“Curving white marble stairs in Am Domhof” by Daniel von Appen on Unsplash

3 Tips on How to Start Creating

Begin, It is You Must

The creative process is a mystery.

It’s an art more than a science. There is no one way to do it.

This is apparent with the multitude of books about the topic of creativity. I have read books about writing, filmmaking and public speaking. All of them contradict one another. But there’s a grain of truth to them.

Advice is merely autobiographical, it has helped them in their journey. And they are sharing it out of good intentions, meant to help those who have the same sensibilities.

This is my version of how to start creating. It is not the only way. It is my way.

I am a tinkerer. I can think about all the possible ways of doing something. I would spend hours talking about the different angles I can take, all the permutations it can make and ruminate on all the details.

But where I fail the most is execution.

I am afraid to start when it’s not perfect. I wait for the stars and moon to align before taking the first step. I would get tired before even beginning.

A planner who doesn’t have anything to show for. What good is a blueprint if I can’t produce a house with it?

And this is where beginning becomes a crucial step.

It’s the feeling you get when you first dip your toes into the cold water. The first leap is excruciating. And when your body hits the water, it’s a pain at the highest level.

But it doesn’t kill you.

1. Baby Steps

What is the smallest step you can do now? In blogging every day, I start with writing ten crappy ideas or stories. I permit myself to be silly. For today I’ve written down silly stories I can share.

The yellow comb from 5th grade that I still use today. The day when I got circumcised. How I spent my 24th birthday in Kuala Lumpur alone — my first solo trip ever.

And I wrote down — begin, and the net will appear. So here we are now.

I’ll cajole myself into dipping my toes in the pool and then slowly get my foot submerged until I get into my chest.

I am not a fan of hurling my body in one big go — Cannon Ball!

2. Percolation

There’s a percolation period before anything remarkable happens.

My head needs to warm up for thirty minutes. This is the part where I get bored, and nothing comes out. It’s a diesel engine that needs to warm itself.

This is a vulnerable state where I need to save myself from all the knee-jerk reactions: I want to fiddle my phone, talk to my wife or read a book. These are escape mechanisms instead of doing the task.

The temptations will be severe, don’t use willpower to fight them. Set an environment where it’ll be hard to distract yourself. Hide your gadgets in plain sight. Make it hard for you to reach them. Unplug the home router.

I start my writing with classic pen and paper. Ultimate distraction free creating.

I learned this from my wife cause I see her outlining and crafting her article before she opens her laptop. And I must tell you. This made me faster even if I’m a staunch hater of manual writing.

3. Freewrite

No matter what you’re creating, permit yourself to babble.

This is where freewriting comes in. It’s a first draft where I babble on the page.

It’s a big blob of writing that needs chopping when it finishes. But it provides a working canvass where I’ll need to edit what I wrote.

Write drunk, edit sober.

It’s a two-hit combo. Enjoy the drunk writing part. But don’t forget to edit with a sober mind.

Writing is about rewriting. Filmmaking is about editing.

Michelangelo finished the famous David by sculpting and removing chunks. But he had to start with a blob of marble.

Any creative endeavor needs refining and polishing of edges.

Editing a blank page is hard. But it’s easier to find gold in three pages of freewriting. Once you get used to it, you’ll upgrade and start to plan and outline your content.

But you always need the freewriting spirit no matter how planned your content is. For a tinkerer like me, it will never be perfect. There’s never a perfect script, outline or idea.

The way we can free ourselves from this shackle is freewriting.

Ideas are dime a dozen. No one gets heralded for ideas.

At the end of our life, people will triumph us by our executions.

People will always say that they’ve thought about Facebook, Uber, Airbnb or Instagram before they were created. But no one will give them a billion dollars for an idea. What matters is who executed the idea well.

What are you trying to create now? Is it a blog post, podcast, product or a vlog? Take solace in knowing that the biggest merit is given to those who start. And not to those who tinker.

Think of the baby steps, let them percolate and then begin free writing.

Execution over ideas.