Tag: creativity

“Just Write”

“Just write.”

It’s the perennial advice given to people like me — those who have rose-colored glasses on about what it means to “be a writer.” Just sit down and write until something, anything comes out. But see, here’s what bothers me about that advice: what am I supposed to write if I don’t feel like I have anything to write about?

You know what I write about? Advice about writing. Because today, I don’t feel like I have anything. And here I am, writing about writing.

As a side note, I will say that Austin Kleon’s blog helps me feel less like a fraud in these situations. His blog is filled with quick posts that likely took him less than five minutes to write. His goal seems to be to just get something out there, even if it’s nothing. It’s encouraging, because he doesn’t seem to care about what other people may think about the post, or whether it’s too personal or too weird. It’s his blog, and he makes it what he wants it to be, others’ expectations be damned.

What’s Worth Doing Every Day?

I really dig Austin Kleon‘s attitude regarding creativity, writing, and productivity. His advice is usually simple, easy to follow, and ultimately probably for everyone (even if you aren’t creative).

Recently, he was interviewed about his routine (which seems to be a recurring theme in his work) on Extraordinary Routines. A few gems:

I think routine is so important, especially when you’re getting started creatively, but for me right now, I almost need checkboxes and rituals more than I need routine…

Whether in the form of checkboxes or a routine, this process makes the morning hours crucial to his creativity. “The most important thing for me to do is to write my diary and to write a blog post. If I have done that, then the day in some ways is a success.”…

Instead of aspiring to perfection, we can learn to accept and nurture our imperfect tendencies. We don’t need to sand off our edges, as Austin puts it. “We’re so obsessed with life hacking and with becoming these productive, shining examples of ourselves, but so much of good creative work comes from being a person that has tensions in their life.”

That’s helpful advice, especially considering my post yesterday. By becoming obsessed with good quality productivity, life-hacking, and perfection, I’m forcing myself into inaction on the things that I want to be doing. Checkbox-thinking and routine-thinking forces us to take action, regardless of our perceived faults.

And that makes me wonder, what’s worth doing every day? What’s “checkbox worthy” in my own life? Theoretically, I’d want them to be as simple as possible:

  • exercising for at least five minutes a day
  • praying or meditating for at least five minutes a day
  • reading at least one chapter of a book
  • writing something on the blog, even if it’s just a few words

That’s probably not the whole list, but perhaps it would be beneficial to me to start thinking through to help me overcome my desire for control and perfection when attempting something new.

Baseline Work and Being Boring

Austin Kleon, in this video interview from a few years ago, says that he has a “baseline” of creative work per day. I think it’s changed now for him from Instagram posts of blackout poems to blogging daily.

Either way, it’s another helpful reminder of his tip to “Be Boring” (which I mentioned here). Perhaps, if I want to make good work, the real trick isn’t to work in some creative frenzy; it’s more likely that my best work will come when I have a baseline of work that I produce every day, whether or not it’s “good” work. Or as Kleon says in Steal Like an Artist:

The solution is really simple: Figure out what time you can carve out, what time you can steal, and stick to your routine. Do the work every day, no matter what No holidays, no sick days. Don’t stop. What you’ll probably find is that the corollary to Parkinson’s Law is usually true: Work gets done in the time available.

That reminds me of a conversation I had with a friend of mine a couple of months ago. I mentioned that it’s difficult for me to want to write things publicly, because I feel like there are so many people that are more well read and researched than I am. What could I possibly have to say that will contribute to this conversation? Not to mention — most of the time I think my writing is subpar. In response, he said (and I’m paraphrasing), “In my view, the reason I write now is not because what I think I’m writing now is good. I’m writing now because I want to have something great to write later.”