Breaking Through Writers Block

breaking-blocksFor many of us Writers Block can be a devastating state of affairs. We sit and look at a blank screen or sheet of paper. We procrastinate. Check our messages. Cruise social media. Trying to find a spark somewhere.

The spark never comes. Or maybe it has and we just didn't see it because we are so stressed on what we need to do. Aha! That is the key there. You are stressed. When under stress our thinking  becomes narrowed. It's all black and white. No grey area. Either this way or that.

Did you know I offer Creative Thinking Workshops? Ideal for a group of 10-20 attendees. Click Here to Learn More!

Here is what I have learned from research and practice when I suffer from Writers Block:

  1. I do nothing. Yep, I acknowledge that I am in a block and do nothing. It's kinda like being caught in a rip-tide. You struggle and still get pushed out to sea. If you relax, then swim parallel to the shoreline, you will get out of the tide. Doing nothing gives you the opportunity to clear your mind of the stress you are under.
  2. Now I write. But I don't write for the assignment. I write my thoughts, what is happening in my head. The writing usually turns to the challenge at hand. So I keep writing, I am writing idea snippets. Nothing with structure. Just write. At this point I am brainstorming. No judgement of good idea or bad, just ideas.

Then, all of a sudden…

It happens. One of those snippets gives me an AHA! moment and I realize. This is where I will start, this is a great set-up for the hook at the end, this is what will engage the reader. I scurry to continue writing and writing and sooner rather than later, I have a finished manuscript. Sure editing will be required.

Have you ever noticed that writers block usually happens in STARTING a project. I don't recall getting blocked when it comes to editing.

The challenge is, we think we have to start at the beginning. We stress ourselves out to make it right the first time. But that is not necessarily the case. For example. This paragraph was initially written as the third paragraph. However, it fits better here.

I am sure this practice will help and if you are ever in trouble and need a creative spark, give me a ring. I would be happy to add fuel to your fire. 

  • Illustration from and old AC Spark Plugs advertisement.

Let’s Hear YOUR Declaration!


We start every summer with a celebration of our Declaration of Independence. This got me thinking, what is my Declaration? I imagine the founding fathers creating a document with such passion and testament to what they believed was right.

240 years later, the Declaration continues to guide us through an uncertain future. A set of principles which we rely on in our day to day decision making. It is the guide to our values. We stand for it, we fight for it, we struggle for it. The Declaration is a map. A map for society, for community, for civilization.

Blacktop Branding's Strategic Marketing Map is designed to guide your company with purpose, unique value proposition, vision and theme. Essentially, it helps to define your Declaration. Request a copy here.

TC_1976I was a teenager 40 years ago, in 1976. The bicentennial was a huge thing for me. My room was decorated in red, white and blue. I was fortunate to travel the United States that summer with 100 other teenagers. We circled the continent stopping at all the historic landmarks we learned about in school. The Grand Canyon, Kennedy Space Center, Castillo de San Marcos, Monticello, Washington DC, and more. 22 States in about 6 weeks.

The trip made history real for me. It opened up my world. I truly believed that it allowed me to see more than just myself, it opened a door to self-awareness, to see my place in the world. It was a coming of age.

I declare to use my past experiences to build value for my clients and collaborators. "Allow Yourself To Be, A Vehicle of Creativity."

The Secret to Getting Ahead is to Get Started

Get There


I saw this post from Elaina, a student of mine, on social media the other day. I felt proud that this young lady is wise beyond years and inspires so many people with her social media posts.

The other day I was making a presentation at her alma mater. The topic was Idea Generation. We were discussing breaking through blocks. Writers block in particular. Most of the time blocks are put up right from the beginning. I remember writing reports for school, and getting started was always the hardest part. Then I figured it out. You don't have to start at the beginning. Just start writing, extemporaneously, as you are quickly scribbling down notes, there comes the AHA! moment. "That is where I should start this!" and continue writing. Editing as you go along. 

It's sorta like building a jig-saw puzzle. You can't start by taking the first piece out of the box and putting it in the right place. You have to dump the box on the table and start moving around all the pieces, till you find that one that you can start from.

I introduced the students to Roger Von Oech's "Whack Pack" cards which accompany his hit book "Whack On The Side Of The Head". In each example of thinking differently in problem solving, I shared examples of his Four Roles of the Creative Process

Download a FREE copy of the Four Roles of the Creative Process Here.

The roles are diagrammed as a circle with the four roles split in two main areas: Play and Work. This is one circle where you may go back and forward as you become the Explorer, Artist, Judge and Warrior.

The first two roles (Explorer and Artist) are in the play-time. The final two roles (Judge and Warrior) are in work-time. It is most important to PLAY when being the Explorer and Artist. In PLAY we do not make judgements, ideas are neither good or bad, but ideas. A very Zen way of thinking. You gather ideas as the Explorer, and you manipulate the ideas as the Artist. Without any judgement as to what you are doing.

"Impossible!" You say.

True. We are human.

The key is to question those judgements. Recognize when you are making an assumption. Ask the opposite. Change the rules. PLAY. 

At some point you will have the manipulated ideas figured out. We move to work and play the Judge role. You review the manipulated ideas and ask how they are solving the problem at hand. You make a case for the outcome. When the ideas are completely justified, we play the Warrior Role. We fight for the idea, no matter what it takes, we battle on. Without question. We are confident because we used the process that this idea is the best solution for the challenge. We create a paradigm shift. We WORKED.

