When You Don’t Have It

Last Sunday I achieved something monumental. I woke up before noon. It was thirty minutes before noon but still before noon nonetheless. This is an achievement for me because I am almost always waking up in the afternoon on weekends. This situation is caused by a combination of mounting sleep debts during the week, a fetish for free time, and a proclivity to squeeze the last enjoyable hours out of the day’s tube.

This win led to more wins.

“Designed flatland, hat, saxophone, sponge, ghost, electroconvulsive therapy, claw, and finished fax. Felt like the time flew by. I was truly in flow. Flew and flow.”

– September 10, 2017 journal entry

I produced a number of my “concrete series” designs, some among my favorites in the whole series, and shared them throughout the past week.

This Sunday I woke up at 8:30 AM. Another win! I was expecting to flow again with even more of the day available to work.

“I’m having bits and pieces of design ideas yet nothing seems to be clicking or working to even get photos to bring into Photoshop to begin. Should I work on something else? I think I might clean out and organize my [Google Chrome] bookmarks…Really struggling with these concrete designs. Nothing is clicking. Nothing is catching my interest.”

– September 17, 2017 journal entry

I didn’t have it. I tried to do designs for block, boots, key, keys, keyhole, beach ball (influenced by a really beautiful dream sequence I had on Friday night), net, chain, chains, fur, dust, bubble wrap, bottle, screw, tag, mint, mints, coin, traffic light, window, jackhammer, needle nose pliers, and cross. Absolutely none of these were happening. My attempts between 10:00 AM and 6:30 PM were total busts.

“Finally landed on something I liked and wanted to share. ATAS, organization that votes on Primetime Emmys. Plus I made it a GIF. Inspired by doing the white background, side-by-side square transition used between scenes in Arrested Development and then Google searching ‘Academy of Arts & Sciences’ when I was curious about who actually votes on this [stuff]. I saw a cool, vaporesque photo of a building, palm trees, and people walking. It was interesting enough to use. Very happy this worked out because if I landed on nothing I would’ve felt like [stuff].”

– September 17, 2017 journal entry

So I came out of the day with one piece worth sharing.

The breakthrough came when I stopped working on the designs to watch Arrested Development, noticed an interesting layout to mimic, and looked for inspiration from a newsworthy/cultural event. And my indecisiveness about which pairing of photo pieces to use side-by-side led to the first GIF in the series.


These kind of “I don’t have it” times happen: ideas wither when you try to bring them into reality, you’re immediately bored by something that gives you a flash of excitement, you can’t render the path ahead of you, you hit dead end after dead end, you try to switch up approaches and still fall flat. It’s discouraging, frustrating, and can lead you to doubt your abilities and the value of whatever work you’re trying to pursue. I’m reminded of a quote David Lynch shared during an interview when asked about where he gets his ideas.

“If I knew where the good songs came from, I’d go there more often.

– Leonard Cohen”

Anyone who does creative work, whether they’re a venerable film director, a prolific songwriter, or an itinerant internet creative with passable Photoshop skills, faces this challenge. I’d like to call anyone who does creative work and doesn’t admit to having these “I don’t have it” moments liars. If you don’t have it, trust that you will find it as long as you keep looking.

And maybe watch some Arrested Development.

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