Secrets to Long Haul Creativity – Secrets 3 & 4

Continued from Monday’s post on The Secrets to Long Haul Creativity…

Three: Momentum Matters Most

Speaking of momentumthere is something deeply exhausting about the year-in and year-out requirements of imagination. Every morning, the writer faces a blank page, the painter an empty canvas; the innovator a dozen directions to go at once. The brilliant tidbit of advice that has helped me solve this slog came from Nobel Laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Marquez said that the key was to have quit working at the point you’re most excited. In other words, once Marquez really starts to cook, he shuts down the stove. This seems counter-intuitive. Creativity is an emergent property. Quitting when most excited — when ideas are really emerging — seems like the exact opposite of what you should do.

Yet Marquez is exactly right. Creativity isn’t a single battle; it’s an ongoing war. By quitting when you’re most excited, you’re carrying momentum into the next day’s work session. Momentum is the key. When you realize that you left off someplace both exciting and familiar — someplace where you know the idea that comes next — you dive right back in, no time wasted, no time to let fear creep back into the equation, and far less time to get up to speed.

Four: A Few Thoughts on Sobbing, Shouting, and Punching Hard Objects

I’ve written nine books. Two are in drawers. Seven are in stores. All share one thing in common: at some point during their writing, I lost my mind.

Without question, at least once a book, I end up on the ground, sobbing, shouting, and punching the floor. For a long time, I was convinced I was the only one who behaved this way. But about five years ago, I heard author David Foster Wallace tell a story about the difficulty of creativity. “It never fails,” he said, “at least once a book, I end up on the ground, sobbing, screaming and punching the floor.”

The obvious point here is yes,creativity is insanely frustrating for everybody. The core question for Long Haul Creativity is what to do about it? Turns out,researchers have discovered that frustration is actually a fundamental step in the creative process. From a technical perspective, this seems to have something to do with the limits of working memory and the requirements of creativity’s incubation period, but no one is exactly certain.

From a practical perspective, this means reversing our traditional relationship with frustration. Since this emotion is a basic step in the creative process, we need to stop feeling its arrival as disaster. For creatives, frustration is actually a sign of progress, a sign of movement in the right direction, a sign that the much needed breakthrough is ever closer to showing up.

Tune in each day this week to learn more secrets of fighting the good fight for long-haul creativity!

This article was originally published by Medium.

Featured image by Paul Garland

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