how to be a creative badass: a 12-point plan



1. Live for the process

(that’s how you lose yourself & find your best work)

When we focus on the process instead of the end result, we’re more likely to reach flow. Otherwise known as being “in the zone”, flow is a state of mind in which we lose all sense of self-consciousness and lock in on the task at hand. When we’re in flow, we are…better. More focused, more creative, more skilled. It’s when we do our best work, and grow toward new capabilities.

2. Give it away

(so they can’t live without it)

Seth Godin writes in LINCHPIN: “…the real magic is the leverage this expansion adds, not the loss of commerce it causes. When you have more friends in the core circle, more people with whom to share your art, your art is amplified and can have more power.”

Russell Simmons dedicates a chapter to this idea in his new book SUPER RICH: “…the best way to get a [record] deal is to forget about the labels and instead just start giving away your music for free…Never pass up any opportunity to share your gift with the world…[The labels are] going to want to find the person who’s generating much love and enthusiasm. And when they find you, they’re going to reward you…more handsomely than if you had come to them begging for a deal.”

3. Work your ass off

(baby, you’ve got to ship)

The more blog posts you write, the better chance you have of writing one that goes viral. The more stories you write, the more paintings you paint, the more companies you dream up: not only will you develop your voice and improve at whatever it is that you do, you increase your own chances of success.

Obviously you don’t want to sacrifice quality for quantity. You need instruction, feedback, the tough love of intelligent constructive criticism: fold all of this into your process. And then work it.

4. Tell the truth

(truth is beauty & power)

Telling the truth is about paying close attention to your own strengths and interests instead of just chasing the marketplace. It’s about speaking in your own voice. When you tell the truth – your truth – you infuse your work with soul and originality. And because it’s truth, it will resonate with others. People will find you unique, but still be able to relate. They might even feel like you’re speaking their own truth in a way that they can’t, or didn’t even know to do.

That’s powerful stuff.

5. Follow your instincts

(they know more than you do)

Howard Gardner put forward the idea of multiple intelligences, some of which are nonverbal. Scientists have discovered that neural intelligence doesn’t just exist in the brain, but also in the body: your heart, your gut. Your intelligence is more complex and complicated than you probably think, and it is constantly absorbing and processing information on an unconscious level. Intuition is a form of nonverbal intelligence, and it’s not just women who have it. Pay attention to it.

6. Be vulnerable

(you connect when you’re authentic)

To produce good work, you need to dive beneath the surface of things. You need to “go there” in a way that we specifically train ourselves not to do in day-to-day life. We believe that if we reveal too much, we’ll expose ourselves as unworthy. Shameful. But it’s shame that keeps us isolated, silent, and disconnected from each other. Part of believing that you have something to say is flying in the face of all that. When you lean into what discomforts you, what scares you, you’re getting to the good, original stuff.

Hey. If it was easy, then everybody would do it. And do it well.

7. Know yourself

(play to your strengths)

When you know yourself, you can figure out how to play to your strengths and navigate your weaknesses. Your strengths are the things that make you feel rejuvenated and powerful , not necessarily what you’re already good at. (You might be good at accounting. That doesn’t mean it fills you with a zest for life.) By cultivating your strengths, you can lose yourself in the process (see #1) and get better and better and better at specific things until no one can deny how freaking remarkable you are. If you are a writer with a strength for plotting, you might produce the next bestselling thriller. Or if your strengths are for prose and character, you might develop into the next prize-winning literary short-story writer.

8. Love the world

(makes you healthier & more creative)

Hate and bitterness are unproductive. Hate destroys and contracts; love builds and expands. Be a builder. Much more fun that way. We only have so much attention to put on the world; put yours on what you love. Let the rest fade into the background.

9. Value stillness

(that’s where ideas live)

When you slow down your brainwaves, you literally downshift into a very different state of mind. Day-to-day life requires us to be alert and vigilant in a way that is not conducive to creativity. To create, you want to access the deeper, more unconscious parts of your intelligence. You want to let your mind roam freely to make new connections, factor in new bits of information, find new relationships between them. It’s why daydreaming is linked to creativity. It’s why Einstein believed in taking lots of naps. It’s why meditation is a force of good. You’ve got to let your brain out of its practical, everyday cage.

