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Fill the tank

How stopping what you're doing to fill your mind with inspiration is the best route to your creative goal.

Photo by Dorien Monnens on Unsplash


When you're pushing through to come up with new ideas for a project, it can sometimes be hard to stop. Especially with a looming deadline. Other than the task at hand, everything else seems irrelevant, and batting away doom scrolling and other distractions seems the only way to get to the finish line.


But sometimes stopping to "fill the tank" is the best approach to reaching your destination. Let's face it, it works with cars. No fuel in the tank means the car ain't going nowhere. It's the same with your brain.


I first heard "fill the tank" while listening to writer and comedian Bill Hader talk about his experience of working on comedy series South Park.


South Park has been featured on our FFWDtv strand, with this video about their creative process. Whichever side you take on the Marmite nature of the show, you can't doubt the work ethic employed in making every season on a show that's now been running since 1997.


Anyway, back to Bill. Having been part of the Saturday Night Live cast for 8 seasons, he knows a thing or two about long hours. SNL is notorious for putting its writers and performers through the mill. Those funny people earn their money.


So it was that I was listening to Bill being interviewed on The Moment - screenwriter Brian Koppelman's podcast - and I first heard this notion of needing to fill your tank.


Bill says (at 1h:26m:27s):

"(Trey Parker) said: 'We gotta take a break. And go watch movies. Because we gotta fill the tank up. You know what I mean? During the break - 'fill the tank up'! Saying that! And then he'll come back and say: 'I watched Lone Ranger', 'I watched Dredd'. They're (Trey Parker & Matt Stone) no different from when they were in college than they are now... all these guys, they have the attitudes of students."


The Moment is a great show if you love scripts and filmmaking, as Koppelman really goes into the details of how things work under the hood.


The other thing that comes across in the Bill Hader interview is that no matter how experienced or successful you get at whatever field you're in, you still have doubts. You're still learning. You're "still tortured with how to get it right".


So take comfort from the fact that you don't know everything - even if, like South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker, you've been doing it for 20 years.


You need to keep filling your tank with inspiration.


And to that end, here's a bit of tank-filling for you: Bill Hader's best celebrity impressions:

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