Plateaus happen. Regularly.
Years ago, in the midst of what was at that point an unremarkable career in stand-up comedy, Louis CK was frustrated with the creative rut he found himself in.
And then he learned the Carlin strategy, and everything changed.
It turns out that George Carlin would record a comedy special every year and then, the next day, throw out that material and start over from scratch.
Louis was stunned by that approach. He had worked long and hard to come up with the material for his show, and he had never imagined throwing it out and starting over.
But he was discontent with his work and the arc of his career, so he gave the Carlin strategy a try.
It was hard. Awful and hard at first.
But that void summoned better work eventually. And he kept doing it every year—scrapping his tried and true material and forcing himself to begin with a blank page once again.
And, in the process, Louis CK became Louis CK.
I do a version of the Carlin strategy with the presentations I give every year. I start over with new themes and slide designs and new ideas and stories.
It’s frustrating and a bit unsettling at first. I love the security of doing what I’m confident will work.
You have to sit with the awful for a while. Trick yourself if you have to by saying “I’m going to start by intentionally making this as awful as I can.”
Any action, even atrociously bad work, will at least propel you forward. You likely will surprise yourself, though, if you persist, and find that your awful starts getting better.
New ideas will appear that you would have never imagined if you had stuck to your old material.
Some of my best work came only after letting go of the good stuff I had been clinging to.
If you need a jolt in your creative life, consider the Carlin strategy. What if you started from scratch and created something completely new?
HT: Cal Newport — How Louis C.K. Became Funny and Why It Matters