How to Conquer Your Greatest Creativity-Killer

Clayton Makepeace

Oh — hi. Could you hang on just a minute? You caught me smack-dab in the middle of counting my blessings …

Okay — so lessee here … I’m blessed with an amazing woman … an ideal mom for my kids … and the perfect business partner.

 … And I pray they never meet.

(OOF! No fair slugging the copywriter, Wendy — I was only kidding!)

In addition to being the perfect match for me, The Redhead has decorated our lives with two astonishing kids: My 22-year-old daughter is blindingly brilliant, drop-dead gorgeous, an amazing equestrian, and the most considerate, loving, and self-sufficient young woman imaginable.

My 21-year-old son is a little Einstein, studly, staggeringly creative, has a steel-trap memory, is a fearsome nose guard and defensive tackle and — when he’s not making quarterbacks wish they’d taken up knitting instead of football — just might be the single most affectionate human being to ever grace the planet.

One of our homes is nearly a mile-high in a quaint little town in the eye-stabbingly green Smoky Mountains, surrounded by 100-mile views of hardwood forests. There’s no crime to speak of and never a traffic jam. Winters are mild and summers are cool.

The other is in sunny Florida, with the ocean steps away to beckon and revitalize.

Work? Couldn’t be much better. My copywriting is kicking butt and taking names — I’ve got a gaggle of strong direct mail controls, web promotions, and Video Sales Letters exceeding expectations for clients … a bunch more being written and designed … clients who are a ball to work with … and a long list of opportunities looming …

Life is great!
 … So why do I get so freaking

DEPRESSED sometimes?!!

Despite all the great things going on in my life, I began feeling a little down in the dumps last week.

That’s not good: For creative folks like me — and for all copywriters, designers, and marketing pros — depression can be a career killer.

When you’re depressed, your energy flees, your focus fuzzes up, your creativity goes AWOL — and if you don’t do something about it (and quick!) — your income craters and your reputation and career chase it right down the tubes.

In short, depression is one of the costliest BUSINESS problems any of us ever deal with!

Conversely, the ability to identify and neutralize depression quickly are two of the most valuable skills any entrepreneur or marketer could possibly acquire: They empower you to add scores more productive and profitable hours, days, and weeks to your year.

If you’re a writer or designer, diffusing depression quickly lets you explode through depression-driven creative blocks … create better promos faster … complete more projects per year … and — you guessed it — get bigger winners, more often.

And if you’re a business-owner and/or marketing pro, it gives you the oomph to get things done, develop more ingenious product and marketing ideas, manage more effectively, and get richer faster.

Now I’m no shrink — but I AM older than dirt, so I’ve had nearly a half-century to think about this …

For me at least, creativity-killing depression comes from three places …

1. Too many drugs, so little time … And when I say “drugs,” I’m referring to my three personal favorites: 1) Grey Goose, 2) Starbucks, and 3) Marlboro Lights.

Once upon a time, I could pretty much party for a straight 48 hours and never pay the piper. I could do Friday and Saturday at Sloppy Joe’s, ride the 14 or 15 hours home from Key West, and still show up for work bright and bushy-tailed first thing Monday morning.

These days, not so much: This old body of mine demands at least 72 hours to get over a weekend like that. And it’s going to put me through a period of pretty intense chemical mopery before my wife, friends, total strangers, the local constabulary, my lawyer, and my creative muse begin speaking to me again.

Goes without saying: Losing 72 hours of creative time each week would make it nearly impossible for me to continue living the comfortable life to which I’ve become accustomed. And so, I’ve been forced into a life of relative abstinence — punctuated, of course, by the occasional not-so-graceful swan dive off the wagon at vacation time.

Caffeine and nicotine are something else altogether. I can’t walk, speak, or think until I’ve had a couple mugs of Joe in the morning. Problem is, it’s 2:00 p.m. before I know it, and by then, my get-up-and-go — and the positive mood it gives me — has got up and skedaddled.

It’s no mystery why: When it comes to energy, caffeine giveth and caffeine taketh away. The first couple of cups give me a jolt of energy — the next pot or two take it all back. And as energy craters, it takes my mood with it.

And of course, it would be even worse if I was inhaling nicotine — an infamous depressant — with all that coffee … fortunately, I quit those a few years ago.

What’s the solution? The dreaded “M” word: Moderation.

I find that when I switch to Dasani after my first two cups of java — and leave the smokes alone — my mood brightens, my energy levels skyrocket, and creativity oozes out of every pore.

So alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine are the big three depression-inducing drugs for me. I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that at least one of them will be behind your next blue mood, too. And I’ll bet if you recognize that and practice a little prudent moderation, you’ll find you’re having fewer poopy days, fewer times per year.

On the plus side, there IS a mood-brightening drug I can’t recommend highly enough — and that I absolutely hate taking. You don’t need a prescription — in fact, you can’t buy it anywhere at any price: It’s free.

I’m talking about endorphins — you get them by doing aerobic exercise: Swimming, walking, running, that kind of stuff.

Do an hour in the morning before you go to work for two weeks, and you’ll be absolutely amazed at how much happier you are, how much more productive you become, and how much more moolah you rake in!

2. Lies your brain tells you: What’s that you say? You don’t drink, smoke, or dance the hootchie-coo? There’s no way a chemical is the cause of your sorry mood?

