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FFF: Rut-Busting Formulas (GWTW358)

How do you change things? How do you shake things up? How do you make the shift from always doing the exact same things, the exact same way and discover new possibilities? These are the questions that are driving what I’m calling Free-Form Fridays (FFF), an exploration into what is possible with Getting Work To Work. Here are a few things that I did differently this week:

  1. No music!
  2. No editing!
  3. No script!
  4. A full show transcript!
  5. 100% more llama cartoons!

I’m looking forward to trying new techniques and formats in the coming weeks. If there’s something you think I should tinker with, send it my way at chris@chrismartinstudios.com.

Show Transcript

How do you change things? How do you shake things up? How do you make the shift from always doing the exact same things, the exact same way and discover new possibilities? You’re listening to Getting Work To Work. I’m Chris Martin, and every Friday for a while now I’m going to embark on what I’m going to call Free-Form Fridays. The reason why is because three years into this show I’ve fallen into some predictable grooves. I open up a document, I take the structure that I have, and I just start making the notes and forming my thoughts.

What I’m doing differently on Free-Form Fridays is I’m just going to hit record and see where it goes, and it’s going to sound a lot different. I’m going to try my best even not to edit what I’m saying, and that’s going to be a challenge because I’ve found my groove and I’ve gotten a little bit bored with the groove. As I start thinking about it, what am I learning? What am I trying? Am I really doing new things? Am I chasing big ideas in this format?

The interesting thing about iterative work, episodic work, if you will, is that you’re playing with formats. You’re playing with ways to do things. With podcasting, I found a very good format that works for me. I have my show intro, I have my episode intro, I have my episode content, and I have an outro. What’s interesting is you can do a lot of interesting things. And I’ll still have the normal monologues on Wednesdays where I follow that format, but surely I could learn how to talk better, be able to form thoughts in a way that aren’t as scripted, aren’t as outlined, and that’s what I’m going to explore in this Free-Form Friday. I’m going to explore just, what am I thinking about? What are the unpolished thoughts? What are the things that aren’t always connected to the books that I’m reading or connected to the ideas?

I think that’s one of the fears when you get into creative work. You start thinking about, “Well, what if I get into a situation that I don’t know how to get out of?” I know for myself, that’s something that I’ve struggled with a lot. It’s like I limit myself so that I don’t have to wonder or worry if I’ll get out of a situation.

So what about you? What are the things that you’re doing right now that you feel pretty good about but you know you need to shake up, you know you need to make some changes? Are you willing to evolve your work into something new? What are you going to do to evolve that work? How will you play with the format? How will you play with the functions of your work, the foundations, and all of the fun F words that come into play when it comes to all of the things that you’re doing?

As I think about improvisation, as I think about the things that I’ve told myself over the years, I’ve told myself that I’m not good in the moment, I’m not good on the fly. But, I’ve just been telling myself a lie. It might not be as polished, it might not be as right there in the moment, but it’s there. I just have to learn to talk. That is the difference.

And I think as I started thinking about a conversation that I had earlier this week for an upcoming episode, I was more improvisational. I was more in the moment. I was more responding to the other person as opposed to this is my list of questions and this is what I have to say. That’s how I often approach creativity. I know with my work, I know how I’m going to approach a video project. I know how I’m going to approach an interview. I know how I’m going to approach a podcast. But, surely it’s not just that. How can I change the way I think? How can I change the pre-production of a video project? How can I change my thinking, and how it comes into play when it comes to this creative work?

Can an old dog learn new tricks? Can I get past the the ways that I’ve learned to do things and try new things? I think the answer to that question is absolutely. Because if I can’t learn new things now, what makes me think that I could’ve learned them when I was younger when I didn’t know any better or when I didn’t think as I do now? I was very much fixed mindset when I was a kid and a young adult. I was also very arrogant. So what made me think that I could learn anything new if I thought I already knew it all?

That is really what’s interesting to me. I’m fascinated with this idea of iterative work. I love the idea that in the age of the internet that we have now we can create just about every form of episode, whether it’s podcast, whether it’s Netflix series, whether it’s documentary series, film series, narrative series, all of these series. We can create sequential work in amazing ways and we can get into ruts so much faster now because of that iteration. We can get into ruts so cheaply because we can create work so fast now that we don’t even know the ruts that we’re creating until we realize that we’re in them.

So how do you rut bust your work? How do you rut bust your life? The interesting thing about rut busting is that it requires learning. It requires putting yourselves in situations where you have to learn from new people. The people that you’ve surrounded yourself might not be the people that you need to be around because you need to be around the people that are going to challenge you, that are going to rut bust for you, when they look at your life and say, “Wow, you’re stagnant,” or they stop sending you those messages saying that they’re taking in the work that you’re doing.

Think about the people that you’re connected to and when you reach out to them and praise what they’re doing and it’s because they’re trying new things probably. Or maybe you’re seeing a characteristic of an authorship or a creative viewpoint that they’re bringing forth in the world and you want to celebrate that. But are you getting that for yourself? And I think if you’re not, I think the reality is you’re stuck. You’re stuck in this idea of this is how it needs to be in order to keep doing this on a daily, weekly, monthly basis.

