You Can Be Creative. Even If You Think You Are Not.

Have the words – I’m just not creative – ever come out of your mouth?

I hear them often and even apply these four words to me when I am in the dark forest of a project.

But is this a true statement?

Are some people born with a creative gene and the rest are not?

That sentence – I’m just not creative – should be abolished.

The idea that some elect individuals are born with a creative gene comes from the same people that believe writers are born. Would you believe that about a plumber, an electrician, or a doctor?

Absolutely not. Just ask Chuck Close. He was told he should aim for trade school and body and fender work in eighth grade.

These are terribly lies and limiting beliefs that keep us from living creative, fulfilling lives.

Creativity is only a name for aged, intentional practice.

I can’t count the times I have heard the phrase – I’m just not creative. I wish to stop this nonsense. If you say them to me I promise to be gracious. But remember, creativity is born out of diligent practice and exposure to new ideas.

You may have to read more difficult books and write down definitions of words you do not know to expand your vocabulary.

Perhaps it is time to tell that art teacher you know that you’ve always thought plein air painting was interesting, could they point you in the right direction?

Part of creativity is curiosity – looking for new ways of doing the same old stuff to reinvigorate or uproot established processes.

Ira Glass, famed radio personality and producer, was recorded saying that there is a gap between being a beginner and a professional in creative work. At the edge of the gap – this is where people stop.

We figure that’s it. I guess I’ll never become/attain/change ______.

Maybe you’ve stopped?

Stopped being brave or hopeful because creative work is not easy. We get frustrated with a process or even our own inability to create this great work that we know is harbored deep within.

I challenge you today, and this is just as much for me as it is for you, to examine your process. See what is in your way.

Do you need more practice?

Do you need exposure to creative ideas or people?

Are you doing the very same things that don’t challenge or inspire you and lead to the very same results?

What is in the way? What is creating that gap?

Here’s what Ira Glass has to say about The Gap:

 

Books I Read In 2016

Here’s a list of books I read in 2016. I started keeping track in 2011 after a conversation with my friend Matthew Landrum. I try to complete two to three books each month. You can find previous lists here:

2011       2012       2013       2014       2015

fireworks 2

If you found a “must read” book last year please share in the comments. Also, if you’ve read any of these let me know your thoughts. Here’s to a prosperous 2017.

Down and Out In Paris and London by George Orwell

Do The Work by Steven Pressfield

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Creativity, Inc by Ed Catmul with Amy Wallace

Living Forward – Michael Hyatt & Daniel Harkavy

The Art of Nonconformity by Chris Guillebeau

Russian Fairy Tales  Translation by Gillian Avery

Show Your Work by Austin Kleon

Unseen Footprints by Sheridan Voysey

The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett

Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon

Born Standing Up by Steve Martin

The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut

Resilient: Your Invitation to a Jesus- Shaped Life by  Sheridan Voysey

Nobody Wants To Read Your Sh*t by Steven Pressfield

Baudolino by Umberto Echo

Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon

Tolkien The Authorized Biography by Humphrey Carpenter

Raymie Nightingale by Kate Dicamillo

Ressurection Year by Sheridan Voysey

Show Your Work by Austin Kleon

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

The Pug List by Allison Hodgson

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman.

Why Small Moments Are The Most Important Ones

Last year I signed up for a 10K run. Immediately thereafter, I was hit with a flood of panic. The run was less than two months away and I had not even jogged in six months.

In my mind I knew I would fail. But I decided to try anyway.

After I crossed the finish line, I slowed down to a walking pace and smiled. I could not believe I finished. I beat my target time and never walked. It was a feeling I won’t soon forget.

After the moment passed, I wondered, how did I do it? How did I go from not running for months to completing my longest distance in years?A man against the setting sun

The truth is, I didn’t get up and believe I was going to run a 10K on my first day of training. I mapped out a one mile run and began. After time, I throttled things up a bit and soon, I covered four to five miles in a single exercise.

This principle of starting where you can, right now, and battling back the fear is applicable to running and the writing of books. For my novels, I focus on a the current chapter, not the entire length of a book.

These small moments – days with mile runs and weeks with two thousand words – are the moments that matter in the end. Any grand, front stage moments start here in a state of quiet progress, day after day, with a target date in mind.

As I headed out for training runs this weekend in preparation for my 10K in a two weeks I was reminded of the power of a single writing session compounded one hundred times. The yield is a book.

Don’t forget about the every day. Don’t forget about the small moments of writing time. Put them together. You’ll be glad to did in a few months.

 

What Do You Think Of When You Hear The Word Commitment?

Commitment is a tricky word. If you Google the definition you’ll get some fairly sad synonyms. Responsibility, obligation, duty, tie, and liability.

The word can read more like shackles to throw off than a noun that could inspire you to move to the next level in your book or entrepreneurial ventures.

But commitment gets a bad reputation with those doldrum definitions.

