Ed Sheeran & Creativity

Communication, Insights

I don't know if you know Ed Sheeran but I'm guessing you've heard one of his songs, with him singing, or something he's authored for someone else. There's no question he knows how to write songs – even if you don't like any of them.

Is there something, when it comes to creativity, that we can learn from Ed? I think so.

Here's a video you might have seen. But if you haven't seen it, I'll get you the quote that's most important.

“When you stick on an old tap, it runs out muddy water for about a minute and then it starts flowing clean water,” said Sheeran, “songwriting and doing gigs is like that.”

Ed Sheeran

If you've read anything on my blog this year, maybe you've noticed a trend – the whole daily writing thing. I've told you about it and the benefits from doing it. I've also shared some of how to do it.

But what I haven't ever done is explain a bit of the mechanics. And I think this quote from Ed Sheeran gets to the bottom of the issue.

Most of us stare at a blank page, even if we know we “should” write, and feel the stress of writing something great.

But what if we didn't do that? What if we took the Ed Sheeran approach.

Here's what I mean.

Ed's quote highlights a simple dynamic that I've appreciated and leveraged but never was able to articulate as well as his metaphor.

The trick isn't to expect that your first words, first paragraphs, first posts are great. The trick is to know that they'll suck. And then to persist past the crap.

Ed Sheeran expects that the first ideas and first lyrics will suck. There's a great documentary where you watch him compose a song. It's the best way to watch the muddy water come out and clear out.

Let's imagine you walked into a gym.

Would you go to the weights and pick up the heaviest weights? Not likely.

Would you head to the bike, jump on, and ride for an hour on your first visit?

What you know, instinctively, is that you need to warm up.

So are you doing the same thing with your writing? I bet not. I bet you put yourself in front of the screen and start trying to write something great.

So what does this look like for writing?

I use two approaches that might help you.

When it comes to writing a talk, I use my iPhone and record my initial story. I try it several different ways and try to get the timing right. Too short and it won't do what I want it to do (pull in an audience). Too long and people get bored (and wonder when I'll get to the good stuff).

I imagine that stand up comedians do the same thing. (At least that's what I tell myself).

When it comes to writing a post, I often write drafts. Many of those drafts never become blog posts. And every few months I go back and throw a bunch of those drafts away because they're just muddy water.

But other times I go back to those drafts and they inspire me to write a post, only I end up completely rewriting them.

Either way, I'm creating before I create. I'm getting the muddy water out so that the clear water can come out.

That's all I got for you. Hope it helps.

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