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Creativity Life & Philosophy Productivity & Work

Never mind the mood

The work doesn’t begin or end at the mercy of mood. Feeling lazy or prepared is neutral — both are non-starters. The mood’s texture remains unchanged. 

Having a daily discipline is the best way to keep the shipping alive. Habits are stronger than moods. 

If your emotions or conditions get in the way because you’re either unmotivated, too sick or cold, exhausted, or missing the perfect seat, you’re screwed. 

Sitting in the chair and beginning promptly by 10 AM is non-negotiable. By sticking to a schedule, you alleviate the pain of starting while forcing yourself to dance with all the anxieties that arise. 

If you get frustrated or stuck, try running out the clock. So be it — you showed up but didn’t produce. 

Dissatisfaction is part of the creative process. Afterward, rest or take your thoughts for a walk to digest the reality of incompleteness. A blank canvass with even the most disappointing attempts is a refreshing experience. There is always tomorrow!

When your perspiration and dedication are the muses, the creativity always comes back because the motivation is the same. The sink keeps dripping. 

Even while going about your day, discipline pays off. Deep work compounds, as the brain uses rest periods to reconvene, reconnect, and make sense of all the input. 

Creativity is complicated, but moods are untrustworthy. Once you’re committed to the process while following your curiosities, there’s no wasted time. 

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Creativity Productivity & Work Writing

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.

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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.

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Life & Philosophy Productivity & Work Writing

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.

The streak goes on.

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Creativity Productivity & Work

Creativity: Faith in process, faith in rest

Rest is integral to unlocking creativity.

Your best ideas come when you’re not trying to grind it out, but when you’re not trying at all. Ideas hit you when your mind is at ease. 

Says composer and playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda:

A good idea doesn’t come when you’re doing a million things. The good idea comes in the moment of rest. It comes in the shower. It comes when you’re doodling or playing trains with your son. It’s when your mind is on the other side of things.

Lin-Manuel Miranda

Creativity is always awake

The brain never shuts off. It’s always processing knowledge, thoughts, and experience, even in a perceived dormant state. 

Creativity is always awake, but it needs time to bloom. The head takes in new information and gets feedback along the way. 

The ‘eureka moment’ is, therefore, a canard. The sedentary body helps the neurons and synapses synchronize thoughts. 

If you get tired, learn to rest, not to quit.

Banksy

Neurochemistry thrives off disconnecting, in which connections mount unforced.

A good idea is an accumulation of bad ones, clever hybrids cleaned up and simplified through trial and error.

The creative thinker enters a relationship through a swift reflection process.

Discovery is not a matter of giving up but giving in to the process of waiting and wondering, all the while keeping the faith.

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Funny Life & Philosophy Productivity & Work Writing

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. 

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Productivity & Work

Why you should schedule nothing (sometimes) 

We live and die by our to-do lists.

From priorities, daily activities, to short and long-term goals, the to-do list steers our purpose and directs our attention.

But then we get distracted. We lose motivation. We gravitate toward doing the other things that grab our immediate interest. These miscellaneous tasks — scrolling Instagram for instance — go outside the realm of structured procrastination.

We all know our big must complete tasks. There’s no need to write them down.

Perhaps the best call to action starts with making our bed or converting unnecessary busyness into idleness by allowing our mind to float.

It’s the unwritten habits, and the deliberate pauses in our day, that really set us up for the work we’re meant to do.

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Arts Creativity Life & Philosophy Productivity & Work

The trick to staying motivated

Money and fame often serve as motivation. So too does doing good for the world. You’d think it’s impossible to be motivated every day.

But you don’t have to be 100% motivated to get stuff done. It only takes a little motivation to get started.

Fortune favors the motivated

Motivation is not a prerequisite to doing the work.

People often work even when they don’t feel like it. Whether they’re following a passion project or exercising pure grit, fortune favors the consistent.

For some like artists and athletes, the daily grind is a profession. It is through starting, action, that is both the cause and effect of motivation.

Motivation is a psychological muscle. If everyone was purely ruled by mood, they’d probably reach for a candy bar or a red bull. The right type of motivation takes looking inside yourself — intrinsic motivation — for the push forward.

Self-help blogs, books, and streams are wonderful but they only provide temporary motivation. Motivation is fickle.

The trick to getting better at any craft is through persistent practice.

Never let being extraordinary prevent you from starting. Even more, spending time thinking about how well things may go can also become also a demotivating force.

If all else fails to inspire, ask yourself whether you were really interested in the first place.

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Productivity & Work

The structured procrastination strategy

The biggest trick about email is that it gives you the feeling you’ve done something. Every time you open an email, your head lights up like a Christmas tree.

Can you imagine sitting outside your snail mail mailbox and opening it up twenty times a day? What a waste of time!

Running on the dopamine trail disrupts your productivity.

What you could do instead is structure your procrastination so you get other stuff done. The father of structured procrastination is Stanford professor John Perry, author of The Art of Procrastination. He writes:

All procrastinators put off things they have to do. Structured procrastination is the art of making this bad trait work for you. The key idea is that procrastinating does not mean doing absolutely nothing. Procrastinators seldom do absolutely nothing; they do marginally useful things, like gardening or sharpening pencils or making a diagram of how they will reorganize their files when they get around to it.

John Perry
The structured procrastination strategy

Repeat: Procrastination does not mean doing nothing

Don’t beat yourself up for avoiding things at the top of the list. Chew on them while you go to work on something else. It’s overthinking and doing nothing that tears you apart.

Note that staying busy does not mean checking Facebook. Social networks and their variable rewards are even more addicting than email.

Keep in mind that you’ll have to put your ass in the chair and dance with the anxiety at some point. If you don’t do the work, you simply don’t care enough.

Procrastinators can be finishers. Until then, reframe procrastination by doing important smaller things.

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Creativity Life & Philosophy

Mental clarity begins in cleaning out the basement

The basement gets a bad rap. It’s the relegation zone. It’s a mess, with cobwebs on the door handles and mountains of dust building in the corners.

There may be mysterious sounds and unidentifiable creatures living in the cracks. But the basement also presents the biggest opportunity to turn disorder into something presentable.

When you start at the bottom, you’re working in reverse.

In cleaning out the canvass, you empty the head and suddenly envision how to fill in the blank slate with something more meaningful. You will give a new meaning to emptiness.

Anyone can emerge from the darkest places back to life if they’re willing to start from scratch. Accepting the Herculean task of debugging your messy ways can help reprogram your mind so you can breathe fresh thinking into the void.