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.