A Shot of Creative Juice

Everybody wants to be famous but nobody wants to do the work. Yet, life is all about the work.

Comedians from Joe Rogan to Dave Chapelle can tell you the work doesn’t get easier, your just get better. Actors and writers learn that the grind of making it never goes away. It’s all a battle.

Even in the time of COVID we can move towards our goals. And if there ever was a time that the saying, “Work smarter, no harder,” holds true: it is now.

Many of us are pivoting careers, finding remote work, or rethinking our businesses entirely, and in these trying times it is always refreshing to remind ourselves of the efficient ways to work.

While Zoom and its knockoffs swallow up our daily lives, here’s a quick reminder how to get back some the juice you need to create.

1. The Five Second Rule

When you were in college, or maybe shortly after, you may have received the dating advice, “When you see someone you want to talk to, you have five seconds to introduce yourself, or it seems creepy.” While Mystery from Neil Strauss’s The Game may want to lay claim to this technique, it’s actually a much deeper psychological trick than just a pickup game.

While, yes, it is creepy if you don’t talk to that person across the bar and then stare at them trying to build up the courage, this trick has more to do with goals and the way your brain works than getting laid.

Your brain is a pattern searching machine that is balancing millions of data points. Our imagination is running rampant, and we are always looking for the next thing. While this may be our greatest creative strength, it is also our 21st-century weakness.

Apps have gamified the 5-second rule to keep you staring at your phone, clicking link after link, notification after notification, like after like. We feel a sense of accomplishment when, in actuality, we’ve done nothing. Coding gurus have programmed a slot-machine in your pocket, and every time you pick it up, you play.

Rather than be Pavlov’s dog salivating over your latest Instagram crush, turn those impulses into something useful. When an idea pops into your head, be it a business plan or a screenplay concept, write it down. Essentially, those same five seconds you have to act on the hottie at the bar is the exact same five seconds you have to smooth talk that idea onto a piece of paper. Otherwise, just like how nature kills your chances at a pickup, your brain kills the idea to move onto something else that will force you into action.

Therefore, the next time that idea pops into your head, at a minimum, write it down. Signal to your thoughts to keep ’em coming and record it. This act alone will reward your mind for coming up with the idea and will keep you on track.

2. Just Do It

An inspired action is what the world runs on. How did actors land the roles they became for? They auditioned. How did Papa Hemingway, Hunter S. Thompson, Dan Brown, or any other author finish their book? They put pen to pad.

If you want something, take action. Planning, prepping, analyzing often serve as excuses for not doing the work. The dread of the pain of actually doing the work is greater than the reward.

Why do actors love table work? Because it keeps them from learning their lines.

Motivation follows action. Inspiration, self-help, positive thinking, it all boils down to action. We do not feel the spark of inspiration and then take action no more than we rise to the occasion.

As Jocko Willink put it, “You fall to the level of your training.”

Want to become healthier? Hit the gym. Don’t search for the perfect workout; get your ass moving. Then, the motivation will come. Build the habit of action rather than searching for a reason to start.

In Improv training, there is the phrase, “Bring a brick.” How do actors create spontaneous scenes like those on Whose Line Is It Anyway or ComedySportz? They bring one idea, one at a time, and allow others to add to it. Start with an action, a choice, and an idea and build upon it. You don’t need to know the whole floor plan initially; all you have to do is take the first step.

3. What’s the Worst that Could Happen?

We are all familiar with Murphy’s Law; hell, some of us experience it every day. And that is the point. What can go wrong will go.

And yet, so many of us spend our days operating as if we are the outlier. That, magically, the universe will reward us somehow as if we are in the midst of some Dignified story. But remember, even in a fairy tale, the protagonist experience’s a Dark Night of the Soul where the plan fails, the hero loses all, and the road is lost.

As the adage says, “Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.” You wouldn’t expect to win every roulette bet will, then why take that same mindset into anything else? No matter what we do or how lucky we will feel, black will eventually come up, and our bet will be lost.

COVID and 2020 are prime examples of why we must think of our future. While college dorms may be littered with Carpe Diem posters, adults must play psychic. We can live in the moment and have a backup plan.

Our ability to imagine, to meditate on the future, affords us the luxury of setting up a levy. As Mike Tyson put it, “Everyone’s got a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

There are tons of cliches out there: “Life is what happens while you’re making plans,” or even, “shit happens.”

Still, whether its a recession, a plague, or a 00 on the roulette table the gods laugh at folly. Therefore, it’s okay to pray for a new Tesla, but make sure you know how you’re going to pay the bills for it.

In the End…

…this to shall pass. As Churchill said, “…If you’re going through hell, keep going.” Everyone must learn to adapt.

Life happens and we change. Brad Pitt in Moneyball put it best, “Adapt or die.” Find a way.

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Brock Vickers

Brock Vickers

I am an actor and writer who loves creating content and telling stories.