In an interview with the Foo Fighters recently, Jack Black asked the band if their song ideas ever dry up. The answer was no.
JB: "You never have the fear that you are now empty... ever."
FF: "That's not to say that I think we write the greatest songs ever in the history of songs. But I feel like we could go into the studio for a week and come out with something."
JB: "It's a confidence thing. You have enormous confidence. You're not afraid to fail and lay a stinky egg bomb."
One of the band members talked about meeting Neil Diamond and asking him the same question, as Neil Diamond had started out as a songwriter who had to write for a living. He said that songwriting is like a muscle. If you don't write for a long time the first batch is probably not going to be that great, and that you have to keep the muscles toned.
The Foo Fighters mentioned that a lot of their best songs come at the end of a writing cycle, when the muscle is "built" and warmed up. That is, "Keep your song muscle hard."
Jack Black also asked about old songs that didn't make it onto albums.
JB: "The rest of them, that didn't make it on that first album, did they make it on future albums?"
JB: "Those just went into the furnace."
FF: "Pretty much. We've got a lot of those over the last 15 years. We'll start in on an album with, like 30, and then wind up with 12. And the other 18 sometimes come back, but they never make it, because they didn't in the first place. It sucked then, it sucks now."
These comments made a lot of sense to me as a writer and speaker.
First, you have to have the confidence to keep putting out new material and trying new things, even if you're not 100% sure it's your greatest. You can take the risk of putting out something less than stellar, or you can not put out anything at all. Which one will move you forward?
Second, you have to keep your creative muscles toned. Keep writing, keep presenting, even if it's giving your professional introduction (aka "elevator speech") at networking events. Keep practicing, because your speaking, writing and creating muscles can get flabby!
Third, not everything you put out there is going to be fabulous, and that's okay. Those bits and pieces of writing and material may come back again and they might even fit into a new presentation or a new book. And they might not. But don't stop producing just because you're afraid of laying a stinky egg bomb.
Look at the successful people around you. Look at your favorite musicians, actors, athletes, and business role models. What lessons can you learn from them?