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Creativity Productivity & Work Writing

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.

Categories
Arts Creativity Productivity & Work

A panoply of tools

What’s the primary device that unlocks your creativity — the camera, a pen, or the paintbrush?

These tools are our passport to freedom. So photographers speak through photos, writers communicate in text, cartoonists draw, etc.

“We become what we behold,” Marshall McLuhan said, “We shape our tools and then our tools shape us.”

Tools for Titans
Photo: Bill Robertson

Our vocation shapes our perspective and predetermines our output.  

But we gather scraps of ideas everywhere; through unintended eavesdropping, mishearing things, and misread headlines. Artists are scavengers.  

We combine divergent widgets in our toolshed to strengthen the entire arsenal. The writer makes draws; the architect paints with light; the musician scribes poems. 

Using a variety of widgets helps work out different artistic muscles. As we draw analogies across subjects, we improve our core craft. 

Said the Greek poet Archilochus: “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” 

All the hedgehog knows how to do is protect itself with its spines. But the fox is more elastic — it can adapt to different conditions that enhance its chances to survive.

We permit our perspectives to shapeshift by opening the mind up to ubiquitous inspiration. Our imagination expands in so far as we stretch our palette. 

First, we collect and understand. Then we deduce. Only then can we return to mastering our core competency. 

Categories
Creativity Productivity & Work

The burn of discontent

Everything starts and ends from the burn of discontent.

We all have an inkling for something, a dormant enthusiasm, waiting to erupt so we can pour our hearts into it.

But the wait is killer. Toiling in anonymity while practicing in mediocrity needs a special kind of patience.

The resistance can only win at our own capitulation. The work is all that matters. 

As they say, “the only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary.”

If self-promotion along the way helps one build up the confidence to ship, by all means, do it. We must seek the respect we deserve.

We are the audience and actor in the play of life, trying to step back and compose with the highest quality. 

No one is going to announce our emergence. All we can ask for is to be consistent with our time. 

Show up. The only talisman is the heart and head work.

Categories
Life & Philosophy Poetry

Mind over matter, what’s the matter with your mind?

Sí, se puede. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Trying is a passport to freedom. You can do it, contrary to your negative internal dialogue. Mindset is everything. As is practice.

Showing up consistently matters, and reflects in the quality of the work.

Mind over matter, what’s the matter with your mind?

Discipline equals freedom — now that’s a bumper sticker!

Guess, what? Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.

You’ve clamored all your life for excellence, only to realize that motivation was obstruction. There is no need to be certain.

Discomfort persists in your keyboard of consciousness, a type of continuous inward revolution.

Categories
Life & Philosophy Productivity & Work

Underseen, often overlooked

Height, skin color, your shoes — People are always trying to prejudge each other’s possibilities in the context of their surroundings.

But the old adage rings true: Never judge a book by its cover.

The good news for the last pick in the draft is that there’s only upside.

For one, underdog status builds up a voltage of motivation.

Psychologically, the forgotten ones are already drafting their own blueprints. With a chip on their shoulder, they already have material to hone: to prove the doubters wrong.

Never question the invisibility cloak of work ethic, practice, and skill.

The star that emerges is rarely the one that we’re all expecting.

Categories
Life & Philosophy Productivity & Work

Inspiration is a myth

All the inspiration exists and is equally distributed.

But the ubiquity of motivational quotes and rags to riches biographies can be sheer fodder. Instead of doing the work, we get caught in the cycle of disattention.

The role of the artist is the create a reality for themselves. We can’t expect to copy and paste someone else’s experience as our own.

Inspirational quotes exist to help is reflect, rewind, and then compel us to push us along. Our mood board is a visual impetus, not an excuse to procrastinate.

The environment is continually changing, with a priori information overwriting the old ways of doing things.

We can always expect our path to be messy, but with the right mentality, our bodies and minds equally resilient.

Scouring the internet for a hit of motivational dopamine is only temporary. It’s the perspiration that has to be permanent.

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Life & Philosophy Productivity & Work Uncategorized

Growing one block of reality at a time

We take one step forward and two steps back. Effort never guarantees success but it always ensures learning.

All great things happen because of discomfort. If we can persist through the pain and develop patience, there’s usually a rainbow waiting for us at the other end.

But whatever we’re chasing needs to give us purpose. Purpose drives passion which in turn makes it easier to persist through all the CRAP: criticism, rejection assholes, and pressure.

Whenever any that goal gets less sticky, perhaps it’s time to pivot or take more risks.

Toggling between the predictable and unpredictable makes us feel more alive.

Pour one out for the emotional journey of creating anything great.

Categories
Arts Creativity Productivity & Work Writing

A still inchoate creator

The blank page doesn’t write itself. It stares at you, pleading for you to quit and move on to something else.

Those who persist pace themselves into unfamiliar territory. A big bang does no artist any good. What matters is not the end result, but pushing through in a gradual approach.

Slow and steady wins the race

Creators strive for long-term serotonin over the short-shock dopamine.

They’re the ones that embrace vulnerability. They dance with fear while building up the bicep of the brain. Confidence speaks as if it were alone, dying to go public.

The barrier lies within the self. It tries to impede greater personal growth. You are your own worst enemy of nuclear insignificance.

To wait in the ambiguous middle while everyone else flies by on the racetrack of certainty.

You have to do the work now, because you don’t have forever.

Spike Jonze

Doing the work is a conscious anxiety-ridden habit, but it can run with it like a GIF loop. Chances are if you did it yesterday you can do it again today.

The race to patience is on. It’s settling that’s the problem.

gif by Sharon Liu

Categories
Life & Philosophy

The big picture view

An animation of girl lying down dreaming in the sand

Everything is a work in progress. From your health to relationships, to making art, the finish line remains elusive because we’re always preserving the status quo or making things better. Even democracy is a work in progress.

En Media Res — That’s Latin for being in the middle of the action. If inertia is the enemy of action, then we can’t afford to sit the good life out.

What’s your modus operandi? What’re your criteria for a successful future? Is there an ethos you’re trying to build for yourself over the next few years?

To stay on track, you need to set goals. Not the ones that invoke jealousy, make you unhappy, enforce you to keep up with others. Chase goals that inspire a way of life, benefit those around you, help develop a sense of purpose, and inspire you to say hell yes despite the burn!

Live by choice, not by chance. Taking control allows one to stay connected to the big picture view. Hold on to your ideas and ideals on how the experience should be and never be afraid to see it through.

Categories
Creativity Productivity & Work

Give yourself permission to build 

Motivation ebbs and flows. It is fickle and short-lasting.

So we can’t wait for the muse to compel us to work. As Chuck Close said, “inspiration is for amateurs.”

However, what we can do is develop a passion for something and use it to solidify our grit. Having a little excitement helps us push through crap (criticism, rejection, assholes, and pressure).

If pertinacity and practice are a powerful combination, then discipline is true freedom. We are nothing without planned intent.

The fight is already there. The rest is permission, one that we can only give ourselves.