7 Rules for Maximizing Your Creative Output (Blog)
Use this thread to discuss the following entry from Steve Pavlina's blog:
7 Rules for Maximizing Your Creative Output
Very nice post. I think my favorite point was #7 about mastering your tools. To be creative you need to be unhindered so the juices can flow freely and this requires a level of comfort with your tools where they become an extension of your mind.
While this post can certainly help people be more creative, I think the truth of the matter is that creativity is heavily dependent on personality. It takes a certain type of person to lock in and run with something independently.
A question for Steve. Do you set any length requirement for your articles when you write? Do long articles help SEO? They are all quite long, and to be honest I found myself skimming parts of this past one after I got the gist of the point. Not to say length is a bad thing, I hung on every word of the massive "How to Make Money From Your Blog" post. I just though this past one could have gotten the same accomplished with fewer words. Just my 2 cents.
Answer to John's question + My thoughts on the length of Steve's articles
Sure, there are still some things Iíll skim/speed read (ie. things I donít really want to read and just want to scan through briefly), although as I said before, if I really want to read something, I become intensely curious and thirsty for knowledge and ideas and end up soaking up as practically everything thatís given to me, much like putting a sponge in water. Although Iím one big sponge, my only limit being my not-so-good memory... but that's cool, a few notes in a notepad file makes up for that. If one tool is blunt (your memory) and you don't care to sharpen it, make up for it by using another tool (external storage, such as a computer harddrive).
I find reverting to a sponge-like state is best for reading Steve's articles, since it allows you to get fully imersed on the journey he takes you on (yes, I believe reading through good writing is akin to a journey, although it's more of an internal one more then anything). Allow the words to flow through you, and be open to the experiences, thoughts, and emotions they trigger. It usually makes for a much more enjoyable (and often growth filled) experience.
Thanks for pointing that out Bruce. It is quite ironic. The reason I started skimming this post was because most of the points I already understand and agree with. For example, when I saw the heading "Allocate a Committed Block of Time" I was inclined to skip it because I already believe it's true and understand why. I felt there was little to gain by reading it closely because a) I already agreed with his position b) I didn't think there would be much new (to me) info. Basically it was an economic decision to move on to reading something new, not a knock on Steve at all.
It's a surprising coincidence the very question that occurred to me later was answered in that passage. Regarding the 1000 word goal Steve uses, I have to say that I disagree with using a set word count. I hated this all through school. Why keep writing if you've already made your point in the clearest way possible with 700 words? Pushing for more words leads to padding and repetition. It also dilutes the quality of the writing. Ezra Pound said, "Literature is language charged with meaning to the highest possible degree." I tend to agree with him.
I effectively "read" rule no. 7 just yesterday in the art gallery: Chinese artists and Arab calligraphers were big on copying the work of the masters first, so that when a new artist went off to make some work out of fresh inspiration, all that practice would, so to speak, guide his hand to make something sublime rather than a child's impassioned scribble.
It's nice to know I'm not alone in thinking it isn't old fashioned or restrictive of "self expression" in art, whatever that currently means. Note: "nice" means akin to the feeling of releasing your breath after a while swimming underwater: whoosh! You can tell what kinds of circles I move in ;)
Thank you Steve :)
Nice article! A while back I figured out that things got so much easier and enjoyable for me when certain elements came together. Not surprisingly, those elements I discovered were essentially the same as Steve's.
Though, I with I'd known this all when I was in high school and college so many years ago! School seems like such a waste when teachers and students don't know how to inspire creative flow states. No wonder studies show that we only retain something like 15% of what we learn in school. It must be that most of that lost 85% was just not important, challenging, meaningful, or creative...
I have a little diagram that I use to visually explain the idea of flow and peak performance. It's not very creative, but it gets the point across. (Maybe some day I should challenge myself to create a more interesting and engaging, and maybe more humorous diagram!)
As for the blocks of time to allocate to creative flow, I've heard that human metabolism creates a rhythm where you work best in about 1.5 hour blocks of time, with 15 minute long breaks to stretch the muscles to get the blood flowing again, in between. So, I would agree that at least 3 hours (and 15 minutes!) is what I would aim for, whenever possible.
