Have you ever been struck by a severe case of fierce inspiration?
The kind of inspiration that feels like your muse is pointing a loaded gun at the back of your head. A state when making art is the only thing you can do.
I’ve been creating some of my best work in this mode for years. Eventually, I crafted a personal strategy to spark fierce inspiration whenever I need it.
It’s not a failproof cheat code to life, but it helps me A LOT.
Here’s how it works.
To give you a bird’s-eye view of the path we’ll follow, here’s a quick list of the 9 steps in this strategy (24h total):
- Eliminating brain pop-ups & restoring focus — 2 hours
- Preparation & digital fast — 3 hours
- First shock — 1 hour
- Rest — 8 hours
- Rise and shine — 1 hour
- Second shock — 1 hour
- Rough creation — 2 hours
- Reward, quick rest — 2 hours
- Polish & finalize — 4 hours
This order and duration works best for me, but maybe you’ll have to tweak things a bit. All steps are important for the end result.
Let’s get started. :)
Step 1: Eliminating Brain Pop-Ups & Restoring Focus
(4PM — 6 PM)
We’ve all been there.
Creating art, getting work done, being all focused and productive when all of a sudden… A thought.
”I really have to fix that light in the bathroom.”
Really? Is this really the best time to think about this? You’re supposed to be creating great things, NOT thinking about the bathroom light!
Now, have you ever thought where do these pesky thoughts come from?
They jump out of your subconscious mind.
Imagine it like an ocean with countless fish swimming around, each fish being a thought, memory, task, or worry.
You don’t see them all at once, just the ones that jump out of the water.
Kinda like this.
These “brain popups” distract you from your creativity.
Sure, you could just force yourself to focus and concentrate using your willpower and discipline… But this would require a certain amount of energy.
Your energy throughout the day is a finite resource, so would you rather use it to fight distractions or to create your best work?
When I work, I want to be focused exclusively on my work. I don’t want any unfixed bathroom lights in my mind. So how can you get rid of those pesky fish dwelling in your subconscious mind?
Easy: fish them out and throw them in a bucket!
Exercise: A Bucket of Thoughts
Your fish bucket today will be a piece of paper.
- Take a blank A4 sheet, sit down, and start writing every single task that comes to your mind regardless of its importance. Dump everything from your brain. Free the space you need for fierce inspiration.
- Dedicate at least 30 minutes to this activity, and stop when the interval between these tasks that come to your mind is at least 5 minutes. Your goal at this point is to get rid of everything that’s secretly gnawing on your creative power. You’re blocking the annoying ”brain pop-ups” by taking them out of your mind and putting them on paper.
- Now, you’ll have to eliminate these tasks from your paper too. Circle those activities that won’t take much more than 2 minutes to finish. Then get them done right away, one after the other.
This is also known as the 2-minute rule of time management: if something can be done in 2 minutes or less, do it now.
Doing this will free a tremendous amount of inner energy which has been previously fixated on things you’ve been procrastinating on.
Dedicate a total of 2 hours to the thought bucket activity and to finishing as many minor tasks as possible.
Step 2: Preparation & Digital Fast
(6 PM — 9 PM)
It’s easy to perform at your best when you’ve prepared yourself beforehand.
In less than 24 hours, you’ll be creating something brilliant, so let’s pave the way to that.
Basically, you just have to get rid of everything that may distract you from your work in the morning.
- Clean your desk. Put aside everything that’s not related to your work, project, or task.
- If you work from a computer, delete all applications and programs that could suck you in. This includes all games, messengers, and social media apps. Don’t worry, you’ll just install them back later when you’re done creating amazing stuff. :)
- Cook some food so that you have something to eat tomorrow.
- Do the groceries, do the laundry, etc.
Finally, put aside all your digital devices.
Yes, all of them. This is essential.
We’ll start a short “digital fast” right now.
No texting. No calls. No Googling. Nada.
If someone is likely to panic from your sudden absence (spouse, mother, work partner, etc.) — notify them you won’t be available until morning.
Step 3: First Shock
(9 PM — 10 PM)
This is where the magic starts.
Unusual actions bring unusual thoughts and unusual feelings, leading to more unusual actions. Inspiration!
Let that sink in, don’t rush the matter.
What I’m trying to say is that we often feel a terrible lack of inspiration and creativity because we’re neck deep in routine mud.
We do the same things day after day — so how can we expect that something will INSPIRE us to CREATE something AWESOME?
Nope. It doesn’t work this way.
Break away from the routine!
Unleash your spirit!
Do something extraordinary and you’ll be flooded by extraordinary thoughts and emotions. The result will be a tidal wave of mind-blowing inspiration, new thoughts, creative ideas, and priceless material for future work.
The fundamental principle is to do something you’ve never done, or done years ago for the last time.
Here’s a quick list of strange, unusual, and extraordinary things you can do:
- Go out and start singing in the street
- Ring your neighbor’s doorbell and run away
- Call a random number and do your best to have a friendly chat with the stranger on the other side
- Write a letter and give it to the first person you see on the street
- Go for a run (if you don’t run usually)
- Hide in your closet and pretend there’s a monster outside. Pretend so hard you almost believe in the monster
- Cover your face in war paint and practice your battle cry
- Take an ice-cold shower
- Invent a secret society
- Build the best pillow fort of your life
The deeper your ”shock” after this action, the better. The more unusual your emotions, the better.
