Paul Simon shares an unfinished version of “Still Crazy”
Before you start reading this, watch the above clip of Paul Simon on the Dick Cavett show. Cool, right? Now, think about how hard it is to share ideas with others. How often have you wanted to voice your opinion, but couldn’t collect your thoughts perfectly so you didn’t? Listen to how Simon completely, almost nonchalantly, surrenders his incomplete work, his sketched thoughts, to a national TV audience. That is bravery, you say.
But imagine if he hadn’t shared. Without his transparent process, we might never have gotten that brilliant key change into one of the most phenomenal bridges in songwriting history. Am I exaggerating? Maybe. But there are some big lessons that you and your team can take from his boldness.
Collaboration is imperative to finding answers that work for everyone. When you put an unfinished idea out into the room, you allow others to have input early on. You can shape a solution that will work for everyone. You also get the benefit of alternate perspectives, and this can really only improve your original thoughts.
Stop Editing. Start Creating. As songwriter Darrell Brown so eloquently wrote, “The ego of perfectionism will cut you off from the very cup you long to drink from.” Editing should occur well after ideation takes place. Separate these two processes as much as possible. Editing in your head to get a thought “more complete” is one of the biggest detriments to your idea flow. You’re stunting your own creative growth, firing down your own ideas, and undermining your methods.
Don’t let yourself get stuck. If you start to think you have a mental block, you’ll begin believe it’s there, and it will manifest itself in a matter of seconds. In writing workshops, instructors always tell you “There is no such thing as writer’s block.” So, if you can’t think of anything, just starting moving your pen. Try an collaboration exercise to clear the cobwebs. As Bukowski said best, “Even writing about a writer’s block is better than not writing at all.”
Give yourself time. Don’t come to a brainstorm cold. The longer you start thinking about a concept, the more you can bring to the table when the time comes to meet with your team. This allows your Eureka moments to happen, and it lets you develop ideas on your own to feel more comfortable speaking up with your team.