It’s just that some terrible thing has happened that gives you the right to be depressed? The promotion you just knew would make you a gazillion bucks flopped flatter than a flapjack? You’re broker than a sailor after shore leave and the bill collectors are calling nonstop?

Hey — I’ve been there. More times than I care to talk about in my younger days. It sucks.

But it doesn’t mean you have to suffer from depression-related brain-block, too!

The fact is, you get to choose how you’ll feel in response to just about any event that happens to you!

Some years back, a really smart guy figured out nearly all of the things that happen to us in life are neither good NOR bad, but neutral.

See, everything that happens to you passes through a little “belief filter” in your brain — a conviction you’ve come to hold about yourself and/or the world around you.

What comes out is a composite thought — the fact of the event plus the spin your belief filter put on it. And that thought triggers an emotion — happiness or depression, for example.

These filters can be positive, as in “I’m brilliant,” “I’m a winner,” “I always come out smelling like a rose” …

 … or they can be negative — as in “I’m a dope, a fraud.” “I’m a loser,” “Everything I touch turns to crapola.”

Here’s the golden key: Nearly all the belief filters we have are utter nonsense. But because most folks have no idea they’re even there and even fewer really ever examine them, we don’t realize that they’re little more than claptrap and twaddle.

The objective truth is, nobody is ALWAYS a winner or a loser … creative or dull … brilliant or a dunce.

And for all our trepidations, hardly any of the superficially adverse events we experience actually trigger the humiliations or catastrophes that our negative belief filters tend to foretell for us.

So the next time depression has you creatively hog-tied, try this …

  • First, identify the negative thought that triggered your lousy mood.
  • Then, ask yourself, “Is that thought valid?” (99.9% of the time it is not!)
  • Ask yourself, “Is the belief filter that triggered that negative thought valid?” (Again: Almost never.)
  • Finally, ask yourself, “How should I change that belief about myself and/or the world to bring it in line with reality?”

You’ll be amazed at how quickly even the lousiest mood evaporates in the blinding light of the objective truth!

3. Self-obsession: I learned this simple fact of life many years ago — and wind up re-learning it all the time.

The simple fact is, when my focus is on others’ well-being, I’m happier.

The Redhead is a living example of this principle. Nearly 100% of her time is spent thinking about and fulfilling others’ needs. Me. The kids. The grandkids. Our employees. Her mom, sisters, and nieces.

And 99.9% of the time, she has a big, brilliant grin on her face.

Conversely, I notice that when I’m trying to find things that will make me happy — new toys, vacations, etc. — I’m actually less happy than when I’m focused on others.

So where’s your focus? Are you obsessed with your own feelings and the state of your life? If so, there’s a good chance that those feelings are not positive ones.

Try doing something to improve someone else’s life today — you’ll be amazed at how quickly your mood lifts!

Well, thank you for visiting with me … hope it helps!

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Published: January 12, 2017

10 Responses to “How to Conquer Your Greatest Creativity-Killer”

  1. Great article. Yes, being extroverted and helping others is what makes life worthwhile. Oh, those good ole' days of burning both ends of the candle. Now us oldsters get to reap the glory of "being wise."Thanks again1

    Guest (Tina)January 12, 2017 at 2:26 pm

  2. Nicely done. #3, serving others, I have found, trumps all the others. One could even say the purpose of living is to help others. Helping others has even been known to bring the insane back to sanity (no kidding).

    John Chambers OregonJanuary 12, 2017 at 2:35 pm

  3. Well said!
    A life well-led is all about contributing to others.
    Mike Schwagler Seattle

    Guest (Mike)January 12, 2017 at 3:23 pm

  4. I love the way Clayton writes. He is funny, deliberate and makes his points well!!

    And he lives in TN sometimes where I am from originally.



    Guest (Leslie Pearce)January 12, 2017 at 4:20 pm

  5. Clayton,

    Loved this excellent soul searching article! How absolutely thought provoking. I will remember it when the time comes (how many times a week?).

    Thank you!

    Sincerely, Connie hand

    Guest (Connie Hand)January 12, 2017 at 6:02 pm

  6. Thanks for this. Clayton must be the Hemingway of copywriters. As he spoke of creativity and depression, this message gave me a new appreciation of him. Since I'm not affected by his 3 drugs, I'm thinking about taking up alcohol, just for the boost when I quit.

    Jerry WaxmanJanuary 12, 2017 at 10:58 pm

  7. That was one of the best TWLs I've read. Thanks.

    Scott GJanuary 13, 2017 at 4:54 am

  8. This little gem of insight and advise is exactly what I needed to read tonight. Thanks! :)

    Guest (gfr)January 15, 2017 at 1:11 am

  9. Thanks Clayton Makepeace. That was exactly what I needed this morning. I have been struggling with this new career of copywriting but mostly due to my lack ofcommittment and faith in the unknown that it can actually work! I very much believe you become what you believe and one of my goals for making this work is so I can help others as well as myself to success in life. I loss that drive in a failed attempt to get this off the ground, after spending more then I should have to get started. Wish I could enroll in your series however not able to at this time but thanks for the kick I needed to get going!

    S HollowayJanuary 16, 2017 at 9:00 am

  10. Someone mentioned this was one of the best TWLs he's ever read.

    I don't know what a TWL is, but if it's a piece of writing TOLD WITH LOVE then I couldn't agree more.

    Thanks Clayton.

    Guest (Lorna Macintosh)November 14, 2018 at 8:15 pm

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