The 30-Day Writing & Publishing Project, Day 11: When Limitation Becomes Liberation

I recently watched a Ted Talk in which artist Phil Hansen shared how he turned a potentially devastating diagnosis of permanent nerve damage into a new way of creating art, and in the process, learned how embracing a limitation can drive creativity. Called “Embrace the Shake,” Hansen’s talk explores the how the artist used constraints to create some pretty awe-inspiring works of art.

The talk got me thinking about the task I set for myself to write and publish here for 30 days. Though not nearly as serious a constraint as Hansen faced, publishing a new blog post every day while running my copywriting business, doing existing client work, and taking care of what feels like 2 dozen other daily obligations is genuinely challenging some days.

I’ll be honest, there are times this daily to-do feels like a heavy burden in an already overcrowded day, and I think, “Wait, why did I decide to do this?”

Then I think back to all those projects I started and never finished, and I remind myself that I decided to do this thing to prove to myself that I can set a 30-day task, commit to it publicly, and see it through. Also (and I’m sorry to have to get all “woo-woo” here), I wanted to feel a deeper connection to my writing, to make a commitment to MY writing, the writing I do outside writing copy for clients, the writing that’s been getting the short end of the stick lately.

And I felt like the creative limitation of having to publish something new each day when I have a crazy-packed schedule already, would generate useful insights I could use to improve my overall productivity, and even lead to some creative breakthroughs and a-has, if I was lucky.

And indeed, there have been a few “mini-breakthroughs”:

:: Because I have to get something “shipped” every day to honor the commitment I made, I’m revisiting things I’ve had in my drafts folder for ages – some of it barely started, and other things that just need a quick polish to be blog-publishable. I’m pleasantly surprised to note that there’s actually a “body of work” forming in that drafts folder, which leaves me feeling re-energized and re-committed to the “other” writing I do outside of client projects.

:: Knowing I have to publish something every day for 30 days has compelled me to consciously seek out inspiration, and the sheer pleasure of spending part of my day in deep creativity mode researching for interesting topics, watching Ted Talks, and otherwise stretching my inspiration muscles is wildly rewarding – and fun. Plus, there’s way more on my ideas list now than I’ll be able to write about in 30 days, so I’ll have plenty of blog topics left over to explore in the coming weeks and months.

:: The other benefit of committing to this project is it’s making me a faster writer. I don’t have time to belabor decisions as much as I normally would, so I have been letting go of some of the debilitating perfectionism that usually causes me to spend loooooong hours, and hours and hours and hours, writing blog posts. I hope this trend continues once I’m at the end of the 30 days – that would be huge for me.

I fully intend to have more mini – or hey, maybe even maxi! – breakthroughs as I make my way through the rest of this project, and I’ll share those at the end of the 30 days.

So I think an important question to consider is, since we all have constraints on our creative output, how can we use them to our advantage, as artist Phil Hansen did? Share your thoughts in the comments if you feel called to.

(And check out the video linked at the top of this blog post to watch Hansen’s Ted Talk.)

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