My James Patterson’s Notes from MasterClass
Writing Routines, Creativity, Writer’s Block, and the Art of Passion Practice
James Patterson has an amazing process for writing, but what else can we learn from some of the most creative types in the world?
For real, I want to know what is crawling around inside this man’s brain.
My life, my writing, my startup, my love life, it can go up, down, all around, and yet, here I am listening to the James Patterson and I’m thinking to myself, “This man has been chosen to write.”
But then he goes and says shit like this:
“Do NOT sit there like ‘Oh I don’t feel like it today. I don’t feel like it tomorrow’. Feel like it! Do it! Force yourself.” — James Patterson
Mr. Patterson writes because he listens. He had a calling to write. Maybe he even heard a voice in his head. The greats always seem to listen to that inner voice. The poets find their muse. The athletes find their edge. The warriors find their peace with anger. The lovers find their beauty inside a friendship.
James found his pen and paper.
But it wasn’t easy.
He quit a corporate advertising job before writing full time.
That takes panache, right?
I don’t know where the hell I am supposed to find this type of passion and creativity, but learning from him opens up the pathways of curiosity that help. I am thankful for the opportunity to listen to a man talk about his passion as openly as James Patterson does in this MasterClass.
My notes (below) on James Patterson were written in long-hand note form so excuse my lack of emotion. Maybe somebody can give me some tips on better note taking next time?
Passion + Habit = Success
With MasterClass.com you get to listen and learn about the passion routines of one of the most successful authors alive today.
James writes every day. He does it because it feels like play. At certain times writing flows. James doesn’t know why it flows, he can’t write enough, and he is amazed at how much he does in short amount of time.
James can tune out the world and start writing wherever he is. He can focus on what he is doing. He can zone in. He can focus and do what he wants. Focus and concentrate. Do what you can to practice that. Practice your skills of concentration.
Other times, it feels flat, he says. Something hits him and he realizes he isn’t flowing and that is part of his process, and if he isn’t getting it, he writes, “TBD,” and comes back.
Do not torture yourself.
Be confident you’ll get it.
If you can get nervous or panic, and then you start pressing too hard and the mind starts getting tight.
It’s okay. Relax.
What is it that you love practicing?
Imagine Beethoven coming up with a video tutorial on how he became a better pianist and offered it to you for $100.
Would you take it?
Mr. Patterson, one of the most successful writers of our time, stutters along on writing, creativity, but he speaks with sincerity and delight on a topic he seems he was born to practice.
Mr. Patterson was born in 1947, a son of a teacher and insurance agent, and after graduating from Vanderbilt University in English and sold over 350 million copies of books, making over 700 million dollars and publishing over 150 books in his career.
Keep Track of Your Raw Ideas (and Shit).
150 books is a lot, but you don’t get there without a self-improvement and habit-based practice process.
The great news is James believes in self-care, so I’ll start taking it easier on myself, but seriously, he is disciplined about keeping track of your raw ideas. Keep a notepad and write out the plots, the characters, and the weird ideas you have.
The outline is just as important as the novel itself, (shit I just said to myself).
James knows writer’s block is real. There is a reality the blank page is troubling, but many of his greatest ideas are related to success in any authentic endeavor:
Keep the Passion Alive • Love What You Do • Believe in Yourself • Endure Rejection
Every author has a different approach to writing and beating writer’s block. He recommends freight training through the first draft. Crash through it. Get it down.
Just get the first draft done.
Listen to low music for more creativity:
A 2012 study showed that moderate to low music noise levels can increase productivity, but anything over 85 decibels can decrease your creativity. If you enjoy listening to classical or other lyric-free music but find it distracting while you write, try turning it down just a touch, and see how that increases your productivity.
James advises starting a writing journal. See how many times you actually write per week and for how long.
He is a voracious learner. He wakes up and reads right away. He reads newspapers. He drinks some coffee. He starts outlining. He pencils his outlines. Uses yellow legal pads.
And then he spends up to six months on one outline before he even starts writing.
He writes longhand on every other line and hands the drafts into his assistant. He does this so he can write between the lines and leaves notes for himself.
Frequently, he thinks writers go nutty, staring at characters and imagining places. He goes out into the world during his nuttiness. He will go out and walk a golf course to meditate.
James says, “I chase the white ball, I curse the white ball, and then I come back from the white ball… then I have lunch and then I come back and write some more.”
He does that every day.
Focus on Plot
James used an E.M. Forster quote: “The king died and then the queen died, is a story. The king died and then the queen died of grief is a plot.”
Condense your plot.
Raise the stakes.
Create worthy adversaries.
Build in surprises.
Less is more.
When you practice doing what you love, what you are really doing is honing your ability to concentrate. More and more in our society, we have distractions, so it’s imperative to learn how to focus and get work done. To write is to focus. To shut your mind off because you can’t do two things at once.
Just write and do the job and focus on the one thing for your time. When you are concentrating, you are able to get into it and be the story, feel the emotions, feelings, and when you aren’t flowing, you aren’t in the scene, you aren’t aware of those characters, and that is a matter of concentration and focus.
James believes in playing for a living, but this requires focus and practice.
He loves writing. He never wants to be away from it, but even he gets overloaded. When you are, take a break, take your neurotic side away from obsessing on writing, and whatever you are doing to yourself.
Go to the movies.
Walk away for a little bit.
James Patterson says, “Let’s face it, I’m not writing War and Peace.. but you are going to feel better about doing your best work. Give it everything you got… don’t condescend to the genre. Aim for the stars with your work.”
Even if it isn’t that good yet, write, and share your best ideas. If you are learning, you are putting in your 10,000 hours. You are practicing. You are learning to read, you are learning to write. You have to get to that level where you are an expert, it’s a high.
It’s a rush to make your best work and things worth putting your best effort into take time, effort, and a solid passion practice.