Relaxed while working

The synchronicities tend to happen in our most relaxed moments, not when we’re stressing out about work or life.

Bothersome thoughts place a block on our ability to connect disparate ideas. So too does a tense face.

Anxiety undermines attention, and with it, additional perspective.

Our capacity to retain information expands upon the pace of the barest effort. Unmoored from the monkey mind, we grant the synapses a passport to the freedom of concentrated thought.

In a state of flow, nothing is left wanting. The pen can hardly keep up with the bicycle of impressions peddling through our heads.

When awake on our passions, we’re always running to a place where we catch onto things. The answers may be tentative and impractical, but at least they’re exciting.

J.K. Rowling revisits her masterpiece

J.K. Rowling reflects on annotating the first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

I wrote the book … in snatched hours, in clattering cafés or in the dead of night … The story of how I wrote Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is written invisibly on every page, legible only to me. Sixteen years after it was published, the memories are as vivid as ever as I turn these pages.”

J.K. Rowling

Most authors refuse to revisit their old work. Musicians avoid listening to their old albums. Some actors refuse to see their movies after they hit theaters. J.K. Rowling goes back in time to relive all the scars. 

Art reminds creatives of their daily battles with the blank page, canvass, or script—a craft fraught with sweat and tears, pain, and pleasure. All the scars make it visible to the maker. 

The work always tells the truth. But it was also yesterday’s genius.

“There’s always more to be said, more to be felt,” Henry James once remarked. We can always do better. Yet finishing and moving on is the point. 

The grind begins again. And so we buckle up and start the next one.

The pointlessness of constant self-grading

We obsess with gauging the temperature of our present reputation. The numbers are public, ticking up and down like stock prices.

The internet is the grandest stage of them all, where we endeavor to present our best selves. We strive to prove our self-worth by using likes and followers to gauge our fame and pepper our egos.

A virtual reputation is never finished, stuck in progress, held captive by the screen’s anesthetic. There’s always one more person to attract and appease online. Social media is a vehicle for magnification, intending to reveal the real world. 

Yet, the perpetual chase of approval remains illusory. There is no need to install an elaborate series of checks and balances on fame’s usefulness.

Our mood, needless others’ temperament, is as fickle as the weather. Vigorous grading is neither suitable for the person nor the whole. 

If we measure ourselves by vanity, we’ll spend our lives running on the hedonic treadmill., prematurely ceding to external judgment. We close the world by opening our hearts and taking significant autonomy to remake ourselves into who we think we are. 

Creativity is a fancy version of productivity

People confuse busyness with productivity. Answering emails all day is mostly a waste of time, as is instant messaging co-workers. Doing something — typing into little boxes all day — fulfills the human desire to feel useful.

People also perceive what artists do is an unnecessary use of time. But creativity is a fancy version of productivity.

Nothing gets wasted when it comes to painting, songwriting, and any other artistic vocations. Scraps and shitty rough drafts give us something to play with. The art of gathering string — doing the hard work, heart work, and head work — expands the reality we perceive.

Sensible work gets us paid. Yet, when we photograph everything, we look at nothing.

Without propelling the imagination and practicing our craft, we’re just procrastinators and waiters. The whole point of making art is to do and ship something interesting.

If you’re struggling to get started, do it badly

“Work finally begins when the fear of doing nothing exceeds the fear of doing it badly,” advises the author Alain de Botton

Perfection is the antithesis of inspiration — it prevents you from getting started.

The trick to getting going is to do it badly. To do that, one must be intentionally messy. The art of spontaneity asks you to start before you’re ready. Don’t over-think the process; intensify the habit of doing.

The emancipatory power in getting started helps jumpstart creativity. 

Producing crap isn’t the end-goal. There is no quality without quantity — first, we get going, then we deduce. 

“If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word.”

Margaret Atwood

The point of taking small actions is to create enough momentum to feel like we’re winning. You’re looking to go from one pushup a day to two the next week, four thousand steps a day to five-hundred. 

You’ll need to write one-hundred words day after day before developing the muscle to consistently get down two-hundred words. By the way, there is no such thing as writer’s block!

Do small things to get started — no matter how poorly — to avoid second-guessing yourself and prime the motivational pump.

The streak goes on

Writing can be a painful activity. The idea of thinking and starting from scratch every day frightens the resistance.

But just as in exercise, the trick is in getting started.

Knowing that we can remain uncharged by the underground voltage of curiosity and enthusiasm, we have to depend on a non-thinking routine.

Showing up to practice is the number one priority. Then one writes poorly and gradually with more force, putting the bones in our words.

Discipline is a secret hidden in plain sight, only visible in the long look beyond the glance.

Swimming in impulses and doubt — remembering the possibility of revision helps tame the symphony of perfection.

Relaxed in the process, mincing and mixing words into a jigsaw puzzle of sentences holds material and belief more firmly.

We finish another day until the brain strains for another run tomorrow.