10. Make mistakes

(the real art grows out of them)

Give yourself permission to make mistakes. The best and fastest way to get better at anything is through something called deliberate practice, which requires (among other things) that you work at the limit of your abilities. When you make mistakes, your brain is forced to slow down, pay attention, and process what you did wrong. This is how we learn.

Not to mention, sometimes the mistakes can spark off new insights and directions of their own.

11. Get open

(let the world in)

‘Get open’ is a hip-hop phrase that I picked up from Russell Simmons: it means “losing your inhibitions, or letting down your defenses…You want to always be as open, creative and fluid as possible, and never become rigid, old, or tight. The freedom you experience when you’re open is where all the positive change in your life will emanate from.” Amen.

12. Remember that we are stronger for the broken places.

(you are worthy)

Every scar has a story behind it. Tell yours with pride.

Jan 11, 2011

19 comments · Add Yours

Great post, Justine – some old truths and new ones told in a refreshing way.


Thanks, Justine. That’s some great advice on writing, and all of it applying to life in general. It seems I’m always striving to be “in the pocket.” Sometimes it’s not easy, but on those days I’m “on” I try to really go for it. I will save this for future inspirational reference.


Now this, this I can do.


Justine- I always look forward to your posts. You always make me think. I love the zone, but sometimes if I spend too much time there and then my family comes at me with pitchforks. Thanks!


Justine – this post is a keeper – lots of good food for thought :-) Reminds me of nuggets i picked up from Julia Cameron – good stuff.


Ah, Justine, this is boss!

You are such a guruess of guidance for writers. Thank you for reaffirming what I, too, believe in, and practice.

#1 is so key. Flow is when the story writes itself. The characters dictate. And the mind-movie unreels. It is a rare and beautiful experience, if only we will allow ourselves to be taken over.

#2 I do this regularly. It feels good and right. And, yes, the wheel comes back around to bless me in return. Like a recirculating fountain.

#3 I’ve been writing all my life. But my best work is only three + years young. Highly polished. Ready to delight. All 80 of my short stories. With many more in my head.

#4 I have learned that when you lift up a universal truth, your work resonates and blesses people. I also believe that there is really nothing new under the sun. Everything is already finished and perfect, reflecting our Creator as it should. It is up to the creative explorers like you and me to uncover the new/old ideas.

#5 Jesus said: “of my own self I can do nothing.” He knew, as those like him, that all creativity is from above. I have been complimented on my ability to tap into my female side without shame.

#6 Flying in the face of shame. I love that, for shame is surely like slavery!

#7 Know yourself. Wiser words have never been spoken. I do, and you do too. And this too: Love yourself. Forgive yourself. Free yourself.

#8 There’s that word again. Love. A noun. A verb. It speaks to the very core of creativity.

#9 I meditate, pray, use classical music to get quiet. And with eyes closed. It is then that my mind-movie commences and the dialogue comes pouring out so fast that I can hardly wait to transfer it to my computer screen. It has taken enormous practice but I am now “there.”

#10. If only my elementary school teachers could see me now. All those “mistakes” they so dutifully pointed out have made me stronger. Fearless. Able to cast off the commonplace for the unimaginable.

#11 Russell is right. After my parents departed for a higher plane, I was finally able to give myself permission to tell it like it is. To hell with the politically correct. Throw off those dark glasses of adulthood. And find that child that God made, once again.

#12 Yes, trials by fire is what this means. But without pain or injury, there can be no scar. And without scarring, there can be no real evidence of healing. And without healing, we are dead. I am convinced that all great artistry comes from trials by fire. For it is within the crucible that we see the face of God.

And may I offer one more, a lucky number 13. My own personal motto: “BE what you wish to see!” Or as some would say. As you think, so are you. You make your own reality or unreality. You make your own luck. If you want to be a successful writer, then act like one. Right here. Right now. No waiting!

Justine, you and I should guest on each other’s blogs someday. How’s your February?