My own ideal work environment is a little different than Steve's, though. I like my desk right at the window, so I'm facing the sky, trees, birds, and humans (though I've covered up the window area at my eye level to block my view of the cars, because they depress me!). Being able to see the natural world keeps me connected to it, I suppose. And having a big sky above me gives me some sense of vastness and freedom, I think.
I also sometimes like to have others around to bounce ideas off of, even when I'm working on a solo project, but that really only works well when the others are also working on something vaguely similar to what I'm doing, or at least have similar interests.
I also resonated with this bit in the article:
"When youíre in the flow state, you wonít be worrying about where you fingers need to be, what buttons you need to click, or what words you need to type. Your subconscious will handle those details for you while you remain focused on the high level composition."
Not only is the typo particularly amusing in that passage, but also a friend of mine recently complimented me on my website and all the great ideas I was sharing there. She said that she thought I was really brilliant, and she wished she could think like that. I thanked her for the compliment, and told her my secret... I said that I just put lots of great, interesting information into my brain, and without really thinking about it, lots of other great, interesting information just kind of flows back out of my brain! It really does just spew out sometimes, ya know? The real trick is to seek out and put into your brain the sort information that is going to be worth spewing out at others :-)
Peace, Love, and Bicycles,
Meditation certainly helps
Hi guys, strange that Steve didn't mention it, but I'm certain that meditation helps to ease entering into flow state, because meditation in the gist is the ultimate flow state exercise! At days when I've meditated at the morning, I notice that I can easily forget about anything around me and start working naturally without any effort. Brain just gets used to effortless concentration on single subject, and it comes naturally.
I practice simple breathing concentration meditation. What do you think - anyone having the same experience?
Writing articles to a set word count such as 1000-words isn't a personal thing. It's a practical part of freelance writing. Years ago I was contracted to write some articles for one of CNET's newsletters, and they needed to be roughly 1000 words each, so I gained experience writing articles to a specified length. Many magazines also look for articles of a certain length, typically somewhere in the range of 500-5000 words. For these assignments you often get paid by the word. I received $1/word for my CNET articles.
Writing longer, more detailed articles is a very intentional choice. I know full well that most people prefer shorter, skimmable articles. But there are plenty of places to find such articles, so I didn't see a need to join the party. You can spend all day reading info crack from Digg.com and Del.icio.us, but the next day you've forgotten all of it.
Some of the most popular articles on this site are also the longest, such as the 7300-word http://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/200...rom-your-blog/. While there are many free articles and blog posts on this topic that cover similar ground, you'll be hard pressed to find one like this. Consequently, it stands out from the crowd and has become one of the most popular articles on this topic anywhere online. Even after 8 months, it still attracts new links nearly every day.
Creating longer, more detailed articles is harder than creating short ones. I have to dig deeper, to get more personal, to invest more time, and to provide more value for those who do take the time to read them. In the long run that's become a big part of my competitive advantage.
Ironically, an easy way to stand out in your field is to do what everyone else considers too hard.
Steve, I like to think I inspired this blog entry from its predecessor, so I'll take all the credit here. :) Seriously, thanks for the follow up. I'm about to hop on a project right after I hit 'submit' and I'll keep these rules in mind. Thanks again!
I've been blogging for about a year total and I feel I can write better articles without distractions and constant disturbances. I also make sure I know the basic functions of my blogging software. I don't do anything fancy, like tables and photos, I just write. It flows off my fingers into cyberspace.
Responding to Interruptions from Outside the "Bear Cave"
Something I found interesting in this article, as well as its prequel, is Steve's description of how the rest of the world continues past and around him while he's in the flow state. This is something I'm very familiar with, and I've gotten a lot of complaints from loved ones about it over the years.
When I was younger, the house could be burning down while I was writing, and I'd never notice. But now I've trained myself to be more responsive, because (a) unless you've cleared it with everyone ahead of time, it's pretty rude to be writing while the rest of the family is eating, and (b) there are times when you can't block yourself off from the rest of the world, but you still have to be creative and get things done. There are afternoons when I have work to do, but my wife has to get some errands done, and someone has to be available for the kids if there's a problem. I have to be able to do top-notch work while still keeping an ear peeled.
