The Simple Rule I Have to Ensure I Keep on Creating
No one can't diarise inspiration so we have to find another way to keep moving forward
Creativity is a mystery to everyone. Let's just damn well admit it. No-one knows how it works, else we'd all be hammering out best-selling novels, platinum albums and have 5 billion Youtube views.
Instead, the YouTube video with 5 billion views isn't you, it's Baby Shark (no really).
Creativity has to be teased out and conjured up. We all have different methods, tricks, pills and potions to get it to appear and to get our noggin in the artistic flow (booze and 2am writing sessions, I'm looking at you).
Often - more often than we like to admit because it's bloody terrifying - we hit walls, feel dried up, bereft of ideas and in need of rejuvenation before creative work can begin again.
I don't think you can call yourself a creator or an artist if at regular intervals you don't feel like a giant, untalented fraud. Creating is about getting out of the comfort zone.
As a friend of mine in stand up comedy told me:
"If you don't want to quit comedy once a month, you're not trying hard enough."
So, if you're serious about tackling your creative demons, I highly recommend 'The Artist's Way' by Julia Cameron, a whole book dedicated to unblocking artists and improving creative flows. It's marvellous, full of exercises, practical advice, and it will no doubt help you, whatever you creative endeavours. I am currently working my way through it and keep shouting "Yes, this!" when Cameron gives insights into the creative struggle.
However, right now, I want to share with you a very simple method I've found to be successful in ensuring my creative snowball keeps on rolling.
It's a method that made my good friend say to me,
"I don't know how you find the time to get so much stuff done."
There's no magic to it, and when you read it, you might feel disappointed, hoping instead for a more specific life-hack that will help you cheat the system.
Unfortunately, there is no cheating the system, we all have to put in the work. But on that note, my method, my simple rule, is this:
Make sure you do at least one creative thing every day.
That's it. I told you it's a disappointing reveal, but stick with me, I want to explain why it works and how I do it.
You Can't Diarise Inspiration
We can schedule in creative time and work, work and work some more hoping something shows up. That's how some people do it. That's the Steven Pressfield method, and it works for him. He's up for the slugfest, a down and dirty fight, him vs creativity.
But it doesn't work for everyone. I've been there, staring at a blank screen, sometimes inspiration just doesn't come when summoned. You can waste a lot of time wrestling with your mind; drawing something, throwing it away, writing something, throwing it away, filming something, deleting it.
Some days you feel about as creative as a calculator.
Who knows why creativity comes and goes, perhaps it's a spiritual thing or just blood sugar, but I've found trying to catch it is like trying to catch a wave as it breaks onto the shore. Instead, it is better to go with the ocean's flow and let creativity dictate the way.
All I worry myself about these days is moving forward. I ensure I do one creative thing a day when the inspiration grabs me, no matter how small, no matter how seemingly inconsequential.
I might write an article, or just jot down an idea I have for a story. I might film and edit a whole video, or just read up on how someone else makes their videos.
The point is, I don't worry about what I do each day, I just worry about doing it.
Embrace the Power of Consistency
If your mind is doing something creative every day, inspiration will come knocking.
This is partly why Julia Cameron's 'morning pages' exercise works so well, or why James Altucher writes down 10 ideas every day; it is exercising a muscle, it is keeping yourself match fit so when a creative wave hits, you can surf it rather than have it knock you off your feet.
Consistency creates compound interest. In a month, if you've done 30 creative things, even if some of them seem of no value, you'll have a lot to work with, to mould and refine. What you have done over the month will be greater than the sum of its 30 indiivudal parts. What's more, you will no longer be staring at a blank screen or blank canvas anymore.
Remember: Do not worry about the quality of your daily efforts, just ensure your mind is churning over ideas. Grab inspiration when you can, write in a notepad on the toilet, dictate into your phone on a drive, whatever works.
Please do try and employ this simple rule, even if you only commit to it for a week or two. Just make sure a day doesn't go by without something being done and you'll be surprised how much it mounts up.
As productivity guru James Clear wrote recently:
"It's better to do less than you hoped than nothing at all. No zero days."
This method has allowed me to pretty much double my output. Motivation comes from action, not the other way around.
Momentum is everything, and I don't say this lightly; I have a wife and four children, a full-time corporate job (with new creative challenges on that front too) and I'm still able to push out content regularly.
I'm not talented or special, I'm just consistent. In the words of Bob Dylan, I'm a slow train coming. Consistency over intensity.
You're a goddamn creative tank, slowly pushing through to victory. It might feel like you're not getting anywhere, but if you don't stop moving, it's impossible not to progress.