Inspiration is a vital key aspect if you work in the creative industry. But it’s an ongoing struggle to be inspired on every single day, at any given time. Same for me. Some days I have so many ideas that it feels like I could fill a TED talk, while the next day I can feel like an uninspired couch potato with as much work activity as movie bear Ted. However, one short quote – often attributed to author/journalist Ernest Hemingway, but nobody knows the actual source – always helps me to get inspired for a creative process: “Write drunk; edit sober.”
Let’s make one thing clear before I elaborate on this four-worded piece of inspiration: it does not mean to get completely shitfaced at work and to rewrite it with a hangover. That did work for Gonzo-godfather Hunter S. Thompson though, and it seems to be appropriate for fictional author Hank Moody in TV-show Californication. But let’s not go there, before this AAB-column turns into an AA-confession.
It does not mean to get completely shitfaced at work and to rewrite it with a hangover
Whether it’s writing, marketing, a branding strategy or a project for a client: “Write drunk; edit sober” is applicable to all kinds of creation. It means that a creative process shouldn’t be a one-way workflow. We should focus on at least two sides when we create something. On one side we can have unrestrained ideas, endless possibilities and out-of-the-box creativity. Just like when you’re drunk: no boundaries. On the other hand our brain works practical and factual: selecting what’s actually good, separating the wheat from the chaff, and deleting all overenthusiastic nonsense. The confronting editing part.
Bottom line: don’t force yourself to have a perfect result at first try. That makes it even harder and is killing for inspiration. Instead, do not limit yourself at the beginning of a creative process. Dare to be unorganized and to make mistakes at first. Give full freedom to your ideas. Be limitless. Drunk inspiration, so to speak. Eventually, take a break from it. Take your time to switch to an editing-state-of-mind to improve, refine and rearrange your unstructured blast of inspiration. Tear down the average and kill your darlings. You know you’re getting closer to the best possible result when the editing really starts to hurt; when you scratch ideas you considered to be great in your ‘drunken’ phase. Editing needs to hurt.
Bottom line: don’t force yourself to have a perfect result at first try
It can be really hard to get inspired if you strive for flawless perfection right away. My advice: start limitless and unrestrained, even though it seems less efficient at first. For me, that leads to more inspiration and eventually to a better outcome. Thoughts and ideas can be limitless – take full advantage of that. Write drunk; edit sober. In that order.