It’s been a while, I know. It wouldn’t be true to say that the pandemic shut me down—I’ve been staying busy, and pretty dedicated to the self-care routines that keep my mind (and creativity) in a good place. It’s just that, with the situation we’re all facing at the moment (where 2020 is THE WORST), I couldn’t find anything useful to say.
And now, almost overnight, I’ve decided that it is time for a pep talk.
Here we go.
Have you watched Hamilton? I mean, if you haven’t, that’s a completely different conversation we need to have about you and your life choices. But let’s all just agree that Lin Manuel-Miranda is a genius and gift to the world and we are all so lucky to be alive right now on the same planet at the same time as him. (If you started singing The Schuyler Sisters in your head, you’re welcome.)
Here’s the thing. That guy, that brilliant, beautiful human who wrote the award-winning, record-breaking musical, Hamilton, also recorded this vine several years ago:
That guy, laying on the grass, staring at the sky, begging his brain to come up with something smarter, is the same guy whose Broadway hit is available on Disney+ (and streaming daily at my house).
I saw this vine years ago, before I ever knew who Lin Manuel-Miranda was, and later when I became aware of him and saw his face I was like, “THAT’S THE COME ON BRAIN THINK OF THINGS GUY!” I’ve loved this vine for years, because I relate to it so deeply. Whenever I’m completely stumped I just lay on the floor or the ground and stare at the ceiling and will my brain to put words together and pull me out of whatever plot situation I’m stuck in.
Lin Manuel-Miranda has those moments, too.
What can we learn from this?
Lin Manuel Miranda is just a person, like me and you. Every single work of art you’ve ever loved was created by a person who at some point was staring into space thinking, “I will never have another idea,” or “I have an idea but I have no idea how to make it work,” or “I’ve started this thing and it’s complete crap and it’s never going to get better,” or “I don’t know what I’m doing and I should give up.”
Whenever you’re creating something, there are a million roadblocks—but most of them exist only in your head. Don’t believe me? You know how much I love morning pages, so if you’re into that, do this exercise in your morning pages. If not, just pull out a sheet of paper and journal right now. Ask yourself the following:
- What thoughts are holding me back? List them, stream-of-consciousness style. Any random thing that pops in your head, even if you don’t truly think it’s related, write it down. Don’t censor it. Be super honest with yourself (I mean, if you have to hide things from your own brain, then when can you ever truly be real?) about all the reasons you aren’t writing or all the reasons you think you can’t do the thing you want to do. Write down those reasons until you’ve exhausted all the possible excuses and judgments you make about yourself and your abilities.
- Stop and examine the list. Really read what you wrote. Don’t gloss over it. Step back from the page and read what you’ve listed, and then answer this question:
- What proof do I have that any of these reasons are true? Be brutally honest about it. Stream-of-consciousness style again.
I am fully confident that most of the things on your list are excuses/judgements born from false narratives you’ve been telling yourself for years with very little reliable evidence to back them up. And that’s okay! The important thing now is to recognize them for what they are: false. Now that you know, you can keep reminding yourself of that while you prove them wrong.
Every single book, movie, song, poem, recipe, painting, drawing, play, photograph, sculpture, or [insert your favorite art here] was created by a person—a person who refused to quit.
Go be that person.