession.”
I’ve actually been writing every day for the last couple years. But I haven’t shared something every day. I’ve gone on these 30-day benders before and they always feel amazing. I’m not sure why I don’t keep them up. Maybe I will this time.
Sharing something daily takes your psyche to whole new levels. Because when you share with others, it has to make (somewhat) sense. Or at least look cool. Like Seth says, it pushes you to get extremely clear about your thoughts.
Sure, whatever you put out there may suck for a while. But the worst that can happen is that people will ignore you. Big deal. You’d be ignored if you didn’t have this daily ritual in the first place (and you wouldn’t be getting good at something).
But if you do it every day, soon enough, they’ll become really good. People might not ignore you then.
3) The mind is bottomless. There’s always more
A concern I always have when I go on these runners is: How the heck am I gonna come up with new ideas?
Here’s the thing. The mind is deeper than you can ever imagine. It’s only when you get it circulating that you start to see its true potential. And for 30 days, I’m merely skimming the top.
Creativity is infinite possibilities. An infinite number of ideas all playing together in an open field. The only one who can put a limit on it is you. And the best way to do that is by not tapping into it. Our idea muscle atrophies when we don’t use it.
But when you do use it, stand back. It’s amazing what comes out.
And never be stingy with your ideas. Don’t say you’ll save them for another post, another story, or another day. Put it out there. Circulate your ideas freely so your mind can generate new. Like a broken muscle that grows back stronger or a samurai sword that becomes steeled by every blow by the hammer they use and the hot and cold tempering.
Don’t worry. Creativity is inexhaustible if it’s consciously activated.
Like I said, I’ve done these 30-day stints of daily blogging before. And every time I do them, I experience hyper-growth in both writing and thinking.
I think I may keep them up this time.
Jonas Ellison shares his stories and essays at JonasEllison.com. Jonas lives in Reno, NV with his wife and daughter where they drink too much coffee and try to take over the world.
This post was originally featured on Medium and reposted with permission.
Photo via JulienDFT_Photo/Flickr (CC BY ND 2.0)