Wake Up to What’s Been Here All Along

creative mind is open twenty four hours a day.

when you’re sleeping.

And if you want to become a prolific creator, you have to
practice being proactive with your unconscious mind. You have to view it as
idea processor, waiting at your beck and call, begging you to assign it a
problem so it can immediately go to work for you.

Maisel, psychologist and creativity coach, pioneered a revolutionary personal
development program called sleep thinking. It’s where your brain continues to work on the issues and
problems that matter to you, but while you sleep. By repeating silent questions
to yourself as you drift off to dreamland, you’re actually communicating with
yourself about your own thoughts and feelings. Even if you’re lying unconscious
in a puddle of your own drool.

hypothesis is, since the brain’s natural way of working is to perform various
functions while you sleep, productive thinking may as well be one of them. You
simply have to surrender yourself each night to learning about your own life
and what it needs from you. You have to be willing yourself to apply all of
your native intelligence to the task. And you have to be willing to confront
issues you’re afraid to know about yourself.

way, you can wake up to what’s been here all along.

I’ve done
Sleep Thinking several times, and had
great success with the program. I found myself feeling more inspired, lucid,
insightful and most importantly, relaxed with the creative process. Nothing
beats waking up with good ideas every morning.

framework does, however, require a heaping amount of patience with yourself. And
it takes about a week on average before anything interesting happens. But
that’s par for the course for any creator. Once you develop that cognitive
muscle, you’ll never want to go back. 

In time, you’ll find that the simple process of asking yourself
meaningful questions as you fall asleep, keeping a dream journal and then
mining those experiences for insight and perspective, is a powerful way to
actively help your material to work on you.

That way, you can wake up to what’s been here all along.

Never Fall in Love With Your Own Inventory

My grandfather has long and prestigious history in the
closeout industry.

As a discount retail pioneer, he founded his business in the
early seventies. Nearly four decades later, his company remains a global

Naturally, he’s seen everything, from depressions to recessions
to floods to industry shifts to product recalls to lost palettes to technology
innovation to stolen trucks to entire ceilings spontaneously collapsing in

And something he once told me that I’ll always remember was:

Never fall in love
with your own inventory.

That’s great advice for wholesalers and artists.

Because as creators and crafters and communicators, our
primary occupation isn’t to discern the value of our ideas, but to keep our
inventory of ideas flowing at all times.

And so, we discard our evaluative tendencies. We treat every idea, every experience
and every thought with deep democracy. We have to say yes to what is.

A few years ago, my wife and I spent a summer taking improv classes
at a local theater company. Our instructors told us, it’s not about being the
funniest person on stage, constantly inventing punchlines to get a cheap laugh
from the audience. It’s about saying yes and serving the scene. It’s about
looking into someone’s eyes and feeling their reactions. It’s about responding
honestly to people’s realities. And it’s about keeping the ball in play no
matter what, fully committing to whatever rabbit hole you go down.

The creative process has a similar model.

I’m reminded of one of my favorite books, Unintentional Music, a program for using
openness and acceptance to get the most out of the creative process. The
subject matter of the book mostly revolves around music, but there’s still a
lot we can glean from an overall creative standpoint. The author writes:

“Focus on the music
you do not intend to make. Align yourself with the flow of process. See
disturbing or unwanted things as potentially meaningful. Stay open to what you
are typically closed to. Rather than judging experiences, just be with what is.
When something arises, let it come, and when something disappears, let it go.
And learn to love whatever happens and trust that it will lead you to where you
ultimately need to go.”

We never fall in love with our own inventory.

The polar opposite of this concept is premature cognitive commitment.

As you remember from our discussion on working modular,
humans can easily become emotionally or intellectually bound to a course of
action, assigning labels to ideas too early­­ in the creative process. And as a
result, they talk themselves into the wrong ideas and out of the right ones.

For example, think how many times you’ve said to yourself, or
heard someone else say to themselves, “Look, if don’t remember it when I get
home, then it couldn’t have been that important.”

Bullshit. You don’t know that. Nobody does.

