What? Did she just say, “Stop reading?” Yes, I did. Read this article first, though, before you stop.
Here’s the deal. For many creative endeavors, research is a good idea. If you are choosing to write or speak about a topic that is new to you, finding out what is already written about that topic helps you sound smart and keeps you looking like the informed, hip person you want to be.
Yet, there is a downside to living in Google-land, and it’s not just information overload. Within a click or two, you will likely find someone who said what you were going to say, knows something more on the subject than you thought you knew, and possibly has much more poise and grace than you think you do in presenting the information to the world.
Just this evening, I spent a few minutes reading an article by a well-known author and life coach. Turns out my whole theory of why learning to play the cello and learning how to swim as an adult freed me up to be a better writer, coach, and parent not only has a name—“deep practice”—but also a boatload of scientific research to back it up. Terrific, I thought. This article says everything I was going to explore, but better!
I had the same experience while cranking out my book proposal. I flipped open a few pages written by one of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott, and felt my creative juices begin to evaporate. “I’ll never be able to write like her! She has such a way with words!” It was at that point that I banned myself from reading my beloved Annie while working on a writing deadline.
You have something to say in a way that only you can say it. Sure, the information is out there, and yes, someone else is passionate about the same thing you are. If you look long enough—and depending on your level of vulnerability, one or two minutes can be plenty long enough—you will find something that convinces you that you really didn’t need to be doing what you thought was important in the first place. At that point, or better yet–a few minutes before that happens–stop reading!
Just stop. That thought, idea, inspiration, good idea or creative impulse came into you to be explored, grown, and birthed. Let it breathe before you shut it down. Don’t use research as a distraction or as evidence of why you need not move forward. The stuff you’ll make up is hogwash. Self-sabotage. Creative, I’ll give you that, but not ultimately very useful. Stop reading. Right now. Go play. Go create. I mean it.
You’re still reading? Get outta here already! Go!