Wedding ring

You’ve heard the classic line after someone gets married. They now have a ball and chain. They are taken, cooped up, unable to enjoy the freedoms that individuality can bring. Thankfully, commitment has other meanings as well.

Dedication

Devotion

Allegiance

Loyalty

Faithfulness

If you are writing a book, in a relationship, or employed these words can mean the difference between being successful and an unfinished or tragic end.

Often for me, time passes too quickly and I can become dissatisfied with my writing output. But I have to remind myself that I am not in it for the quick fix or euphoria of a day. I am writing for the long haul. I am committed to my craft. This requires time. It also requires an epic amount of commitment.

What do you think when you hear the word commitment?

Do you need to commit or recommit to something or someone today?

How To Integrate Your Dream Into Your Busy Life

When I first started writing I had no children. I could get up as early as I liked and stay up as late as possible, as long as my full time job did not suffer. At one point, I got up at five thirty every Saturday morning and wrote for four hours. It was a magical time.

Fast forward to today, I am lucky if I get fifteen minutes each morning. So how do you balance that change? Going from four hours a day to fifteen minutes?

I like making checklists. I didn’t realize I did until I got further into my sales career. Before I leave for the day I write down what I need to accomplish the next day. This keeps me focused and on task no matter what happens during my morning commute.

How does this relate to writing? Because knowing what I am going to do with the brief block of time I have matters immensely. As a busy writer, I cannot approach time casually. I must be intentional about how I use it whether I am writing, doing the dishes, or relaxing. Having a plan on how I am going to use my time goes a long way to spending it well.

I wrote a checklist before I started my writing block this weekend. Then I listened to music on the way to my writing destination to get me in the writing mood and journaled as soon as I arrived. Usually, these are my first two actions before I have a writing session. They help me focus on what I need to do. Then I can attack the checklist. If you don’t like checklists, do any action that helps you track progress. For me, crossing items off a list is extremely satisfying.

When I create my checklist I start with writing first. I may need to send an email or tweak a portion of my website or do some research but I write first. I can do admin tasks on my lunch break during the week if I run out of time. On my checklist I put two hundred and fifty words or whatever I need to remain on schedule for my current project.

The reason I put a limit on my words is because my time is limited and I like a target to aim at. It also helps me not burn out. I cannot possibly sit down and write five thousand words and still be present with my wife, kids, friends, or work.

So I create a checklist, get my mind in the writing mood, and then do my writing first. I also limit the word count to feel accomplished and limit burn out. These three things help me be prepared, build momentum, and execute.

I would like to leave your with this caveat, however. If you chase a dream, you must be flexible by keeping your expectations in check. Life can change in a moment and we must be ready to leap forward and take advantage of a sudden gap in time, or throttle back as it requires.

Overcome The Uninspired Feeling Once And For All

One of my favorite writers is Steven Pressfield.

Though I don’t know him personally, he’s taught me many truths through his books. Not cute, fun truths, but tough in-your-face ones.

If I sit back and survey the times that I’ve stopped writing it’s not because I didn’t love the ride but it was because I was either uninspired or lazy.

What have I done!?
Photo Credit: miguelavg via Compfight cc

It was during a time when I did not consider what was at stake when I merely skipping a days’ word count, that I picked up his book The War of Art.

Mr. Pressfield taught me that I wasn’t simply taking a break, I was sacrificing my dream of writing every time I took a pass.

The truth is, I’d like it to be easy. I’d like a clean cut trail exactly where I want to go with my books.

I type.
Books are published.
Simple as that.

But any successful writer, no matter if you view their work as drivel or snobbish, has overcome the uninspired feeling and done the one sure fire action toward a publishing career.

They wrote when their schedules told them they should be writing.

They are professionals about their books.

How about you?

Do you dream of the easy lottery book contract worth millions?

Or are you writing, and saving the day dreams for when the days’ work is done?

Why You Should Plan Your New Year’s Resolution Right Now

Imagine you hire a contractor to build you a house. They don’t return your calls and then suddenly show up on day  one with random bits of wood, insulation, a few screws, and a hard hat. Then they crack open a book titled, Building Your Own Home for Dummies. They’d be fired in like a second, right?

They obviously have no idea what they are doing, no plans, and no one to help them build it. The sad thing about this story is this is exactly how we treat our New Year’s resolutions.

We want to lose weight, write a book, start a business. But we show up on January one with an idea and a crazy commitment. Sadly, according to Forbes, only 8% of people who start New Years resolutions actually fulfill them.

So if you want to have the best year ever, fulfilling a life long dream or just rounding into shape starting January 1, how do you ensure you follow through on your commitment?

Fireworks

Recently I noticed I was lacking in my writing commitment. I want next year to be a cornerstone year for my books. So I wrote down some goals to create a plan and then contacted a friend to keep me accountable every week.

