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The Agony of Creation

Posted by & filed under Personal Growth.

baby stepsI feel like I’m going through lesson number one of life—and I’m not sure what the lesson is.

I don’t care where you are in life or how old you are, in so many ways you have just begun. Concentrate on purpose, product, principles, procedure, and people. THEN there will be a payoff. Keep in mind life-changing principles that will be relevant for at least 200 years.

I love biographies. I can read them or watch them on TV all day long.

T Bone Burnett is an American musician, songwriter, and soundtrack/record producer. In 2000, Burnett (when he was 52 years old) produced the soundtrack and wrote the score for the Coen Brothers film O Brother, Where Art Thou?.

He loved this type of music—American folk, blues, and bluegrass. He grew up with it. It was a part of his inner being. His passion.

In 1986 (14 years earlier) he released a self-titled album reminiscent of this type of music. It did not make national news or even sell enough to talk about.

But he kept on believing.

He believed in and pushed like crazy against all odds for this movie to be made and for him to write the score and produce the album. This was totally against what Hollywood was looking for and what the music business in general would consider a success at all.

I assure you the music industry did not think in the year 2000 that an album of traditional American folk music, blues, and bluegrass would become a worldwide commercial hit.

Music that many thought was a hit only in the Appalachian Mountains—suddenly broke into the mainstream and the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack sold over 10 million copies worldwide.

Yes, TEN Million records!!

The album was a monster hit. It garnered numerous industry awards from the Grammys, Academy of Country Music, and the Country Music Association. Burnett even won the 2002 Grammy Award for Producer of the Year, Non-Classical.

It is never too late to do something outstanding. You can never assume you have peaked. OR that you are never going to peak. Or even experience a “peak.”

As long as you are breathing there is still the possibility of more, of something greater. You never know when a book or album will sell 10 million copies. Or a movie will generate $10 million.

That is the reason that creation must be continuous. Constantly looking for new angles, for new products, for new presentations, new proposals, and more people.

There will always be a struggle to be heard. There’s always a struggle to know what to say, what to write, what to sing. You must learn to break through those struggles with certainty.

Struggle is not a stigma. It is natural. It has been since the beginning of time. Nothing just pops into existence. It is all a birthing process.

Is this post resonating with you? If so, click here to tweet this: “Struggle is natural. Nothing just pops into existence. It is all a birthing process.”

Giving birth is a process with a lot of pain (I am told). There is then a long process of that baby growing and becoming a toddler, a child, a teen, an adolescent, an adult.

The product you’re producing is probably still in the toddler/child stage. You must keep feeding and nourishing this product. Write ad copy, promote with unique campaigns, and publicize using every format available.

Be calm. Be patient with you. Make sure you are doing what you love. Something that you must do whether you get paid for it or not. That it keeps you up late at night and gets you up early in the morning. These are the things that you are passionate about.

Step away from you. And look at your life from a 30,000-foot point of view. Get the big picture and keep it in mind on a daily basis.

For some reason we forget the daily part of our existence. There are lots of daily things we do that we don’t even think about: taking a shower, brushing our teeth, getting dressed, sleeping, and of course the all time favorite—eating.

Discover the mindset you must have, do these things daily, and demand that you hold yourself to a higher standard on a daily basis.

This will be much easier to do and a habit quickly formed if you live as if this were your last day. I am proud of you and it is critical that you be proud of yourself. VERY proud!!

What are YOU creating right now? What setbacks are you experiencing? Leave a comment and let me know!

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  • Tommi K. Korhonen

    Great post once again!

  • Robert – This post couldn’t be more relevant to me right now. I’m in the process of creating multiple things – it’s like I’m birthing twins (I should be prepared since I have a set at home). I’m finishing my e-book for my site and editing my full book which I will pursue publishing later this year. Not to mention, blogs, engaging my readers and running my insurance agency. Oh yeah, and I decided to train for another Half Ironman. Sometimes I look at myself and say, “What am I doing?!?!” But I know that I’m walking the path I’ve been called.

    Here’s my question:

    I read a quote this week from my pastor who said, “Preserving success is the road to failure.”

    In deciding between my current career, my insurance agency, and my passion, writing and speaking, how do I manage the time between the two? My heart tells me to write and get the book edited and start seeking publishing. My head tells me to not let a good thing get away with my agency. Thoughts?

    • Hey Matt! Thank-YOU for the kind words.

      It truly does sound like you have a lot on your plate right now, which is always good, but never easy.

      Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as a “yes” or “no” to your dilemma, as I’m sure you are aware. If your heart is in writing and speaking, you should be writing and speaking. At the same time, you can’t ignore what is currently your main source of income.

      The question you have to ask over and over is: Who do I have to become in order to [insert your desired result here]?

      Something has to change in order for you to make your passion a full-time job. Maybe it means getting less sleep. Maybe it means scheduling an isolated weekend in a cabin so you can focus on writing. Maybe it means outsourcing more responsibilities associated with your insurance agency.

      I don’t know what “it” is, but it’s likely the combination of several of those kinds of changes. Experiment. See what works. And remember that it IS possible.

      • Robert – as always you are spot on! I have talked with my Associate about taking more responsibility for the agency in 2014 which will lighten that load.

        I know that I am becoming who God wants me to be as I am pursuing Him with all my heart. I honestly think the e-book will pick up traffic to the site and help me create my voice. And at some point in time, my story will touch the right heart or hearts as God orchestrates opportunities based on my action!

        He does not fail to answer, although his timing is not always our own, so we must be patient and discern while we “Persist”!

        Thank you for being such an awesome encourager!

        • That’s HUGE that you have someone who can take on more responsibility, Matt! Continue looking for ways to focus on doing only the things that only YOU can do.

  • William Howell

    I have had set back after set back in trying to open a coffee shop debt free. My wife and I have had this dream for a long time to open a coffee shop that is vital to the community and that reaches out to people in need. The major set back is finances (which is ironic). I haven’t given up because I know in my heart that we are to do this.

    • Thanks for sharing, William! You and your wife are wise to focus on opening up debt free. That would be a HUGE thing to achieve.

      Regarding the finances, think of it this way: You and your wife are not actually short on finances. You are only short one idea. One idea can change everything.

      I’m curious…have you tried testing this business idea on a small scale? For example, creating a name and packaging design for the bags, and seeing what people think of your coffee? What are the baby steps you could be taking right now that would be relatively inexpensive to test?

      • William Howell

        Thanks Robert for your encouragement! Yes, we recently began a branding campaign for our website and social media. We are also creating our baked goods for purchase as well which has generated some interest but no bites yet. We also are in communication with a branding company who has been giving us some great ideas on getting our name known.

        After reading Michael Hyatt’s book Platform and your book No Brand is an Island, I am convinced that we are on the right track and just need to do a little retweaking.

    • Guest

      Jon a successful group of independent coffee stores near me have the backing of an entrepreneur who is using them as an investment. He puts up the capital and then finds a motivated manager to run the store. In return the manager gets 25% equity in the business. Could this be a model you follow and go find an entrepreneur? With interest rates at record lows there are a lot of investors looking for higher paying returns than the banks, coffee stores appears to be one. Just my toonies worth.

    • Stay Debt Free! That is the biggest thing sucking the growth potential out of my business.

      • William Howell

        I agree. With the rate of small businesses that open and fail with in 18 months, I don’t want to put that on the tombstone of my business.

  • For me the struggle has been focus. I enjoy so much, so I think I have been afraid to invest all my time working in the niche of who I am. A fear to commit perhaps?

    • Jon, it very well could be a fear to commit OR possibly a fear of diving deeper. When you start focusing in on one thing, you are often confronted with tons of new challenges that can be very daunting. That keeps many people from getting beyond the “start” phase with a new project.

    • Jon sorry posted in the wrong stream – see my response in William’s comment below re independent coffee stores.

  • Great post! I am in the process of creating/writing my first nonfiction book….a HUGE dream of mine and a message I feel strongly that God is leadin me to share. I believe this year is MY year to have a break-through with this project – to land an agent or publisher or something big! You’re so right with your statement that it’s a constant struggle to be heard and also to know what to say and what to do…

    • WooHoo, Courtney! Congrats on taking the step to do that! Keep working on the little things every day that will eventually lead you to those big goals.

  • Dell Anne Hines Afzal

    I published my first two books with a publisher but now the short stories I post on my website don’t seem so important to get them “published.” Now my main focus is to only offer anyone who cares just a glimpse of a more simple time and place. My writing began as my own personal way to tell each person just what they meant to me. I was extremely blessed to have shared that love with my two favorite aunts before they left our presence. These works certainly were not very professional but heart-felt just the same and each appeared grateful for the efforts. Another was sent to a treasured member of my family in hopes he recognized how much he meant to me. Each time I travel back into my own wonderful memories, I feel compelled to write them down, even if my audience may be limited. One day when I’m gone from this earth, someone just might say…wow, that took a lot of effort on ‘Old Grandma’s’ part. It is very rewarding personally to see my words penned for eternity. I continue to share my family’s life lessons and share a loving family with anyone who cares to visit. To you, Robert, thanks for all the support and inspiration you send my way; you have helped me in this tremendous endeavor and I am truly blessed. My “Creation” started as a simple love note to those I loved but now I get the BIG picture…! It has been a growing process for ME and has truly opened my eyes to what’s important!

