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There aren’t many things as intimidating as a blank page. So much opportunity, and so much pressure.

Last night I sat down to draw with my nieces, Sophie and Claire. Claire handed me a blank page and I picked up a blue colored pencil and began to stare at the page…

What should I make out of this? It could be anything. It could be–

Then Claire interrupted me.

“Why aren’t you drawing yet?”

I was insulted. It had only been a minute or so, and this five year old was demanding to know why I hadn’t started my masterpiece yet.

I answered her, “I’m trying to think of what to draw. What are you going to draw?”

She answered, “I don’t know…shapes.”

And she did. She had already begun just drawing shapes. Not to be outdone, I followed her lead.

OK, if the secret to creativity is to just draw shapes I’ll draw some shapes too.

I started with a pentagon. Then I drew a triangle. Then I wondered how much I could draw without using the same shape twice! Then I decided that my drawing was beginning to look like a robot, so I started turning it into a robot. Then I thought it might be funny if the robot was wearing a shirt and tie – since as we all know, robots are going to take our jobs.

So much new freedom in these arbitrary constraints I’d made.

It turns out that sometimes the best way to get past staring into the abyss of a blank page is to just get started.