1: “Every morning, the writer faces a blank page, the painter an empty canvas, the innovator a dozen directions to go at once,” Steven Kotler writes in The Art of Impossible: A Peak Performance Primer.
“There is something deeply exhausting about the year-in and year-out requirements of imagination,” he notes.
How do we overcome this daily challenge?
“The advice that has helped me solve this slog came from Nobel laureate Gabriel García Márquez,” Steven writes. He “said that the key to sustaining momentum was to quit working at the point we’re most excited.
“In other words, once Márquez really starts to cook, he shuts down the stove.”
What?!? This approach seems counterintuitive.
Quitting at the moment when we are most excited, “when ideas are really emerging, seems like the exact opposite of what we should do,” Steven reasons.
Yet Steven believes Gabriel has it exactly right.
“Creativity isn’t a single battle; it’s an on-going war,” Steven writes. “By quitting when we’re excited, we’re carrying momentum into the next day’s work session.”
When we return to our work the following day, we start at a point that is “both exciting and familiar—someplace where we know the idea that comes next,” he writes. We “dive right back in, no time wasted, no time to let fear creep back into the equation, and far less time to get up to speed.”
Legendary author Ernest Hemingway took this approach one step further. He would “finish the day’s writing session mid-sentence, leaving a string of words just dangling off the. . .”
2: Another approach that creates consistent creativity is realizing that “creativity is almost always the by-product of passionate, hard work and not the other way around,” Steven notes.
“You don’t wake up and say, ‘Today I’m going to be more creative,'” four-time X Games gold medalist Gretchen Bleiler says. “You do the things you love to do and try to get at their essence and allow things to emerge.”
Because what’s inevitable? Frustration.
Doing what we love is about stacking our intrinsic drivers like curiosity, passion, mastery, autonomy, and purpose.
“Without this stack properly assembled, there’s no way to sustain that effort over the long haul,” Steven writes. “Trying to get at the essence of things means walking the path to mastery, the need to be constantly learning and improving. Allowing things to emerge is what happens if you get all of this right.”
3: A third strategy for enabling long-term, on-going creativity? Competition.
“Burk Sharpless is a screenwriter, a producer, and a member of a fairly elite club—one of the few people in Hollywood who gets to pen big-budget action flicks. Big-budget means over $100 million,” Steven notes. “It means big risk.”
Burk worked for over twenty years to become a big-time, “go-to” screenwriter.
To maintain his position, he taps into one of the oldest motivators: Competition.
“Someone’s always chasing me,” he says. “I try to remember that. For every movie of mine that gets made, there are thousands that don’t. For every one of me, there are another five thousand screenwriters just below me and another ten thousand just below them. It’s always a competition. They all want my job. And a couple hundred of them are probably really, really good. They’re just about at my level. They have the talent required, they just haven’t made all the right connections. But they will.
“I find it very motivating to remember that.”
Reflection: How might I create daily momentum to be more creative?
Action: Commit to experimenting with one of the strategies outlined in today’s post.