close up shot of a text in a frame


This is exactly what I needed to read this morning, because it makes me feel so much better about myself. I function just like this – tons of time spent staring at the screen, and then a flurry of violent typing for hours on end. It’s hard to have a creative process and try to fit it to a non-creative task, ya know? I often feel bad about myself for not being inspired more often, for needing to spend time just staring and processing, etc. But it’s what works for me, so why should I question it? I can spend a half an hour tweaking one sentence, organizing my thoughts as I arrange and re-arrange the words. Then I will go into the zone, and bang out thousands of words within a few hours. I’ve heard this from other people in creative professions, so it’s not like a new idea. 

The winner of Design Star last season – Emily – said something about how her process is to just stare at the room for a long, long time. That’s how she gets her inspiration and figures out how to move forward. From there she’s a whirlwind of design starriness, but to an outsider she probably just looks comatose in the beginning.

That’s one of the things that I love about working from home – there’s generally nobody that judges me for seemingly slacking off when I am actually deep in thought. I also enjoy that I no longer bother anyone with my frantic, high-speed, high-impact typing. The noise of keys clattering away while I put thoughts onto (virtual) paper is extraordinarily satisfying to me. Then there’s how I function best when listening and singing along to music. And how I like to use an exercise ball for a seat, but I’m naturally fidgety and take some medications that make me even more so. This results in me bouncing on the ball – to the tune of my music – like I’m trying to gain enough momentum to fling myself all the way up to the ceiling.

Long story short, I’m probably not suited for the corporate workplace. And I’m not going to feel bad about my staring time and typing time, because they are intrinsically connected and an essential part of who I am, creatively. Writer’s block is a real thing that I struggle with, but when you’re being paid to write for someone else, they don’t care about your trouble with inspiration. Nor should they, really. I don’t actually know how to reconcile all of this, but I do know that I felt better after reading this letter.

Here’s the transcript:


May 17, 2011

To Whom it May Inspire,

I, like many of you artists out there, constantly shift between two states. The first (and far more preferable of the two) is white-hot, “in the zone” seat-of-the-pants, firing on all cylinders creative mode. This is when you lay your pen down and the ideas pour out like wine from a royal chalice! This happens about 3% of the time.

The other 97% of the time I am in the frustrated, struggling, office-corner-full-of-crumpled-up-paper mode. The important thing is to slog diligently through this quagmire of discouragement and despair. Put on some audio commentary and listen to the stories of professionals who have been making films for decades going through the same slings and arrows of outrageous production problems.

In a word: PERSIST.

PERSIST on telling your story. PERSIST on reaching your audience. PERSIST on staying true to your vision. Remember what Peter Jackson said, “Pain is temporary. Film is forever.” And he of all people should know.

So next time you hit writer’s block, or your computer crashes and you lose an entire night’s work because you didn’t hit save (always hit save), just remember: you’re never far from that next burst of divine creativity. Work through that 97% of murky abyssmal [sic] mediocrity to get to that 3% which everyone will remember you for!

I guarantee you, the art will be well worth the work!

Your friend and mine,

Austin Madison


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