The Muck of Creation

what it means and what to do about it



Feeling overwhelmed by the scope of your product ideas? Trying not to create in a vacuum but feeling sucked in anyway? Plan your product development cycles to build in flexibility and play while making moolah along the way with the Spiral Product Design Roadmap.

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May 18, 2017

This is a topic that has been on my heart to discuss for a while now. Why? Because I don’t think that it gets talked about enough! It’s the dark and dirty part of the entrepreneurial journey: the muck of creationI had a client who jogged me on this topic recently and I thought “It’s time. It’s time to talk about it.” I finally had the epiphany about what it is I really need to say!

First of all, what the heck am I talking about? Maybe if I say “the muck of creation,” you instantly understand. You’ve been there! If not, let me just describe what I’m talking about for a minute and maybe you can relate. Here’s you: 

*You have brilliant ideas. I know you have brilliant ideas because you’re here with me and my tribe, which is full of people with brilliant ideas. You have these brilliant ideas and you’re saying “Okay! I’m going do this! I’m going to build it! I’m going to build it and I’m going to see where it goes! I’m going to see what happens!” You are lit up!

*You start to piece it together. You have that initial surge of inspiration and brainstorming. You have all of these ideas for the things you could do. It comes easy! It’s just coming out and you’re just writing it down and you quickly start to put it together in a practical way! You’re starting to really get into the nitty-gritty of putting it together!

*All of the sudden you’re in the middle of it and you just slow down. You can feel those wheels grinding… to… a… halt… You know you’ve still got these brilliant ideas that you still really like! You still want to do this! But all of the sudden, it seems really dark on this path that you’re on. It feels really dark and you feel really alone.

*You look out at this darkness. It’s just kind of oppressive. Of course, you know this is all in your mind while you’re creating; while you’re on this journey of innovation and entrepreneurship, of being able to be a problem solver AND a solution bringer. But you enter into this sort of “dark night of the soul” and you forget all of the sudden why you’re here; why you are doing this in the first place.

You forget why you were doing it for yourself and how it made you light up!

*Those cold fingers of fear start to creep in on you. “This wasn’t such a good idea after all. How do you know that anyone’s actually going to want this? I don’t think anyone actually wants this. This is coming out a lot clunkier than I expected. I expected it to have some grace! I expected it to have some fluidity. It’s not graceful. It’s just clunky. So maybe it’s not worth pursuing this solution. What if I put this out and it just flops? I mean, I may as well quit now because I don’t want to keep putting effort into something that’s just going to flop.”

All of those things are the voice of fear. It’s really easy for fear to come and creep up in that darkness. Why does it happen? You think “Maybe if I was more enlightened… If I was just enlightened enough I wouldn’t go through the darkness. People who are truly enlightened and committed to their purpose probably don’t go through the darkness.”

But what I want to tell you today is: THAT’S NOT TRUE.

The darkness is there for everybody. Not only that, but the darkness is a natural part of the creative process! I like to think of it like the womb: when you build a baby, the baby isn’t created in some field of light with lots of flowers growing and exposure to sunlight. The baby is created in a safe space. It’s warm and dark and wet.

That darkness that’s there doesn’t have to be the scary kind of darkness! Even though it’s a really easy place for fear to come and meet you, that darkness is the darkness of the womb. It’s the darkness of incubation and it’s a natural part of the creative process. So when you’re in the middle of it; when you’re in the thick of it and you feel like it’s dark and you feel like you’ve kind of lost your sense of who you are and why you’re doing this, it means that you’re in the darkness, but it means that you’re in that creative process.

Sometimes it’s questioning. These questions that come there in the darkness are hard. They’re deep. They’re raw questions; not “Is this going to work? Can I make a profit?” Those are surface level questions. The questions that find you there in the darkness go straight to the heart! Who are you? Are you the same person that you were when you started out this journey of creation; before you descended into this dark, mucky swamp area where it seems so confusing? Why are you here? Why are you here in the creative darkness? Why are you here on the planet? What are you meant to be doing?

This is where the big questions get asked. Maybe they get answered; hopefully they get answered! But sometimes they don’t. I’m not promising you’re going to get your answers to these questions. I’m just saying that this is a part of it. If you are having these questions, this is how you know you’re on the right track.

Every time I go through a big creative surge, I feel very Phoenix-like: dying spectacularly in flames and then rising from ashes. I seem to go through these complete reinventions not just as my business persona; my business self, but of me internally; the individual. Sure, there are parts that stay the same, but it’s refinement. It’s being refined by fire every time.

I like to joke that entrepreneurship is the best personal development program you can embark on. It’s a joke, but it’s funny because it’s true! This journey of entrepreneurship gets you to look yourself in the mirror and face those questions; those identity questions: “Who am I? What do I care about? What do I love? What am I doing here? Why am I doing this?”

Those are hard questions. But here’s the thing: when those are the questions that meet you in the darkness and the muck, you know you’re on the right track.

So what do you do about it? I could give you a three-step process… but that would be silly. I can tell you that having a cohesive, integrated business vision; that integrated life vision, helps. It gives you that touchpoint to say “Yes! This is who I am! This is why I’m here! I remember!” Alternatively, you might take a look at it again and say “This is what I thought I was doing here. But what I’m learning down here in the muck and the darkness is that it’s something different from that.” Maybe it’s more than that or maybe it’s less than that. Maybe it’s simpler than you thought!

Having the vision is something practical that you can do. It gives you something on paper to revisit. It gives you something that’s concrete and outside yourself. The vision can become a torch that you can hold up to say “I remember the path. I remember the path because I made a map and I can see that this path is on it. I will hold up this torch. Maybe right now I can’t see the whole path; or how I will get out of this muck that I’m creating in. But I have faith that it’s there. If I take those next steps out, I’m going to get where I want to be.That well-structured vision that you established allows you to hold up your own torch.

Sometimes, you need someone walking with you to hold the torch for you. You could have a coach, a mentor, or an adviser, to hold your torch and remind you “The path is here. The map is here. I’m here. You’re not alone. It’s dark, yes. I can’t change the fact that it’s dark, but I can tell you that you’re not alone.” Speaking for myself as a coach, it’s really powerful to hold the torch for you and to hold the space for you. You are the same brilliant, amazing, incredible person (who’s going to change the world) that you were before you started out on this hero’s journey.

Those are the practical tools. But really, I just wanted to let you know that I’m proud of you. I believe in you. You are on the right track. Carry on warrior. Carry on soldier. Just keep stepping forward. The darkness is there to support the growth. So be in it! Don’t be afraid! Tell the fear that this is not that kind of darkness. This is the darkness and the muck of rich fertile soil in which the ideas that you’re planting are going to flourish. I promise.

It’s totally normal. Not only totally normal, but it’s totally expected and even welcomed. It’s just hard to remember when you’re in the depths of that muck; that the muck was welcomed that it’s all part of the process. It’s okay. You’re not alone. I’m right here with you and I believe in you. The path is right there and you have a map. If you need me to hold the torch for you, let me know. I’m right here.

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Feeling overwhelmed by the scope of your product ideas? Trying not to create in a vacuum but feeling sucked in anyway? Plan your product development cycles to build in flexibility and play while making moolah along the way with the Spiral Product Design Roadmap.

it's free!
100% Privacy Guaranteed.