Creating is one of the most satisfying activities one can engage in, right after eating brunch.
But it’s hard. Damn, it’s hard. Getting inspired. Translating ideas into projects. Finishing ventures. Being original. Being worthy of attention. Putting oneself out there. Exposing oneself.
How do “creative people” do it? Sometimes, I just feel like Zeus rug rats only sing to a few chosen ones.
You know what? I’m dead wrong.
We all can sit in the first row of the 9 muses’ concert. All you need to do is to live by a few principles. Nothing too hard, I promise. Actually so easy you’ll want to start right now. You’ve been warned.
If you’re ready to tap into your limitless power of creation, let’s get started.
Make it a habit
Nurture a routine that will get you in a flow state. Here are the four elements that will help you get started:
Find your trigger
You need to set up easy access to a physical trigger.
Do you want to write? Carry a pen and a notebook.
Do you want to work out more? Have your tennis shoes by the bed when you wake up.
You need to cue yourself.
Have a creative spot
Be it the next-door Starbucks, or a specific chair in your house. You need to set up a sanctuary that will be your place of creation.
Your attention span is short. So if you want to create, stop multitasking, emailing, texting, swiping.
Do the most important work first. And nothing else.
Drink a coffee, call a friend, have a joint. Do whatever works best for you. But make sure you find enjoyment while performing the habit.
F*Ck your fears
And by *, I mean “U”.
Don’t let worries hold back your creative endeavors.
You’re not the first one to have thought about it. You’re not the first one to do it. Somebody did it better than you, and some people will troll you for that. But you’re still doing it.
You. Not them.
And nothing’s totally new, no matter what.
What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.
I still want my spot under the sun. Oceanfront, please.
And as you know, people have a goldfish attention span. So listen to André Gide when he says:
Everything that needs to be said has already been said. But since no one was listening, everything must be said again.
- André Gide
Who are you? What’s your medium of expression? Don’t be afraid of not fitting. Find your style. Let is rise from your creative DNA.
Let it soak in
Good artists copy great artists steal.
Don’t be afraid to copy and imitate your idols.
Nothing’s new as I said, and you need to draw your inspirations from something. So learn from the best while you’re at it. Understand the origins of your art, the nuts and bolts, and convolutions of your craft. The more you’ll mimic by doing, the more it will soak into you. Digest what others have done, and let it drive you.
When working on a new project, collect and save everything.
Have a quick and easy way to file anything. I love Evernote, but a simple notepad would work. Make sure you can record any idea you have on the go. The dictaphone app works wonders too. It is critical to have a backlog of all your thoughts when working on a project. Ideas don’t stay for long in your mind.
Stephen Kosslyn developed a method on how to process ideas: generate, retain, inspect, transform. Your routine and daily observations will help you generate thoughts. But a good and straightforward collection system is necessary for the other 3 stages.
Play in the sandbox
“Be creative” sounds daunting. What the fudge does that even mean? How am I supposed to do that? Am I simply supposed to wear vivid colors and grow a mustache?
It’s way simpler than that.
To me, it means: Do. Be in action. Begin. Improvise. Throw ideas. Don’t judge them.
To get a kickstart, borrow ideas from the best and build from there. Find your seeds and see what you can harvest.
Where to find seeds?
Books, movies, conversations, nature, others’ works, mentors. Seeds are everywhere.
— My grandmother at shabbat dinners; but also Steve Jobs.
Look with purpose.
Did you notice how many times you see the car you’re planning to buy as soon as you decided on the model? Ideas come this way too. What is your spine? The message you want to convey? Once you set up a direction for your work, things will appear by magic. Constraints in creativity are everything. The wind always blows, but without a sail, you’ll never get anywhere.
Believe in luck
I used to think the adage was luck favors the bald. It made sense to me as the lottery winners were always somewhat old and ugly. I was wrong.
Luck favors the bold, it is. And that’s true: doers are luckier than dreamers.
Luck is a skill. You can learn to see opportunities where others don’t. You’ve worked long enough on a project that you can connect the dots. You have carved enough neural pathways.
Be generous with your actions. The more you do, the more you put yourself out there, the more things come to you.
And if luck exists, so does bad luck. Bad luck comes from:
- relying too much on others
- trying to be perfect
- working with the wrong materials (i.e. not the best ones)
- trying to fit a creative effort into the wrong structure
- feeling obliged to do something (i.e. losing enjoyment in the process)
Develop your skills
Growing skills is so freaking easy today. Cheap online courses, workshops in your city, books, webinars, youtube, you name it. If you don’t learn, you wane.
The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.
— Mark Twain
A few guidelines to consider when learning:
- Make sure to practice with a purpose, also called deliberate practice.
- Find the enjoyment of the learning process.
- Devote every day some time for learning. Consistency is key.
- Return to the basics from time to time.
- Inexperience is good: you don’t know what’s impossible yet, so you might achieve anything.
- Variety is your friend: diversify the materials, the style, the breadth of your skills. You can’t be bored when learning.
Excel at failing
If you haven’t failed, you’re not trying hard enough.
- Jennifer Crusie
Being outside of your comfort zone is the only way to grow. You can’t spell “gain” if you don’t have paper and “pain” (officially my worst pun since 2001).
Ok, you must stay careful on scoring some wins now and then. Hey — we are all humans, we can’t live in disappointment 24/7.
But you must find a way always to reach your limits. And go an inch beyond them. Like in fitness, you don’t make progress if you don’t increase the difficulty of the workout. You need to work to failure in all your endeavors to learn and grow from them.
And when you fail — because you will — remember: it’s specific to this particular venture and it’s temporary. Admit you failed. Find out what assumptions were wrong. And move on. Learn to grow an optimistic mindset, and get back on your feet.
Only death is forever. Unless you’re Jesus.
Your close friends, partners, and family can help you get up. You need that validation crew. Make sure you surround yourself with the right people. Those with no agenda.
And what if you run out dry on your latest creation? Well, then perhaps it’s time to let it go.
A poem is never finished, only abandoned.
- Paul Valery
Being in a rut sometimes means it’s the end of the creation. Let it go. Hit publish.
The more you do, the more you connect the dots.
You’ll get to a point where you live in the bubble. Where everything feeds your art. Where everything can serve a grander scheme. Your inspiration is limitless.
You become a creator.
You make something that will endure.
You leave a dent.
Originally published at Gary Scetbon.