And it all happened because we started.

When you are ready to get started. I am here to add the fuel. 
Tony Colombini • 949-584-5669 •

Bravery vs Fear


Maybe you heard the entire dialog, but as I turned on the radio in my truck, I caught the tail of a conversation regarding Bravery vs Fear and the options you have available to you (in your mind) when you are feeling brave, vs when you are feeling fearful.

I have certainly felt this, as I am sure many of you have. 

The big question is, how do you get out of that fearful funk? How do you become brave?

As a creative person in business, these two concepts are in constant dialog. It is the way we do things. If you are being creative, in most cases, you are doing something that not only you have not done before, but something that has not been proven to work, succeed.  The brave me pushes the envelope, looks for something new, is an explorer looking to discover the unknown answer. 

Then comes the presentation. Fear sets in, I start to second guess myself. Confidence. I take a deep breath, I repeat in my mind that I have faith in my work, my process and my intentions. In most cases, the client is excited and thankful. In others, the client is feeling the fear. Did I project that on them? They are unsure if the design/campaign/content will give them the outcome they are depending on. My work ethic I gained from my father and grandfather forces me to be ethical to the clients needs. To provide them with the value that they are depending on me to deliver.

So what do I do?

I challenge myself. Constantly. I do things that I have never done before. I will open a retail store to learn what it is like on the sales side. I take a ride as a monkey on a Speedway Sidecar going for a turn at near 100 miles per hour dragging my butt (literally) in the dirt. I produce an incredible amount of work. I am constantly thinking and working on building something. (that also comes from my construction family ties)

I know you do stuff to challenge yourself. Share with me and everyone what you do. It will inspire us all and help us to be more brave and kick fear in the teeth.

Creating a Consistent Brand Image

Here at the Blacktop Media Network, we are very fortunate to work for clients who appreciate the value we have to bring to their brands.

AskewBlacktop Branding has developed a consistent and robust “Brand Standards” program. The program starts with a review of your current brand equity. Basically, we work to answer the question: “How do people currently view your brand?”. The answers lie in both the visual and the perceptual quality of your brand image.

Visual Quality:
The Brand Standards become the pallet or guideline on how we present the brand identity going forward. Strict use and definitions of design elements, typography, color, and iconography are outlined.

Perceptual Quality:
Since day one, Blacktop Branding has been a leader in developing a thematic voice for brands. A good thematic concept will touch people on an emotional level. They will be able to add their own story to the theme and connect in a way that will enable them to be brand advocates. What is the theme of the company? How do you want your brand to be perceived? We see themes in use at Helpful Honda, Subaru; Share the Love, RAM Trucks; Work Hard.

The link below is the brand identity design standards of an extensive corporate identity program for Boyd’s Garage. A blacksmith and hot rod shop in rural Montana:



3 Ways “Cool Old Stuff” Helps You to Succeed.


We all need a place to go to and break away from the stresses of the day, the week, the year. This private space becomes our sanctuary.

IMG_0906I was hanging out in my sancutary the other night. Looking at some items that were as old or older than my grandfather. My Nonno came here from Italy when he was 16 years old in 1922. Hanging in my garage is a portrait photo of him and his brother with their father just before the two boys set off to live in America. He came here with nothing and lived the American Dream.

I was throwing darts, thinking about how good all this cool old stuff makes me feel. There are certain scientific circles which agree that a happy mind makes a happy body. The mind/body continuum comes from somatic psychology originated by Pierre Janet and Sigmund Freud. Also known as Namarupa in Buddhism.

I see it like this: When I am around items that are from my father or grand-father’s era, I feel as though I am part of a much larger world. I am inspired. Ideas roll in and motivation energizes me to action. And, that makes me feel good. When I feel good, I feel stronger and more resilient to the stresses in my life.

Here are the three ways Cool Old Stuff helps me succeed.


This “Cool Old Stuff” makes me grateful for the strong work ethics my patriarchs have taught me. “Good things don’t come easy.” “If it was easy, anyone and everyone would do it.”


I look at the work they have left us. The craftsmanship and design are deserving of respect. Respect in how I display the items, and respect in the work I do to continue their legacy.


The items help me to gather my focus and work on what is really important. I am reminded of the “Good Old Days” where there was great collaborations in the United States. Companies collaborated together to get great things done. During WWII manufacturers changed their plants for the war effort, the public learned to be frugal. During the space race companies collaborated their engineers and designs for the common goal.


When I am around these historical items I learn quite a bit about myself, and what we are all capable of, when we work together.

Working IDEAS

Blacktop Branding’s Tony Colombini will be presenting his Creative Thinking Workshop: “Working the Idea, Makes the Idea WORK” at Platt College of Design in Ontario, California.

The course objective is designed to combat the commoditization of design by having a structured idea development process. Colombini will share his proprietary process “Intersection” and offer tips on developing a process unique for each participant and instruct ways on communicating the process in a clear and professional manner.

The course goes into the creation of a Unique Value Proposition and create an unfair advantage in a highly competitive landscape.  We will dig deep into the reason why businesses hire design. To increase sales, grow company, increase size, scale and profit. It’s a matter of measurement.

If you are interested in a Creative Thinking Workshop for your organization, please contact us at 949-584-5669. We offer different topics including: Idea Generation, Form and Function, Team Building.