We create a lot of things.
Caroline and I write all the non-fiction content for this site, we produce our own fiction writing, we record a podcast, I draw a webcomic, she does freelance webdesign work, the list goes on. As a result a question we get asked a lot by friends is how in the world we manage to come up with ideas for everything.
Being creative isn’t a talent or something magical, it just comes down to having the right kind of processes and systems to keep things rolling. Here’s the basic system we follow that helps us keep the creative ideas flowing.
NaNoWriMo is a big part of our November every year. A lot of planning and prep work goes into setting everything up, blocking out enough of our schedules for extra writing time, warning friends and family that we might not be heard from for little chunks through the month while we hunker down to catch up on word counts, and then even more time in November gets devoted to the actual writing part.
By the end of each November though, we each have a complete novel of at least 50,000 words.
That’s a fairly big accomplishment in a fairly small time table, and it’s all thanks to how NaNoWriMo itself works. With the new year approaching I thought we could look at some ways you can apply that system to other things you’ve been wanting to get done for a long while.
One of the things that I’ve noticed about speaking several languages is that when people I meet for the first time find out a huge majority of them make some kind of excuse for why they don’t.
They say they wish they could learn another language but they’re too old now, or they don’t have the time or money, or they wish they had my talent for languages, and so on. None of these are valid reasons for not learning a second language if it’s something you really want to do. When you repeat these excuses to yourself it just internalizes this self-fulfilling narrative that you can’t do it. That you’ll never successfully learn a new language.
Here’s why you’re wrong.
It’s easy to look at someone who is clearly one of the best in the world at what they do and assume that they got to be that way because they had some kind of natural talent for it. While natural talent might skew things a little, we almost always find out in reality these people put in countless hours grinding away practicing and honing their skill set to get to that level.
The easy assumption then is that if you just show up and put your hours in you can become great at something too, but often that’s just not the case. It’s not enough to just show up and mindlessly put your reps in.
You need to practice with intent.
As someone who spends a lot of time thinking about productivity and efficiency and getting a lot of things done everyday, you would think that I would be someone who really likes goals. In reality – I sort of hate them.
For a lot of people goals hurt more than they help when it comes to accomplishing things.
So why do I hate goals so much, and what do I recommend using instead that works so much better?
People don’t usually like to have themselves limited. We like to be free, to have lots of options, for there to be no constraints on what we can do. The motivating factor behind a lot of people’s decision to chase financial independence through entrepreneurship or self-employment is specifically to have more control over their schedules, choices, and life. Constraints are bad.
Or are they?
Like so many things limits and restrictions don’t have to be bad thing if you can find a way to use them to your advantage. When you do they can act as a powerful motivational tool, creativity booster, and more.
For some people learning new things is just harder than it is for other people. They struggle to pick up things that they see other excel at easily. They fail to acquire skills even though they feel like they’ve given their best. Put simply, they suck at learning.
As it turns out, the reason things are so much harder for them than others might be entirely in their head – and it’s something that can be fixed.
Monkey Mind – the inability to keep unwanted thoughts from popping in and distracting you from what you need to focus on as though your head was full of drunken, manic monkeys – is a pervasive and crippling problem.
It can keep you from working, keep you awake when you need to sleep, and fill you with anxieties and doubts over inconsequential things. Thankfully there are a handful of things you can do to combat Monkey Mind and to get yourself back to a state of quiet, productive focus. The best part is most of them only take a minute or two of your time.
“…we are we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” -Will Durant
The quote above, often mis-attributed to Aristotle, is used so much I was a little hesitant to use it here. It’s so true though, and sums up he point I intend to make so well that I couldn’t help it.
It’s not that you can’t reach success or excellence without using habits to drive your progress – but more that using habits to drive your success is the closest you can get to a guarantee that you’ll get there. Habits, like the Colorado river cutting away at the Grand Canyon, are an extremely potent force when leveraged over a long enough period of time. So what makes habit development so important?
Unless you’ve been stuck inside Rock Cave for the last few months without an HM05, you probably know about Pokemon Go. As a side-effect of its wild popularity, people have been touting it as being one of the most successful fitness apps to date and some have even been suggesting it’ll have a big effect on fighting obesity.
While I think it’s being a little optimistic to think a little extra walking is going to get everyone fit, it definitely is getting otherwise sedentary people out and moving around – so what is Pokemon Go doing so differently from the Fitbits, Jawbones, VivoFits, et al. that never sparked nearly as strong of a fitness craze as expected? Moreover what lessons on motivation and taking control of our own fitness can we take away from its successes?