Refilling the Well and Reigniting Creativity

In an amazing mashup between Bird by Bird and The War of Art, my friend Jeff Goins wrote week before last about what to do when you’re feeling uninspired, and how important it is to recognize the difference between “blocked” and “empty.”

  • One may be a real case of the Resistance — your own laziness, outside distractions, or some other negative force keeping you from making a difference. If that’s the case, then you only have one choice: show up, do the work.

  • However, if you’re feeling empty, be careful. You could waste hours sitting in front of a computer screen or with a guitar on your lap. If this is the case, you may need to step away and go do something that fills you up — play with your kids, listen to music, go for a run. But don’t be fooled; Resistance is still waiting to snatch you up at the earliest possible moment.

Once you’re full again, get right back at it. Start creating and continue working through the Resistance.

What do you do when you’re feeling uninspired? And how do you tell the difference between feeling blocked and being empty?

I can’t help but be reminded of the two main practices put forth in The Artist’s Way: The Morning Pages and The Artist’s Dates. The former is more about sending signals (to yourself, ultimately) and the latter is about refilling the well, restocking the pond. (The Morning Pages do a lot to get the junk out of your system so you can focus on being creative the rest of the day.) The Artist Dates leave you feeling energized.

In my experience, the artist dates are best done as something silly or childishly fun. Go buy a grape NeHi, a comic book, and sit under a tree reading on a sunny afternoon. Or spend lunch break doing nothing on a hill overlooking a pond, just enjoying the sunshine and decompressing naturally. It’s all about reconnecting with that playful inner artist-child we all have.

It’s little wonder that the creatives at ad agencies tend to have little toys all around their desk. (I once had a coworker with quite a collection of Homies.)

It’s important to take the time to nourish your creativity.

How do you refill the well?

“Wasted” creative efforts

I recently discovered that an old friend is writing a novel and blogging about it. I don’t know what his novel is about just yet, but I’m excited for him! Too many people put off writing their novel or whatever other ambitious creative project they have.

Today he approached the blank textarea of his blog with nothing in mind to write about, and apparently nothing really came to him. Yet he hit publish anyway. He shipped. Like 37Signals says in their book ReWork, “It’s better to ship a kick-ass half than a half-assed whole.”

A few months ago my friend Patrick Rhone posted Not Writing.” It’s a riff on pretty much the same thing. It may not be great writing, but you’re putting something down instead of waiting around for inspiration to strike. Luck — inspiration, in our case — favors the prepared: you prepare for inspiration by jotting stuff down. In short, embrace quantity over quality. The quality comes on its own. You’ve just gotta show the Muse you’re ready for it by working hard on your craft all the time. It’s why an artist doodles aimlessly, a musician strums random chords and makes up vulgar nonsense lyrics, and a writer jots down drivel. Because eventually, out of that comes something beautiful.

Minimal Mac


My friend Patrick Rhone has recently launched a new site devoted to running a minimalist Mac. It’s chock full of great tips for de-cluttering your Macintosh computer.

It’s also gotten me thinking about the idea of minimalism and eliminating unnecessary stuff so that I can be more productive. More on that later!

Launch Multiple Applications at Once with Automator and Quicksilver

I try to avoid having too many things in my Startup Items on my Mac as it tends to bog down the machine. However, there are several apps I use in concert with each other, such as the Adobe Creative Suite. Call me lazy, but I don’t want to click on all three icons in the Dock. I’d rather launch them all at once with a couple of keystrokes with Quicksilver. I figured out how to do this with Automator.

Automator Icon

  1. Launch Automator. The first thing it will do is ask you what direction to go in. We want to use the Custom option. Automator Start Screen

  2. Scroll down until you find “Launch Application.” Or just type “launch” in the search box and you’ll see it immediately. find-launch-app

  3. Select and drag “Launch Application” to the pane on the right to start building your workflow.

  4. The pane on the right displays a popup menu that allows you to choose what application to launch. You may have to choose “Other” at the bottom of the list, and navigate to the application you want. chosen-app

  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 as needed if you want to include other applications.

  6. Save it as an application in the Applications folder. save-as-app

  7. Invoke Quicksilver and launch your app. That’s it! qs-automator

If you want to go back and change your workflow, you can always open an existing workflow in Automator.

J.J. Abrams’ Mystery Box Wired Issue

Wired May 2009: The Mystery Issue When this arrived in the mail Saturday, I recognized the box with the giant question mark right away. Then I saw that it was guest-edited by J.J. Abrams! It’s a great issue, and while I haven’t finished all of it, I’ve really enjoyed reading it, probably more than I really ought to. In true Abrams fashion, here are all kinds of little things hidden throughout the magazine. Plus there’s a fun article he wrote that talks about spoilers. Interesting tidbit from that article that I didn’t know: Abrams and Greg Grunberg (yep, the guy who plays Matt Parkman on Heroes) were roommates 20 years ago, and tried desperately to beat Super Mario Brothers 2.

It’s so good I stayed up til 1 am reading it. (And I meant to go to bed about 11:30…)

Anyway, go check it out and get yourself a copy. You’ll be entertained and have that creative noodle tickled. Plus, the whole issue is chock-full of Futura and sports a different graphic style, quite a departure for Wired. I don’t know if it’s intended to be unique to the issue or if it’s the way they’ll do things for the next ten issues or so, but it’s a pretty interesting departure for the mag.

Again, go read it. You won’t be disappointed.