Addicted to vocation, flush with anxiety, we numb all feelings with the most adamant flow.

Streaks

The artist never stops, continuing a streak of a thousand days.

Each day, rain or shine, they either pop with energy or force it. Discipline is freedom; fulfillment is worth every penny. 

Consistency is not neutral. Bowing down to habit ensures the only possible outcome. 

The brevity of life requires a sense of urgency and provocation. And a daily routine gives us space to be creative and thoughtful.

How one navigates the tension between doing and knowing is less important than showing up and doing the work. 

As a library of longings, there is propulsion of curiosity in feeling undone. No one will ever finish all the books in the world, yet we read on anyway.

Ignorant of what the future holds, the only schedule worth keeping is one that begs us to do it all over again tomorrow. 

Real artists build their own adventure and persevere. They’re numb to discomfort. When done, they work on shipping the next. 

Writing through sheets of ice

You bought the new notebook, snagged a new pen, and listened to a motivational podcast. You’re ready to do the work!

But two things happen as you start:

1 – You freeze. The thoughts in your head never make it to the tip of the pen. Your brain trips up on its wiring of ideas. Warning!

2 – You get going but know that what’s splurging on paper is crap. You’re producing sheets of melting ice. The writing is ugly, an explosion of everything at once. Such cacophony melts your heart, deadens your spirit.

The urge to quit and give in to the resistance is what smothers dreams. Goal-setting often backlashes when you set the bar too high.  

What if instead of focusing on the goal, you concentrated on the system?

Systems are more powerful than fears because discipline always overrides motivation. 

The real work happens when you sit your ass down at the desk for half an hour and write hundreds of words regardless of the outcome. After all, the more you make, the more you have to play with. 

Writes James Clear in “The case for having no goals in your life:”

“Goals are good for planning your progress and systems are good for actually making progress.”

James Clear

It takes a long time to strike the chord you seek. The rest of the time you’re practicing with the intent to nail it down. All writing is in the edit.

Even poor sentences give you fresh ideas and force you into new territories. Writing, as in all creation, requires both patience and persistence to push the wastewater through the shoddy pipes. Here’s how to tap into the creativity faucet.

The muse only works in your favor if you’re willing to be consistent and put in the work. “Remember our rule of thumb,” writes Steven Pressfield in The War of Art, “The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”

The rest — the Moleskine notebook, the perfect pen, the dreamy goal — are excuses that trip you up.

Walking in circles

Abstract thinking strings together collisions of thought, producing ever-more complexity or the deepest simplicity.

Tinkering with possibilities makes everything strange, at least at first. But that’s yesterday’s genius.

gif by Yali Herbet

Today and tomorrow, we’ll mill around some more, waiting for the most certain idea. Even the subconscious doesn’t give time off for the brain to relax.

Said one, “If a mind was so simple we could understand it, we’d be too simple to understand the mind.”

Crunching it all down to the essence, we complicate nothing. We’re always left circling the strange, left with more questions than answers.

The chorus of arrival

“The pen is the tongue of the mind,” wrote Horace.

It scribes from experience and the imagination, ricocheting from one neuron to the next.

Sometimes it takes years to write a lyric. The frustration of waiting on its arrival is the art of gathering string.

We are always chewing over something and turning out blanks of progress. The sentence is already there, dormant, waiting to bloom. The lyrics are phenomenally written, waiting to be sung!

It’s quality of the connections that make eureka-moments feel so elusive. Fragments take time to make whole.

Simple and beautiful — thoughts are not born from the recipes of artificial intelligence.

Discovery dawns on us like a spark of randomness, but only if we challenge ourselves to get to work.

Creativity lies within

The quest of creativity is really the search for aliveness.

It is no wonder that when we spend the time to make and ship our craft, we are happier human beings.

To see and have any product resonate is icing on the cake. Few artists ever achieve wide acclaim for their work, even fewer prosper.

There’s no guarantee that the so-called “professional” writer or photographer achieves monetary success. Money is no arbiter, as Van Gogh can attest — he only sold one painting while he was alive and it was to his brother.

When we begin with the intention to please or entertain others, it’s no wonder the muse gives up on us. She demands honest work.

Creativity can be selfish act. We make what we want to see in the world, even if we don’t believe in the project at hand. It is within the practicing of creating, the maker basks in raw aliveness.

Originality is the pusher.

The road to becoming a mentality monster

She never imagined what her artwork could do to her. Her output fostered confidence in the images of the psyche.

She brushed with aplomb, thinking without thinking — neither about the potential eyeballs nor sales numbers. What artist needs market research?

Honest, disciplined, and in good taste. The creator never grew disillusioned when she got knocked back.

Persistence is a duty, a right to the path. Passion is the great instigator; the emotional jolt every fashion designer needs to avoid the grind.

She dared to do. Doing is why there’s knowing.

She became a zoo of complex, organic molecules optimized toward effort. The world welcomed its newest mentality monster.