Don’t be afraid of feeling silly, or disgusted, or angry, or anything else. The stronger the emotions you manage to hunt down, the more powerful your inspiration will be.
Step 4: Rest
(10 PM — 6 AM)
The lion’s share of your creative potential is ever-hidden from you: it grows in your subconscious mind.
Even when you don’t feel it, your brain is constantly synthesizing new ideas, combining stuff, and generally having fun with what you give it.
And here’s the things: this process is MUCH more active when you are resting or asleep. Basically, your goal as a creator during the day is to give your brain as many cool things to work with (memories, emotions, extraordinary actions) so it can come up with something creative while you sleep.
For 99% of people, healthy sleep is absolutely essential for reliable inspiration and creativity.
So yep, go get some rest. I recommend you don’t watch or read anything at this stage, especially NOT from an electronic device.
Instead, you can write. If you keep a journal, this is the perfect moment to write something in it.
Write down your emotions. Draw yourself doing that strange thing from a few hours ago. Scribble a few lines about tomorrow’s goal.
Have a chat with your family. Play with your pet. Maybe finish a task or two from your fish bucket list. Do NOT consume any information from digital devices (TV, music players, gaming consoles, etc.)
Then go to sleep. Preferably a few hours earlier than you’re used to, and with an alarm set around 6 AM.
Your goal is to wake up earlier than everyone else in your household.
Step 5: Rise and shine
(6 AM — 6:30 AM)
Good morning! Fabulous morning! Wake up!
This is a crucial moment for fierce inspiration.
Do you know what most people do first thing in the morning?
They grab their smartphones and check their emails, Facebook feeds, favorite websites, and so on. This instantly kills a great deal of the inspiration and creativity that has been building up in you throughout the night.
So do NOT grab your smartphone. Do NOT check your email. Do NOT open your Facebook feed.
Instead, you can write something in your journal (or on a piece of paper if you don’t keep a journal). Did you have any dreams this night? How do you feel right now? How do you feel about yesterday evening?
After that, do the bare minimum of things you have to feel functional — brush your teeth, maybe take a quick shower, eat something, and so on.
Invest no more than 30 minutes in this morning routine.
It’s time for your second shock.
Step 6: Second Shock
(6:30 AM — 7:30 AM)
Well, you know what to do.
“There’s no use trying,” Alice said: “one can’t believe impossible things.” “I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll
We’ll go for an hour instead of half-an-hour.
Believe impossible things.
Do extraordinary stuff.
Be strange. Be crazy. Be free.
Just for an hour.
The main point of this step is to make you remember the excitement of yesterday’s liberation from the routine. The thrill of doing something new, something unusual. The power of doing this at will.
The bliss of starting your day in such a fabulous way.
As soon as you’re done, without resting for a single minute, get to work.
This is your time to shine.
Step 7: Rough creation
(7:30 AM — 9:30 AM)
Here’s your goal for the next 2 hours: no distractions whatsoever, just you and your work.
You don’t eat. You don’t drink. Ideally, you don’t even go to the toilet.
You don’t speak to anyone, you don’t listen to anything, you do NOTHING that’s NOT your line of creative work.
If you still feel you ”can’t”, you sit there and do nothing.
If you’re not creating, you’re not allowed to do anything.
Be still. Wait.
You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet. — Franz Kafka
As a rule, this is when I enter the Fiercely Inspired state. Everything just starts rushing and spinning and bursting in soul flames, and I can’t NOT create.
The trick here is to fully commit yourself during these 2 hours.
Set a timer: just two hours. The world will wait.
Embrace your art.
Step 8: Reward & rest
(9:30 AM — 12 AM)
Bzzzzzt. Time’s up!
This doesn’t mean you’re absolutely required to stop, but now you’re at least allowed to. It’s time for a quick rest and a fancy reward.
Although the process of inspired creation is extremely rewarding in itself, I strongly recommend you add something to ”sweeten up” the deal even further.
You see, your brain is a fine machine that operates on different chemicals. Dopamine, often called the feel-good hormone, is one of them.
The way your brain perceives rewarding experiences is strongly linked to dopamine levels, and this is a great way to reinforce the habits and behaviors you want.
In other words: give yourself something pleasant. Do something you enjoy.
- Buy yourself a donut, a new book, a steak, whatever you like
- Play some video games
- Take a nap
- Cuddle with someone you love
- Go for a walk with your pet
This is your little prize. You did well, enjoy this moment!
Then continue resting until midday. You can return to your digital devices at this point if you want.
Step 9: Polish & finalize
(Midday — 4 PM)
Entering the Fiercely Inspired mode is a great way to see your work in a different light, come up with new ideas, and create something outstanding.
But outstanding doesn’t mean perfect.
The last 4 hours in this creativity run are dedicated to polishing everything you created in your fierce inspiration.
Check for typos if you’re a writer, check your shadows if you’re an artist. Do a general revision and finish everything up.
At this point, your goal is to finish the current stage of your creation. For example, it can be a chapter from your book, an article for your client, a specific fragment of your drawing, you get the idea.
If you made it this far, there’s a good chance you’re thinking this strategy is a bit crazy. Inspiration on demand? Really?
Yep. It’s possible. I do it like that.
It doesn’t work every time.
But even when it doesn’t, this hunt for inspiration still feels amazing.
Still feels like art.