But, you can evolve. You can learn new things. You can try things. You can adapt your form. You can adapt your function. You can evolve. And that is full of freedom. There is freedom in learning how to play. There’s freedom in learning how to try new things. There’s freedom in busting through things like self-doubt. There’s freedom in not sabotaging yourself.

It’s really an interesting time to be a creative because the barriers are only often in our minds. How do you push through the barriers that you’re creating for your life, your work? How do you bust through those barriers that are oftentimes in the forms of ruts? How do you practice when everything needs to be perfect? How do you even allow yourself to doubt without it destroying who you are as a person?

Well, I think that the answer to this question is really found in just sit down and work. If you’re a podcaster, hit record without a script. Or if you’re improv, sit down and script it. Just shake it up completely. If you’re a filmmaker that specializes in one form over another, switch it up. Think about how you could create a narrative instead of a documentary or how you could create a documentary instead of a narrative. If you’re an artist, switch mediums. Instead of a pencil, why not draw with a pen, or your finger, or your toes?

I think a lot about this because it’s what’s necessary to bring a sense of joy and lightness to the work again. Because if I always feel like I have to be perfect every single time, what’s going to happen is I’m going to eventually spend more time editing than I am recording and spending more time trying to perfect the mistakes than I am in just coming up with the ideas in the first place.

The idea for this episode today really came from a conversation with a client. The question that I asked was, how did you learn how to talk? The response was eventually you just have to talk. That’s really what it comes down to creative work. How do you learn how to create? You can read every book known to humankind to learn how to create and still not know the bare essentials on what it means to create. So what do you do? You just create. Because the interesting thing about creation is that while it is about you as the creator, it’s ultimately about what people feel when they experience your work.

I think about this a lot because I want people to feel empowered. I want people to feel that they can take action. I want people to take action on their creative work when they listen to my podcast, when they engage with me as a person. I want them to light up and go. And that’s really what I think we need to spend a lot of time considering. What do we want people to feel when they engage with us?

I love drawing silly llama cartoons in the morning for my wife’s lunch. These provide me with just a silly sense of drawing. I’m not the greatest artist in the world, but even that is a limiting statement because it limits whether I would continue doing it in any capacity. But the reality is it makes my wife happy, which fuels my desire to keep drawing. She would show these cartoons to her coworkers and they would love them, too. It would make them smile and laugh. So what value does that make for me as an artist? I make people laugh and smile with my cartoons. Why should I not be a better artist then than I am in my mind? Because I haven’t made money? Because I’m not a brilliant renderist? Well, that doesn’t make any sense, especially if you really get back to why do you do art. Is it to say something or to help others feel something?

In this podcast, do I want people to feel something? Yeah, but I want them to think. I want them to think. I want them to act. I want them to feel. I want people to create. That’s what I love. I love it when people finally stop asking if it’s okay and just start making stuff, having an opinion, having something to say, having no fear of whether something’s perfect or not. That’s what I love about creating.

Free-Form Fridays, I’m not sure how long I’m going to do this, but I’m going to use it as a platform for myself to try new things, to play with the format, and to not worry about whether something’s perfect or not. I’m not even going to edit this episode. I’m going to leave all my stumbles, all of my mistakes, and I’m going to add some music in the beginning, maybe. What if I tried nothing? Why do I need music? Why do I need this form that I found? Sure, it’s entertaining, but let’s try it out. Let’s try this out. Let’s try this out with no intro, outro music. What could happen? Well, maybe if I paid for the statistics in my hosting platform I’d see maybe a change in the partial listens. But, I don’t know. I only get the full, the full listens.

So moral of the story, play with your format. Play with the function of your work. Play with your foundation. Shake it up. Try new things. Break free of the creative ruts that you’re in. And if you don’t know if you’re in a creative rut or not, guess what? You probably are and don’t even know it yet. And it’s okay to be in a creative rut because you have choices, you have opportunities to get out of that rut. You have the unbelievable ability to climb up any barriers that hold you in place.

I don’t care who you are, you can get out of any rut that you’re in by surrounding yourself with different people that challenge you, that asks questions, that allow you to talk, that allow you to listen, but that also allow you to be like, “I didn’t consider that. What if I tried something new?” At the same time holding up a mirror to yourself and saying, “Do I like what I see in the exercises that have produced who I am as a creative?” Because everything that we do is exercise. Everything that we do as practice, whether it’s professionally perfect or not, but it all comes back to feeling and that value of impact.

Until next time, may creativity and curiosity fuel your life. I guess I always have to end it that way. Or do I? I like that sign-off. I used to say, “Now get out there and get to work,” but I like fueling your life. Why not shake it up? Why not try different things? Why not just let the episode end? Kind of like Pull Me Under from Dream Theater just ends.

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