KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAFrom the desk of Adair Jones…

It’s easy enough to get things done when you’re dealing with the familiar. But what happens when you’re asked to perform outside your comfort zone and when the stakes are high? To deliver a gripping speech, let’s say. Or transform dull statistics into an informative and entertaining presentation. Or make a compelling argument before the board of directors.

There’s a strong likelihood you’ll need some time to mull it over. And then, because you’re out of your comfort zone and because the stakes are high, you might find yourself procrastinating. Procrastination is an uncomfortable experience — one we’re all familiar with. You might seek out distractions to avoid it, which only makes things worse. On the other hand, you might force yourself to begin writing only to discover you’ve got nothing. And then you panic.

Welcome to the creative process. As a writer, I face this particular challenge every day. I’ve learned not to fight it or try to control it. That doesn’t mean I let it control me, however. There are some things you can do to get things flowing .

  1. Give yourself downtime — Creative production requires gestation. Allow enough lead time to let your subconscious work for you and revisit the idea often. If you work from ‘To Do’ lists, you might schedule five minutes every day to jot down some notes or simply think about the big task ahead.
  2. Gather and glean — The best talks and articles do not happen instantly but are well-researched, well-edited, and well-rehearsed.They are the products of many iterations of thinking, planning, drafting, writing, getting the voice right, tossing out, paring down, tightening, etc. Prepare yourself well. Read up on your subject. Look for other perspectives. Anticipate arguments that might be made against your position.
  3. Break things into manageable chunks — When the stakes are high, even a short presentation or article can be daunting. Come up with an outline and fill it in a little at a time. This will reveal holes in your research. More importantly, it gives your subconscious a new way of looking at the material. Part of your brain will actually be at work on the project while you’re busy with other things — answering emails, attending meetings, commuting, even sleeping.
  4. Turn up — When it comes to writing, you need to give yourself plenty of time and space to let the magic happen. This won’t be all the time. Or even most of the time. But if you’ve scheduled regular undistracted time to attend to your project, things will eventually flow. If you find you’re blocked, look out the window and daydream for a few minutes, then gently bring your mind back to the task at hand. Most of all, don’t get down on yourself and don’t panic. It may be that the time isn’t right. But if you don’t turn up, you won’t know when it is right.
  5. Trust — Creativity is the birthright of every human. That isn’t to say, however, that it’s easy. People who are known to be ‘creative’ are no different from anyone else. They have to work hard too. They have one thing right, though: they trust in the process.

The more familiar you are working outside of your comfort zone, the more at ease you’ll become. As you learn about your own creative process, you’ll be able to harness it more effectively. Because creative work comes from deep inside, it’s extremely satisfying. In no time, you’ll find yourself more engaged and inspired, not only at work but in other areas of your life as well.