One of my mantras for 2018 is create first.
For some of you creatives that might seem redundant. Or silly. ‘Cause you always create first. It's your natural state.
But not I.
I'm a consumer. Particularly of information. As we were all taught to be. I have always been an incredibly devoted learned — primarily through books. (I was one of those kids that would upset her parents because I wouldn't stop reading and come out of my room. And then when i did come out of my room I was still reading.)
My love of education is a beautiful characteristic in many ways. Over the years my head has been filled with useful information and a love for learning.
But my head has also been filled with a ton of useless information. And a sort of perfectionism of feeling like I need to know everything before I can get started on something.
As an entrepreneur, this is often a detriment that slows me down.
Is there some value to this?
But the truth is that for creatives and entrepreneurs (and creative entrepreneurs) there's so much of value. So much content. So much creativity already inside of us that often it's not necessary that we learn how to do everything right before we start.
If you're anything like me, you'll always be a student. Your thirst for knowledge will never dry up. However, there are ways to counterbalance your consuming with creating. Here are three tips:
Tip 1: Consume information that will help you understand and overcome the resistance to creating.
Make a point of reading books and consuming information that will help you overcome the resistance, motivate you, and inspire you. Consume information that makes you want to hop out of that cozy worn spot on the couch and over to your desk to work.
The Art of War: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield gave me an understanding of what was happening to me — why I didn't want to take action on the things that I know I really do want to take action on.
Resistance is an invisible force that, "cannot be seen, touched, heard, or smelled. But it can be felt. We experience it as an energy field radiating from a work-in-potential. It's a repelling force. It's negative. It aims to shove us away, distract us, prevent us from doing our work."
Resistance is also internal, insidious, implacable, and impersonal, infallible, universal, and fueled by fear: "Resistance has no strength of its own. Every ounce of juice it possesses comes from us. We feed it with power by our fear of it. Master that fear and we conquer Resistance."
Ah, fear. Of course.
Elizabeth Gilbert describes fear in her book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear:
That describes me. And may describe you. And probably describes a lot of us. That's why it's poignant, relevant, and interesting.
On some level, it's easy enough to recognize that it's fear holding you back from what you want to create in your life. But seeing it on a page. In such an eloquent way. It allows for a shift. A little bit of magic, if you will.
It is natural to feel fear. About the things we create. And about putting them out into the world for other people to see. And potentially criticism. The things that we make ourselves are so precious and personal. It's like a small piece of you that you're making available to others. And for others to harshly judge — well, of course, that feels terrifying.
Yes, that fear is part of what makes us prefer to consume rather than create.
If I'm just taking in more information…
...I don't have to put myself at risk because I'm not sharing anything I've created
....I can learn from other people what they did what worked, and I'll do it exactly like them so that I too can be successful.
...I can appear "busy" and "productive" but don't have to dig into my creative mind and heart.
But calling a spade a spade. Recognizing that you're more than your fear and your basest instincts, (Big Magic reminds us that tadpoles also have this fear response) can be enough to inspire creation. And begin developing courage.
And courage is one of the antidotes to this fear and resistance.
The Art of War prescribes treating creative endeavors with ten principles one would take from any other professional job:
- Show up every day
- Show up no matter what
- Stay on the job all day
- Committed over the long haul
- The stakes are high and real
- Accept remuneration for labor
- Don't over-identify with job
- Master the technique of the job
- Have a sense of humor about job
- Receive praise our blame in the real world
It all sounds rather drab and rote, but there's a reason for that.
Showing up daily to create allows for a transformation to happen. Eventually, you don't have have to rely on forcing yourself to do the work, but forces outside of you begin to support you:
Which takes me to the next point…
Tip 2: Decide on your creating and create first. Consistently.
You don't necessarily have to go from 0 to 60. But you do need to start.
Decide to create.
Meaning how much are you going to commit to every day. Make sure it's something that you can stick to.
Because here's the thing: even if you're not doing a ton every day, you'll feel the compound effect of your efforts so long as you're consistent.
It's about training your body and mind so that you don't give in to your resistance all the time.
Because here's what happens to most people initially. They start something, and they're not getting any attention for it.
They're doing their work for a period and no one cares. No one pays attention. Because people don't yet have a reason to pay attention.
But when you keep going, people eventually start to take notice.
There are countless stories of people who reached their level of success from showing up consistently.
We look at people and think that they're an overnight success story, but upon a closer look, we see that they've been showing up consistently for months or years.
And here's a practical exercise to get things going…
Tip 3: Write morning pages
Morning pages are an exercise I first learned from The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron, a book for artists that has value and advice for anyone stuck or unfulfilled in their work. Anyone experiencing Resistance.
Here it is: in a journal, first thing in the morning just free form write for three pages in your notebook. Just write whatever comes up for you. No need to edit or censor, or make it beautiful, you're just writing and getting it all out. No one else will see it. It's just stream of consciousness.
The first few days I did this, all I could think about was the dreams I had or my plans for the day. But after a few days, it shifted. I would get ideas. I would have clarity. It was a little bit of magic I could experience first thing in the morning.
Creative thinking comes during that early morning time. The light bulb moments happen more readily.
For me, it's also helped me feel more organized and lessen anxiety. Plus it puts me in motion. After spending time doing this simple exercise that takes around 25 minutes, I'm prepared to work. I want to work.
Here are some of the other benefits:
- Writing morning pages center and clear your mind. We all have tens of thousands of thoughts going through our brain each day. Many of them are repetitive. Doing a sort of brain dump first thing in the morning can help you sift through some of the muck so you can think more constructively and creatively.
- They can help silence your inner critic
- They lessen resistance
- It's grounding
- Helps generate ideas
- Boosts productivity
It's unnecessary creation. Writing just for the sake of writing.
Part of my struggle is there's a level of perfectionism. Needing to do things right. And always wanting to get "there." Morning pages are about the process. You're never sharing them with anyone. (And Cameron suggests you not even re-read them yourself).
You're a powerful creator, you simply need to create. Create first.