  • Greg Hill


    E-Book for personal site above (Newsletter Incentive)

    Temporary Setbacks:

    I am a decent writer and I have all the materials I need to
    put the book together. But I am having a difficult time making it cohesive .I
    also thought about hiring a freelancer to help but I it’s hard for someone I don’t
    know to understand what Im trying to get at and speak my language which will resonate
    with my audience. I just really want to make sure my ebook is a TRUE value add
    not just a cog to increase readership.

    Thanks for the Post. I know the bigger purpose and I will
    keep pushing. God is good!

    • An eBook will be a great tool for your website, Greg. Very exciting!

      I would forget about any negative thoughts you may have about hiring a freelancer to help with the cohesiveness and move forward with that immediately. Doing so will help in a massive way. Even best-selling, world-famous authors have editors who help shape and influence the final form of their books. A second set of wise eyes will always help.

      Give someone a try and see if the relationship works. And keep focusing on the value for your readers!

  • Kevin S. Bemel

    We all face obstacles or challenges but they need not be setbacks if we subsume them into the creative process. That I was not able to complete certain projects last year because I spent more time on active navy duty than I thought I would has only meant what I create this year will be better thought out and capable of helping people.

    I agree with you Robert that creation is a struggle. If it were not would the end result be worthwhile for anyone?

    • That is a GREAT question to ask, Kevin. Thanks! Brings a whole new perspective.

  • Thanks so much for this, Robert. I just turned 31 and have had a lot of “start-over” and “now what” instances in the last year. After care-taking for my mom and walking through an 18-year battle with cancer, she went home to be with the Lord in late 2012. At the time of diagnosis, I was 11. She took her last breath two weeks after my 30th. Since I was a young teenager, I’ve had dreams of making a difference in people’s lives and adding value to them. I learned a lot about priorities and sacrifice at a young age. As a communicator, strategist, and coach, there’s no greater desire I have than to teach, equip, and empower people to bring focus to their God-given purpose, clarity to their everyday life, and keys to help strengthen their commitment to remain consistent in their growth as a leader. I have a few projects on the burner, one of which is a book, and I believe 2014 has some momentum with which I can dig-in on a greater level. With the devastation and heart-break in my personal life, I just want to use it to make a difference in someone else’s life. Your blog is fantastic. I’m so grateful for it. Thank you!

    • Hey Christopher! I’m so sorry to hear of your loss, but happy to hear that the years you spent with your mom gave you a perspective that will enable you to help so many more. Here’s to your 2014!

  • Sheriff Huey Hoss Mack

    As a Sheriff and Elected Official there are many days I feel very distracted from what I believe God’s purpose is for my life. As always thanks for the encouragement. Focus is by God, distraction by the one who comes to destroy.

  • Robert – I was going to reply earlier in the day; computer issues hit me. At that time, I was thinking of the creation going on in my eldest daughter about to give birth (any day) to the first grandson in the family (wahoo!). I come back now to fully read your post and you have aptly stated the birthing analogy. Weeks and months pass, the kid gets closer to arriving. Physical stuff is happening all the time in Mama. The baby drops and is about to make his grand entrance…and Mama really KNOWS it…pain….before the blessing of new life / new creation. A great line in the movie THE MIGHTY MACS…..without the struggle, we cannot harvest the glory.
    For me currently, little by little over time marking steps in the right direction. Had a generic looking blog; enhanced it with MH’s Get Noticed Theme. About to have some other work done to get a subscription link built this week….my laptop crashes…we move onward.
    Really appreciate the thoughts suggested in your post….!!

  • Tony Wright

    Hi Robert, another great post. I most liked “It is never too late to do something outstanding.” I am actually writing an eBook on Golf Putting Improvement. Just about to the point of sending the draft to a copyrighter. What is helping me a lot right now – though agonizing too! – is to send the draft of the eBook to a number of people to review. There is always that fear that the product is not good. But review and getting comments is a part of helping to get over that fear. Thanks again!

  • I completed my first ebook as a giveaway for subscribers to my Website. I almost doubled subscribers (not a large list). However, I’m not reaching the audience I originally intended to reach.