This is a two pronged attack. Preparation and accountability are two huge reasons people will follow through on their commitments. I have another friend who is a poet that sends signed checks to another writer. If they do not send each other finished work by a certain date, they get cashed, now that’s accountability!

So you plan, and have someone to keep you accountable, what else? You make the goal measurable and write it down.

Not like this – I want to lose weight!

Like this – I want to lose 20 pounds by September 30th.

If you need additional assistance with goal setting check out the SMART method posted here.

In the end, if you want to commit to something great there will be hard times. This is when you need accountability. There will also be moments of self doubt or when life gets in the way. Your plan will help see you through.

But start now. Start early.

How To Make More Time For The Things You Love

If you are reading this chances are you want to do something extraordinary. The problem is that you need margin in your life to make it happen and just don’t have the time.

How do you create this space?

hourglass

No one can conjure up another three hours each day unless you are Hermione Granger with a Time Turner. But what we can do is cross examine how we spend our most precious resource and see if it matches our long term goals.

FINDING THE LOST HOURS

Get ready. This may be painful. Do you watch The Walking Dead? Is Sunday ‘football day’? How much time do you spend on Facebook? These are the lost moments, or hours, that we need for our passions.

If you want to go after your dream, something has to go, at least at first. There is no possible way to continually add new items to your agenda. When you have your empire up and running, perhaps you can sneak in a little football, but not now.

WHAT TO DO NOW

Now is the time for action. Now is the time to push harder than ever before or as Jon Acuff puts it, we must hustle. The best way to do this? Evaluate the time we spend on things other than our spouse, family, and job and then ask ourselves if several hours of football-like activity is worth our long term goals.

Are you losing time each week? How can you reclaim those hours and put them to good use?

 

To Be A Writer You Must Suspend Disbelief

As writers we are bombarded with questions and self doubt.

What was the reason I decided to do this in the first place? Why do I keep going? Am I good enough? Who would read this anyway? I could never afford to write full time, right? A writer’s day is filled with these questions and more as we continue to write. It can be difficult to drown out this noise as we forge ahead.

Have you ever stopped for a moment and thought about how silly that process is? One of believing without seeing? Of doing when the odds are stacked incredibly against us?

Photo Credit: faungg's photos via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: faungg’s photos via Compfight cc

This is the process of suspending disbelief. I heard a great podcast from Michael Hyatt about it the other day. It’s the process of marching forward even though we know in the back of our minds what we desire is near impossible.

He shares a conversation he had with his doctor. He just returned from a sabbatical and she replied that it would be wonderful to do that some day. He challenged to think not about how it is impossible, but what would have to be true in her life to make that very thing happen.

Does this also apply to you in your budding writing career? What would have to be true for you to be a full time writer? Pay off student loans? A house with more space? A job with more flexibility? My guess is that with a little hard work, you can get there.

Don’t believe me? How much could you make if you took a few more shifts at work and then cancel your cable to pay down that debt? What if you did some work on your house to sell it? It’s a great time to do that. Why not look for another job with more flexibility?

This process may not be one that happens overnight. But would one to five years of odd jobs, scrambling, and searching be worth getting to do what you want to do for the rest of your life? Sounds amazing to me.

Today, do not think about what is impossible. Think about how you can own your career, book, dream, etc., and take just one step in that direction. Make sure it is not selfish and self serving but measurable and freeing for you and your loved ones.

Step today.

My Writing Update

The JOT Conference is THIS Saturday. I am busy planning, coordinating, and putting on the final touches. Not much other writing besides parts of a book I’m not ready to share about yet, blogging, and outlining my workshop for the Breathe Conference in early October.

My Posts This Week

Photo Credit: zpeckler via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: zpeckler via Compfight cc

Yesterday’s post highlighted what else but the delightful Jot Writers Conference! Click here for details and for the sign up.

Friday – Many times we plan for the day, week, or month. But writing or blogging is something the builds over time. Are you writing with that distant goal in mind, or the quick hit?

Thursday – White Space is the space where you plan and grow and clear you head. In today’s world it’s hard to find space moment for this. But in life there are ebbs and flows like the tide. Time to produce time to play and time to plan. Remember to invest in White Space.

Wednesday – You’ve heard the old saying – you never know if you don’t try – a billion times. Often these pieces of sage advice wear thin and become dull. But this one still carries it’s luster as you’ll learn. Read the post here.

On Tuesday it was all about change. We want to grow here, travel there, and change this habit. But how does one make changes that stick and maintain growth that endures? Learn here.

Monday – Ever have that moment where you are caught with a compelling idea for a book but are thick in the middle of another one? Then it’s followed by a conga line of killer blog posts tiles that just won’t keep quiet? I have. Here is how you can stay focused on the task at hand and also collect all of these ideas.

I hope to see you this week at the Jot Writer’s Conference or in the comments section in future posts.

Do the things that matter longer than a day.

Write well this week.