It’s is the scourge of the creative mind. That terrible moment when you realize nothing is happening, the juices aren’t flowing, the mojo has taken a hike. It happens to all of us, authors and journalists, painters and sculptors, musicians and songwriters. The problem is, the feeling that “it just isn’t happening” can easily move from symptom, to cause.
It’s so simple to use it as an excuse to put down the brush, turn off the computer, or stick the guitar back on the stand. Country music star Deana Carter knows all about it. She grew up in a musical family. Her dad, Fred Carter, Jr. was one of the great session guitarists of his generation. That awesome opening riff of Simon and Garfunkle’s “The Boxer” is Fred’s work. So long before Deana’s hit records, or her Grammy nominations, she was well versed in the artistic temperament. But because her dad was a musical “gun for hire” she probably also learned that you have to deliver, whether you are “feeling it” or not.
Deana just came back from a trip to Nashville, to co-write some tunes with some writers she had never worked with. “It can be a little like a blind date, you can go into it with no expectations, and see if there is a connection. And there is this great disappointment if you don’t come out of it with a song.” So Deana says she came up with this little trick: “If it’s not happening,” she says, “I’ll say, “grab a cup of coffee, grab a shot of Jack Daniels, walk around the block, whatever you do to clear your head.” I’m setting a timer for 15 minutes, and when that time is up, we’re gonna have a song. Good, bad, or otherwise. We’re gonna have a song.”
It is really one of the smartest ideas I have heard in a long time. By putting the focus on the deadline, and not the art, you can cruise right over those psychological speed bumps we all put in the path of our own creativity. You may not get the song you want, nor the painting, nor the next chapter of your novel, but you will have conquered one of the most insidious enemies the creative spirit can face: fear masquerading as inertia. It can take weeks, or months, or years to break through.
Or it can take 15 minutes.
Try it. If it works, then say a little thanks to the super talent who co-wrote that super clever, explosive country hit, “Did I Shave My Legs for This?”