As Steven Pressfield once said, the difference between a professional and an amateur is in his habits. Being a prolific creator means you can’t depend too much on inspiration. As my friend Janelle Hanchett said, “if I waited until I was inspired I’d never write a damn thing.” What we can depend on is habits, the spontaneity of artist with the repetitiveness of a mechanic.
1. Write Everyday
One of the fastest paths to becoming a better writer is simply to write every day. And it doesn’t really matter how good you are when you start. Everybody sucks when they start. What matters is whether or not you’re improving. Your cumulative output matters more than any single thing you write, and the secret to becoming a better writer is to become a prolific one.
2. Become a Voracious Reader
Your brain is basically like a gas tank. It needs to be continually refueled with sources of creative ideas. And the easiest way to do this is to become a voracious reader. Even if all you do is read for 15 minutes a day, you’ll be making a deliberate effort to refuel your tanks (aka your brain). Most of my daily writing sessions are informed by whatever I read each day.
3. Turn Things Off
- Turn your phone off for an hour each day
- Turn your notifications off for good
- Turn your computer off for an hour each day
Turning things off allows you to control the inflow. Most of the things in our lives are on by default. If you want to be deliberate and do life by design, turn things off.
4. Do Something Unrelated to Your Work
Lee Zlotoff, creator of Macgyver described this as the Macgyver method. When he was writing episodes of Macgyver, he would let his subconscious do the work. He would go build things, work on puzzles, and when he sat down to do the work, words just poured onto the page.
All of my best creative ideas come from my time surfing. When I’m completely stuck and all the words just seem to be coming out the wrong end, I know it’s time for a break. If surfing isn’t an option, I’ll turn on the Xbox and play a game of NBA 2k15. When I sit back down at the computer I seem to know exactly what I want to say.
5. Push Past The Frustration
I had the idea for this article a few days before I started writing it. But when I sat down to write, I had this familiar feeling. “This stuff is all coming out the wrong end.” It was about 4 pages in a Moleskine and 800 typed words of complete crap. But what I knew I had going was focus, and if I could just focus I would hit flow.
According to Steven Kotler, “flow follows focus.” When you try to incorporate one focused hour of uninterrupted creation time, it’s likely you’ll get really frustrated. But the gap between frustration and flow is really small. It might be an extra minute or ten extra minutes. Push past the frustration and you’ll find yourself in flow.
6. Make Something Every Day
Leave behind a vignette of projects, stories, connections, and art that we can’t help but pay attention to, we can’t help but be moved by.
Leave your footprints in our hearts and minds.
Leave traces of who you are and what matters most to you in each and everything you make.
Touch people’s hearts, captivate their minds and take their imaginations on an unforgettable adventure.
Don’t worry too much about the things that suck. Eventually, they’ll be over. In fact, they’ll give you more colors to paint with and allow you to see what you couldn’t see in any other way.
Shape and shift things in the universe, do things that can’t be quantified by any standard metric, and create a ripple beyond any measure. As the author, Neil Gaiman once said: “leave the world more interesting for your having been here.”
I’m the author of Unmistakable: Why Only is Better Than Best (Available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble). Each Sunday we share the most unmistakable parts of the internet that we have discovered in The Sunday Quiver. *Receive our next issue and learn more about book pre-order bonuses by signing up here.