Wayne C. Long
Writer/Editor/Digital Publisher
Where the Short Story LIVES!


Fantastic! All good points, all inspiring. I particularly like #8, Love the World. That seems particularly timely right now, and you can’t understate the importance of a positive mindset, both giving and receiving. Like PJ Kaiser says above, it’s an important takeaway of Julia Cameron, for one.


This is fantastic, Justine. This is the first time that I’ve actually been to your site and I’m already loving it! Looking forward to hearing more from you :) I’ll be scouring the archives for more nuggets of gold ;)



Absolutely awesome list! This list is a perfect reminder to live life on purpose. Love all your posts.


This is a terrific list. #1 and #9 are especially meaningful to me right now, since I am not doing them. It’s so hard to let go of the hundred little worries involved in promoting current work, but if I can’t figure out how to do it I’m not going to be able to sit down and focus on the new projects…like the one I’m supposed to be working on at this very moment. :-)


Justine- YOU are a creative bad ass and inspiration.
I have got to say, truthfully, that #4 is my biggest challenge. It’s not that I am a pathological liar, but it does have to do with trust via instinct, self awareness and love (#5, #7 and #8. )
I am not a writer but a visual artist. I see common ground in all creative endeavors (thanks to Csíkszentmihályi). My pre-studio ritual is to do Lion Pose (a yoga asana see with the intentions of leaving all of my human hangups at the door. I call this mind-set my “monkey-self.” My approach to my materials when I am my monkey self is such that they are strange, unfamiliar, unadulterated with preconceptions. Instead I seek an instinctual trust : in the spirit of the animals intuition to dam a river or build a nest. This is how I get open/make mistakes and is the path I take to learn my voice and speak the truth. Get Tribal with it. Thanks for the tips!


Thanks for sharing your ‘creative badass’ ways.
I suppose there is more than 1 way to reach that place.

On # 2 ‘Give it away’, There is a fine line between giving things away and devaluing what you do.
Up to know 99,9% of the pieces on Serge the Concierge in almost 6 years were written by me.
I recently started 10 Do’s and Don’ts where people (native or transplant) share 10 things about the place where they live, each week, different city, different country.
I had 2 instances where people asked me how much i paid. In one of them, person declined writing for free.
She understood my position as an independent site yet as made it a rule to only take paid work.
She was mostly irked by growing number of larger sites even established publishers who stopped paying writers.
I think you should choose carefully where your stories get shared. Pick sites that are in line with your ethos.
There is also the issue of writing mills who in exchange for pennies want to control your work.
Is it all about quantity?

# 3 work your ass off vs #9 value stillness

I think there is a tension between both ideas.
Personally, some days i am very productive, ideas flow and i write more, on other days, not so much. Now that i have various themes throughout the week, there are always ideas on pieces on the drawing board which makes it easier.

You cannot have ‘slow’ moments if you are always busy.

Stillness requires discipline as much as work does.

A friend of mine had a book titled ‘Don’t just do something, sit down’ which is a good way to summarize the contradictions.

i would add # 13 to your list Luck and Opportunities, being in the right place at the right time

Have a good day

‘The French Guy from New Jersey’
Facebook: sergetheconcierge
Twitter: @theconcierge


Wow. Awesome stuff. Thanks


I love this post. Thanks so much for sharing…I will be resharing it with my fellow writer friends.

I especially loved #9…it is something I rarely have time for, but I know I MUST make time for.

Enjoy your week! Andrea


#6, #9, and #12 really speak to me in a deep and raw sort of way. I’m struggling with being more vulnerable lately; although it is terrifying to me, I’ve also found that it is producing some great ideas and fostering my creativity and confidence in a new way. Thank you for this articel:)


Um- *article* :):):)


This is a fabulous post.
I’m printing it so it can live on my bulletin board as an ongoing inspiration of what works. I think most of us know all this stuff but it’s great to have it articulated so well…I am always looking for reminders and reinforcements and this will be a great addition. Thank you.


This is a great post. Thanks, Justine. So if I’m reading this right, I can take lots of naps and then write as well as Einstein thought. I like that. :)


beautiful article. thank you for sharing and being so authentic



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