Finding the time and discipline to write is a challenge for many authors. Nathan Wade shares three easy ways to make the most of your writing time each day.
Does creativity strike when you’re messing around and having fun?
Does being laid-back and disorganized spark the most creative masterpieces?
Many people believe that creativity is a product of the scattered brain. Some experts even argue that there’s research to support this theory.
While the archetype of the mad genius is a common one, the truth is that the most successful creatives are actually extremely disciplined when it comes to their work.
Unlocking creativity isn’t about sitting back, goofing off, and waiting for inspiration to strike. It’s about meticulously curating the right conditions to foster creativity.
[Note from Joanna: For more about how to make the most of your creative time, check out Productivity for Authors.]
The Myth of the Sloppy Creative Genius
Even if you aren’t familiar with his theory of relativity, you’ve probably heard of Einstein. Albert Einstein was one of the most innovative thinkers in history. The disheveled scientist is the poster boy of the messy genius archetype.
Einstein’s desk was famously photographed on the day he died. The picture reveals a chaotic landscape of papers and books.
“If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign of?”
But behind Einstein’s messy desk was a regimented mind. In Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, author Mason Currey records the daily schedules of the world’s most creative people. In his book, Currey refutes the belief that Einstein had a hectic or disorganized life.
Einstein’s schedule was actually regimented around his work. As a rule, Einstein worked at home after dinner to finish up anything he didn’t complete at his office.
And his shaggy bed head served a practical purpose: he kept his hair long to avoid barber visits.
Einstein was disciplined, and he’s not the only one. People like Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos didn’t succeed by fooling around until they struck gold; they each worked within the confines of a routine that helped them to be creative.
The Need for Order
Creatives, freelancers, and entrepreneurs all share a unique problem: lack of order.
Most creatives don’t have a traditional job with scheduled work hours. They don’t have bosses or coworkers to hold them accountable. They don’t need to be anywhere at any specific time. Some don’t even have concrete deadlines for their work.
The consequence is that creatives need to foster self-discipline. This is much easier said than done, especially for absent-minded types.
Without discipline, creatives may find themselves doing nothing all day.
The hardest part of any task is getting started. Steven Pressfield writes in his acclaimed book The War of Art, “It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write.”
Here’s how you can find inspiration, be more innovative, and unleash the power of your creativity.
1. Make a schedule and stick to it.
If you’re a struggling creative, chances are you don’t have a schedule. Or maybe you do have one, but you don’t follow it. In order to maximize your creativity, you need to have a schedule. More importantly, you need to stick to it.
Many creatives make the mistake of over-correcting here. They create a minute-to-minute blueprint for their day. This can result in fatigue and emotional exhaustion. Instead of taking this unrealistic approach, simply map out the flow you’d like your day to have.
Maybe you want to exercise, work, eat lunch, do some more work, and call it a day. Once you understand what your ideal day looks like, nail down your schedule by attaching times to each activity and follow that plan the best you can. And absolutely do not forget to sleep.
Planning is easy, but executing a plan (especially a daily plan) requires a good bit of willpower. If you want to work from 9AM to 1PM, you need to work for those four hours. Plan in some breaks if you feel that you need them, but remember to work consistently.
2. Separate your workspace from your living space.
Another problem that gets in the way of creatives is their environment.
Many creatives lack designated workspaces and that’s a big reason why so many of them struggle. It’s hard to shift gears between work and play when you work from home.
If you work from home, you need to create a separate work area. This way you can shift into work mode more easily. Ideally, you should use a separate room as an office—but even setting up a work area in the corner of a room can do the trick. Do not place your office in the middle of your living room.
It’s critical that you don’t use this space for anything else. That means no browsing social sites at your desk. By creating a space that you deem solely a workspace, you’ll be able to get into the zone faster and get your creative juices flowing.
3. Set a dress code for yourself.
It’s not only where you work, but what you work in.
It’s a cliché that freelancers work in their pajamas. If you want to be creative and productive, you might want to toss that advice in the trash. What you wear has a direct effect on how you perform.
Donning a hoodie and sweats every day encourages you to be a little lazier.
Create a dress code for yourself during your work hours. You don’t need to wear a penguin suit or ball gown, but you should choose clothes that encourage professionalism. That may mean a crisp button-up shirt and slacks or a pencil skirt and blouse.
Find what works for you. Just don’t get too comfortable. Remember: you’re at work.
Cultivate A Habit of Discipline Today
For most creatives, developing discipline is the largest obstacle in their way. Using a work checklist can also help to stay on the right track.
Sure, you can search high and low for a new source of inspiration—but why not tap into the potential that’s already inside you?
If you’ve exhausted yourself sitting in front of a blank screen or canvas, give these techniques a try. You might be surprised at what you can achieve with a little order.
How disciplined are you about getting your writing done? Please leave your thoughts below and join the conversation.
Nathan Wade is the Managing Editor at WealthFit. He’s previously worked as an attorney in entrepreneurial law and venture capital.
[Messy desk image courtesy Ferenc Horvath and Unsplash.]