Monday, 19 May 2008

Why Pressure Is A Good Thing

I dip into Roxanne Darling’s Beach Walks whenever I get a chance. Or more likely whenever I remember to. Her daily little videos of thoughts and inspiration from the beach at Hawaii are worth a view.

In one of her latest videos ‘
Turn Off The Pressure’, she talks about the musician John Mayer who had a tour planned to promote his new album. However there’s a problem. He hasn’t written the new album yet, it’s not done. But he’s doing the tour anyway. Rox was saying what a great story that was; after all he can’t conjure up his new album just like that, it takes time to nurture that creativity to write and it’s good to turn off the pressure.

Whilst Rox is right about the benefits of turning off the pressure, I also think pressure is really important in making sure you deliver creativity. Without it, where’s the focus, where’s the deadline, where’s the guarantee you’re going to get something done? I have just been commissioned to write my second book – I have three months to write it, the deadline is the end of August. But the themes for the book are still just scribbles in my Moleskine, the editorial proposition has not been fully formed or agreed. With my first book, I knew exactly what I was going to be writing about before I got the deal. Indeed, I’d even written 15,000 words. This time round, it’s different but it’s much more pressured. Not only do I have three months to write the book, I also have to come up with the big ideas too. I have a blank canvas and I have to fill that with 40,000 words of a book that’s going to wow its readers and be a great success. Full of fresh ideas to motivate, inspire and get people changing their lives. That’s quite a tall order. And a lot of pressure. Because I have that deadline, I have to get moving.

And that’s why having pressure is a good thing – without a delivery date, without a contract that lays out my obligations, what would happen to my latest book idea? It would probably stay an idea in my head. At least this way – through pressure – I get it done. No choice. No manuscript means no book is published means no advance means no royalties…

If you want to get results, you have to apply the pressure.


Anonymous said...

Hi Ian - Yes you have a great point! Pressure is an interesting thing - it supports some people some times in getting to the goal but can also interrupt the creative process by inserting artificial boundaries.

I do like thinking about the opportunities though that are presented when we must live with certain limits and boundaries. Just like those tv contests that give contestants 3 props and x-amount of time - what can they make from it??

I think what I am exploring now in my life is what sort of pressure do I want to engage with and what sort of pressure am I willing to take a pass on? I thought John Mayer's story was a bit of a watershed in truth-telling and standing by oneself, while also making lemonade out of lemons.

Please add me to your notification list on the book and count me in as a supporter; pressure optional. :-)

Ian Sanders said...

Hi Roxanne, thanks for that.
You're right about the resonance of the John Mayer story; and it's good to take a stand and not (always) bow to commercial pressure. We need to hear more stories of creativity winning in that sense.
Not withstanding my own position on pressure with Book #2, I know that I need to liberate myself from day-to-day pressures in order to be creative. I am not going to have those big ideas at my desk but more likely in the coffee shop, in the bath and on the beach (I have a beach here in Leigh-on-Sea; not quite as cool as yours!!). I agree - you can't contrive creativity, you need to give it space.

Thanks for the support Rox..