How to get to creative clockwork

Make creativity a habit

Sounds like the most un-creative thing possible, right? Make your creating so ritualised that it almost seems boring. It works. James Altucher recommends that you write down ten ideas a day, no matter how bad you think they are. If you do this every day, you train your creativity.

I was bored, so I followed his advice. The first day, I wrote ten businesses I could start right now. Then, ten reasons to go to university. Then ten reasons not to. Each day, I would have a few ideas that would push me to choosing that list. It got harder though, I was struggling by 7 or 8, having to will myself down into my seat to avoid running away from the list. Even if 1 in 10,000 ideas I have is a good idea, I’ll have a good idea at some point in around two and a half years. Say it’s 1 in 2,500. Then I’ll have 3 good ideas every two years. If I can improve this to just 1 in 1000–0.1% — I can have 3 or 4 good ideas per year. Then, everything seems easier. I thought it was a great idea to start writing and expressing myself. Maybe writing is how you’ll create — poems, articles, screenplays, there’s so many ways to write. It’s the same with painting. You could create huge masterpieces, or fine watercolours. So much choice. Just choose one and focus on it. If you don’t like it, choose another; no worries.

The key to this creativity is making sure that you do it every day. Even better if you can do it at the same time each day to make it a habit sooner. Start with ten ideas a day. Make the first list ‘Ten ways I can be creative’. Hopefully we’ll all see what you create.

Create so much that something will be good

In his lifetime, Picasso created 50,000 pieces of art. That’s about 600 pieces each year once he got started. Not all of them were of the same quality as his finest works, but he was surely the most practiced artist in history. If you create 100 pieces of any art form, the next 100 will be better. This builds up into the thousands and beyond until it feels like an easy task to create, a habit.

I’m currently in the process of writing 1,000 words today. If I write 1,000 words every day, that adds up to 365,000 words in a year. That could be 5–7 novels, 360 short stories or anything in between. What I create now is not so important, it’s about learning and training my craft, so that when I do write a novel, each word can ooze with creativity. That’s what the start will be like, still learning and working out how to do. But if you push through that, with the daily habit of creation, eventually something will be good. It’s the law of large numbers — or maybe the law of averages, I’m not sure. The simple explanation is that the more you create, the more you stack the odds in your favour of creating something great.

Get rid of the inhibitors

It won’t always be easy to create, there will often be something pulling you back. It might be your fear of creating something that comes from your heart — what if people don’t like it. Maybe you’re really quite lazy and don’t want to put in the effort without immediate reward. It could be that you have friends or family who don’t approve of your choice to be a creator or dictate your own terms to the world. Whatever it is, we all have something that stops us from being creative. Today, mine was laziness and poor planning: I didn’t write at the start of the day, when I normally do, so I kept putting it off with other tasks like revision and schoolwork. In the end, I knew that I would have wasted the day if I didn’t write this post.

To make sure that you don’t get held back by your inhibitors, go straight towards the problem. If you’re afraid of how people will react to your views, express yourself more, so you know that they can see the real you — someone out there will appreciate all of us. If your close ones don’t think you’re pursuing the right option, be direct but not confrontational, explain why this is the right choice for you.

Worst of all, if you’re lazy, create a step-by-step plan that takes you from waking up to 10 or 11 AM and having done the most important thing of your day: creating. If that means getting up earlier before work or school and hammering out a blog post or adding something to a painting, then work backwards from there, with tiny, incremental steps, to reverse-engineer success for yourself.

Just do

Finally, the key piece of advice I want to impart on you is to Just Do. The key tenet upon which this whole system rests is doing. If you don’t do, you do nothing.

If you’re really struggling to start doing, I highly recommend Niklas Goeke’s MIT solution, which will take you through all the steps to achieving your one goal.

This post has revealed a lot to me about how I can improve my own creative processes, I’d love to hear anyone this has helped.