    So, now I am giving some thought for my next series of posts which start this Friday. I want to change my tone to more practical, away from philosophical.

    Thanks for the encouragement your posts always give.

  • “Discover the mindset you must have, do these things daily, and demand that you hold yourself to a higher standard on a daily basis.” You used the word “daily” twice in this line. I have monthly goals, year goals, two year goals, but a hard thing for me is daily goals. I mean … sometimes I even forget to eat. Consistency is hard.

    The good news is that God is helping me and refining me to do things better. My monthly goal is to post a short story on the first of each month. Even if I’m late, by the end of the year I’ll have 12 more stories than I did at the beginning. I get idealistic and frustrated writing sometimes because I want it to come out perfect the first time. I need to ask for help.

    And I want to get back to dancing.

  • James divine

    Thanks Robert! I really needed this today!

  • “Be patient with you.” Absolutely! I can’t know everything instantly. Also, I’m trying to be patient with both my business and blog growing.

    I do have to say, though, I do think about sleep, a lot, and wish I had more of it!

  • Jim Akers

    Great post Robert! As I approach my 20,000 birthday, I keep in mind that I find no where in scripture where we are promised to be comfortable. God’s desire is for us to focus on eternity and in our struggle know Jesus overcame the world! With every struggle and conflict I can’t help but think, what is God going to do with this. He continues to amaze me. Love the reminder to be patient! We are never walking alone.

  • John Phillips

    Robert, I love reading your blogs and deeply appreciate your challenging the norm. It’s been life changing!

  • Lea-Ann

    I’ve been trying to get an online community up and running for the past few years. Roadblocks abound, some self-made and some software related. Platform has given me knew hope and I have customers waiting!! I need to focus!

  • I’m writing my book and blog “Confessions of a Terrible Husband.” The only setbacks I’m experiencing are man-made…. THIS man.

    It’s funny, you mention age and peaks. The defining moment in my work occurred in May 2013 when I realized I had been a pretty terrible husband for a while. Looking back at that moment, some folks may view it as a valley. My low point. And I would agree.

    But it’s also a peak. It’s the moment in my life where my perspective changed. Where I tossed aside all of my excuses and decided I was going to change my life, and my marriage.

    Peaks? Valleys?. Whatever. Like any good stock market chart, I’ll have moments that feel like dips and moments that feel like peaks. But they’ll be zig zagging up and to the right. Because I’m in control.

    Awesome post!

  • Shirley Ogburn

    My husband & I are re-branding ourselves following many years of operating businesses along with my education with the Master of Arts in Public & Private Management + Leadership Certification – all total 60 years of business experience. With all this we want to start a consulting company. The creation of it is scary but we see SO much potential in a few years. We’re considering giving away our time for 5 small companies just to see what happens; probably starting with a FB page. Do you have any suggestions, Robert?

  • Elizabeth Knowles

    I have been affectionately calling it “my season”. I’m 43, and I have devoted all of my twenties & thirties to raising wonderful children! My first, was born at age 23 and my third, at the happy age of 26. I’m an all or nothing kinda girl, I wanted to actually have the hands on method of growing those little bundles of joy. My husband and I who began full time ministry during that time, sacrificed a lot in those early years for me to be at home with the kids. We pressed in to God’s Biblical principles to navigate correctly through the forest of parenting. Although we are not completely out of the “tundra” yet, we feel blessed to have a tight knit little army of almost all adults now! With our first one in college, the second one starting next fall and the High School cap & gown about to be on the third one, I’m currently making preparations to begin to write down a few things I’ve learned along the way. You inspire me Robert, I don’t think you will ever know how much your life has influenced & blessed me for so many years! Pressing On! –Liz

  • Wes Rodgers

    Great post, Robert! I am embracing change this year, after naming 2013 “The Year of Unstuck” for me. It took a little longer than I hoped (because of fear I’m sure), but I am moving to a different city (ATL), staying in real estate but switching gears to residential after 18 years in commercial. Oh, AND leaving the family company, which I previously only had considered to be somewhat of a pipe dream. Funny thing is, since I’ve “committed” myself to this, everything has been working out great (new firm to work for, found a place to live that will also take my big dog, etc., etc.!). So, it really does feel like I’m creating a new life. It’s a little scary, but I know that great opportunities lie ahead. I’m sure once I get into a routine beginning around March 1, things will continue to become even more clear! And with this change, it makes me feel closer to the possibility of another dream of mine; writing a high crime real estate suspense/thriller novel. It just helps me believe more that this is possible!! VERY excited for the future and a great 2014!!