It ain't easy, and I've still got a ways to go on developing the skill, but I've definitely seen improvement over the last several years. I can break off in mid-flow, go deal with a problem, and jump right back in. I'm usually pretty testy when I come out of the "bear cave", but I'm trying to improve that, as well. You can't (or shouldn't) get angry at a young child for genuinely needing attention. :)
Related to Steve's comment on comparing being "in the flow" with channeling: I agree they feel quite different. If someone interrupts you during channeling, you don't feel angry. You're so filled with joy and peace, it's hard to get upset. It makes me wonder whether being "in the flow" is much more ego-centric, or ego-derived, than channeling is. It's the ego that gets upset about being interrupted, about being taken away from its projects. (Nothing wrong with that! The ego has its place.) I wonder if there is some way to combine the joy and peace of channeling with the creative fire of being in the flow? What do you folks think of that?
Jeff you raise some good points, there. I think one of the ways that you fit creative flow in with flexibility (so that you can respond to the rest of the world when it calls upon you) is to find a way to think of these "interruptions" as things that can use to inspire your creative flow, meaning, interest, and challenge just as much as the project you've immersed yourself in. I can often find a way to apply my curiosity and cleverness to everyday situations that arise throughout the day, so that it doesn't really feel like an interruption when my husband (who's desk is right next to mine) decides to fill me in on all of the things that annoy him about some random politician he happens to be reading about, or when the construction workers from the apartment next door knock on my door to ask if they can heat up their lunch in my microwave, or when a squirrel sits outside my window and adorably struggles to eat a piece of toast that's bigger than she is. I usually can appreciate things like these, even when they aren't immediately applicable to my current project, if I can think of them as little reminders from the universe that it's not all about me, that everyone else has little projects in life that as just as important as mine are, and that my big lifelong project, which takes precidence over the little projects, is to bring more love and beauty and compassion into the world :-)
Peace, Love, and Bicycles,
WOW Steve you blow me away with every new article you write. Especially these two last ones about the creative state which I've been experiencing for years but never read a formal definition for like you wrote.
I see when writing this last article, it got little routine somewhere down the article at the point where you used the CPU analogy to spice things up which was actually quite interesting :)
Keep it up Steve ! 10/10!
Awesome! Thanks to the forum, Steve can now directly answer readers' concerns.
Now I understand these ideas, previouly introduced in a forum post. They scared me when I first read them, but now they're clear in the article.
This whole discussion about creativity made me realise that at least 3 hours of creative time are needed to achieve anything in creativity.
The only time I found to do this is the morning, before I go to work. I've tried writing in the evening after work for a good 3 years... it was difficult, and it's become impossible now that I have met my soulmate.
I've been waking up early for the past 5 days. It's not easy (set my alarm at 4:00, but actually wake up at 5:00), but I have a good reason to do it, so it's not impossible. I've taken the time to visualize what it would mean to wake up this early: no more going to the pub with friends (or at least no more beer or wine drinking), going to bed earlier...
I find morning to be a good time for creativity, once you've passed the stage of being mad at the entire world because you're awake and writing at 5:00 AM. The muse of inspiration is definitely with you when you log in the time to summon it!
If anyone else has a day job and is working on putting the necessary time to develop an artistic activity, would love to learn about your experience.
Nice article Steve. This reminds me of a book I've read. It's called "On writing by Stephen King". This book is not a tutorial on how to write fictions, but the only autobiography Stephen King has ever written. And you have similar ideas: your "cave" "timing" "not interruption" and all...
There is another way!!
I think you can probably get the same level of "concetration" creative output with another method.
Drum roll please, the 1 step process.
Smoke weed... Yes I said it.
I'm not making fun or trying to be rude in any way.
For those of you that use it, you know there is dumb high and inspirational/concentration high.
If you smoke a little and then take on that task you could probably have the same results as following your method.
...Even more fun than writing this gonna be hearing other ppl respond to what I just said.
Very good article btw.
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