Everyone has the equivalent to a blank page in their lives. It’s that intimidating, torturous, paralyzing and dreadful part of the work that requires you to confront an empty canvas and create something from whole cloth. Cartoonists even have a name for it. They call it the blazing island of white. But while many artists romanticize the notion of the blank page, it’s actually a profoundly unhealthy and inefficient way to work. What’s smarter is to dig your well before you’re thirsty. To accumulate an ongoing reference file for your brain to work on through a passive, unconscious process.
WELL DIGGING — Accumulating an ongoing reference file for your brain to work on through a passive, unconscious process
Think of it as forced savings account for your ideas that always has a high enough balance to make withdrawals. And that way, when you sit down to create, the blank page is no longer ground zero, your life is. Because your intellectual reservoir is constantly replenished, the blank page has become a moot point instead of a massive pain.
Waitzkin’s book about peak performance talks about creating ripples in your consciousness, little jolts to spur you along, so you are constantly inspired whether or not external conditions are inspiring. It’s the smartest way to stay productive. Digging your well before you’re thirsty, as it were. You create the fertile ground where the moments of conception are more apt to occur. If you do it right, you never start with nothing.
And so, the trick to being prolific is to ensure that there’s something going on all the time, not just the moment you sit down and decide to start working. In the absence of external stimulation, we must be our own monitor, creating our own internal mechanism for inspiration. What are the associative triggers that allow your art to get done over and over again?
Avoid starting at a dreadful blank page in frustration
Activate your own internal mechanism for inspiration each day
Continuously replenish your intellectual reservoir on a regular basis
Create a creative savings account with a high enough balance to draw on as needed