In England years ago, if you wanted a bar of chocolate, you’d go to your local corner shop or sweet shop, and a friendly shopkeeper would attend to you personally.
“Good morning, beautiful weather we’re having! What can I get you sir?” would be a typically jolly greeting.
Although there would be groceries on display, much of it was behind the counter, or out the back. So when you asked the kind shopkeeper for the taste you craved most in the world right at the point – let’s say a bar of Cadbury’s Bournville dark chocolate – he would say: “Certainly sir, a wonderful choice!” before popping behind the counter and producing a bar.
You’d pay, thank him for his service, bid each other good day, and return home with your chocolate.
When you opened and ate your chocolate you’d enjoy it immensely, savouring the solid crack as you broke off each chunk, and that sumptuous languid sensation of it dissolving slowly on your tongue.
This moment, this experience, this bar of chocolate was your entire world and you’d be utterly, blissfully lost in it.
These days though, buying a bar of your favourite chocolate is somewhat more complex.
You’d typically go to a supermarket, eventually locate the chocolate aisle (number 23 of around 60!) and look for your beloved Bournville.
Here, the problems begin. Whereas in the corner shop you asked for exactly what you wanted, what you craved most and got it, and nothing more, here the choices are abundant.
The shelves are crammed with not only Bournville but approximately 27 other types of dark chocolate, each calling you with its beautifully designed wrapper and promise of exotic unmatchable pleasure.
More choice is good though surely, you might be thinking.
Not in this case. Your faith that all you wanted in the world was a bar of Bournville is now shaken. All kinds of other possibilities have now entered the arena, many of them you hadn’t even heard of before a few moments ago.
Dark chocolate with sea salt? Chilli? Lavender?!
Even if you do manage to surmount the dizzying dilemma of so much choice and buy just one bar, the problems are only just beginning.
Say you buy your Bournville. Then take it home and start to unwrap it.
However delicious it tastes, a part of you will be wondering about at least a handful of other chocolate bars you could have bought.
You’ll be thinking maybe you didn’t make the right choice, and maybe one of those other bars would have tasted better, or melted on your tongue just that little bit more languidly and sumptuously.
All the time your mind is off having hypothetical affairs with those other bars of chocolate, your Bournville has steadily disappeared.
You didn’t enjoy it very much because your mind, your focus, and your senses were elsewhere. So it became a rather vacuous and, now in hindsight, frustrating experience.
The same would be true whatever bar you bought. You’d still be unable to enjoy the experience of eating it (and after all we buy chocolate for its taste and the whole ritual and pleasure of unwrapping and devouring it rather than for any nutritional benefit!) because you won’t be fully present, fully engaged in the moment.
So how does all this superficial talk about the dilemmas of buying and eating chocolate in the 21st Century have anything to do with you being more creative?
Exactly the same principles apply for your creative projects.
If you have some time set aside for creating, and pick the one project you’re most inspired and motivated to work on right now, you’ll find the experience rewarding and fulfilling and be able to fully immerse yourselves in it.
And that state of creative immersion – being lost in creating where you lose all sense of time and place – is the happy state we’re all striving for when we create.
But most of us don’t operate in this way at all. We don’t have all our projects organised and put away, our workspaces cleared and ready to begin on anything at a moment’s notice.
Instead we tend to have three or four (or three or four dozen) unfinished projects in full view when we enter our creative space.
Instantly, before we’ve even lifted a finger to create, we’re greeted with a sinking and defeated feeling.
We’re reminded that we never finish anything, that we can’t ever choose which project to work on, so we usually end up beginning a new one to avoid continuing with an existing one. And so the cycle goes on.
We end up walking out again moments lately, overwhelmed and frustrated, as our inner critic has a wild party in our minds in celebration at what a failure it thinks we are.
The lesson here is obvious.
Have your creative workspace – whether it’s a large studio or a simple desk – arranged so it’s ready to work at in a moment’s notice.
Have your creative materials and equipment organised in a way that means you can go straight to one project – the one you’re most inspired to continue to work on – and simply start creating without having to wade through a dozen others.
This is exactly how I’m writing this post, and how I get any posts written.
I have a simple text document that’s an ideas file, and contains a running collection of titles and themes and ideas to expand into creativity articles. At any one time there are probably a few dozen ideas and/or partially written articles on the go in this file.
When I want to write a new post, I’ve already decided which one I’m going to write before I sit down and begin.
I might open the ideas file just to grab the words I have so far on this specific idea, but then I paste them immediately into the application I write all my articles in – OmmWriter. It blocks out all other applications from view, and I simply set a timer for 30 or 60 or 90 minutes and write.
I find this a very focused and easy way of writing.
The technique in effect is just the same as buying your favourite bar of Cadbury’s Bournville from the old fashioned corner shop.
You decide where your inspiration or urge is strongest, and just go for that option, entirely focused, and avoiding all others and all possible distractions.
So, how do you buy and eat your chocolate?
Um, I mean how do you create?
What can you adjust about how you work currently to help you sidestep all those dilemmas of choosing which project to work on and being overwhelmed by all those works in progress?
If you’re interested in learning more about getting focused on the creative projects most important to you, you might like to check out How To Get Focused And Create What Matters.
Others who’ve read the book have found it really helpful, as you can see from their feedback.
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