What you know is that your job is to create. What you know is
that you have to trust the process. What you know is that your most valuable and
interesting and leverageable ideas will make themselves known when the time is

Kevin Smith, writer, filmmaker and podcaster, recently gave
a commencement speech at a film school, in which he shared his philosophy on
this matter:

“Any seed to
imagination, any ignition of pure creation, is not just healthy and safe, but
practical and necessary. Because every idea gives us perspective. It humbles
our creative spirit. And, bad ideas come in handy for other problems later.
Nothing is ever wasted, every idea eventually finds a home. Ultimately our
process of experimentation helps create the elbowroom for good ideas to emerge.
All we have to do is listen. And sometimes, when you chase whimsy as far as you
can, it gets winded and weird enough for you to catch it.”

In the decade I’ve worked as a freelancer, I’ve had
thousands of bad ideas. Horrible ones. Bordering on embarrassing. Several of
which were executed, poorly. But as my mentor used to say, the best way to have
a good idea is to have a hundred bad ones. And so, out of that slush pile, I’ve
also had thirty or forty really, really good ideas. Ideas that spread, ideas
that made money, ideas that made a difference. I believe there are no successes
or failures, only the consequences of our experiments.

We can never lose that spirit. We owe it to our creative
selves to set up a consequence free space for experimentation. A safe place
where we can boldly fiddle our way to the truth. One where we never fall in
love with our own inventory, but we never discard any of the boxes either.

So for now, just get the idea into the warehouse.

You never know where you might use it.

Turning a Seed Into a Forest

The process of fully fleshing our your work hinges upon movement

It’s the discipline of recognizing conceptual beginnings, witnessing
ideas in their nascent state and thinking to ourselves, hey wait, I think there’s something here, and then using that
moment of conception to spawn as many creative offspring as possible.

Turning a seed into a forest, essentially.

This is the crucial process that separates the creatively
blocked from the consistently prolific. It’s the intersection of metaphorical
thinking, memory jogging, strategic researching, creative stretching, structured
brainstorming and rabbit hole venturing.

But once you hone this skill, once you master the art of
movement value, not only will your creative output multiply, but the people in
your life will start bringing their seeds to you, begging you to help build
their forests.

Let’s do one together.

Last night, the subway line by our house was shut down for
maintenance. Naturally, we didn’t realize that until after we’d walked ten blocks to the train station. And if you’ve
ever lived in a big city without a car, you know how deflating that moment can

By the time we figured out our alternate route, estimating
that we would arrive hour late to our destination, my wife and I took one look
at each other and said, screw it, we
don’t care anymore, it’s getting late, let’s just order barbecue takeout and
watch a movie.

Stupid subway.

But on the walk back home, I pondered the experience and
wondered if it pointed to a more general principle. And I said to my wide,wow, technology is, like, both the great
enabler and the grating disabler.

Hey wait, I think there’s something there.

Here we go…

Domain transfer. What else is like this?

Internet access. When the cable goes out or your cell phone
dies or your laptop runs out of battery power, you’re screwed. Helpless.
Completely idle. Just like we felt with the subway. Which is interesting,
considering rapid transit dates back
over a hundred and fifty years, while the internet only dates
only years. Perhaps the human dependency on any form of
technology, be it transportation or digital communications, can be a dangerous

Motion picture. Did someone make a movie about this?

Timed to correspond with Europe’s Internet Week, advertising
agency Mother London made a short documentary about a “disconnection
experiment.” What would happen if five digital natives were forced to go cold
turkey for a week? The camera crew followed the participants throughout the
week, documenting their experiences, both good and bad. Watch the full
documentary called No Internet Week.

Case study. Is there scientific research behind this?

In a recent study
published in the Journal Computers in
Human Behavior,
researchers investigated the dark side of the smartphone trend.
The authors examined the link between psychological traits and the compulsive
behaviors of smartphone users, and looked further into the stress caused by
those compulsive behaviors. And sure enough, this study is only one of dozens
that have been conducted.

News piece. Has the media reported on this?

I found an unbelievable news
about a young man who dropped his cell phone into the freezing
cold Chicago river. He clambered over the railing in order to get it back and fell
into the water. Then two friends jumped into the icy river after him. Long
story short, the man who dropped the phone died in the hospital. And the friends
who jumped in to save him were said to be in critical condition. Wow. Is
technology really worth risking our lives?

Word study. Are there any interesting definitions or

Technology is such a common word, idea and daily experience,
that most people have never thought to look it up in the dictionary.
Turns out, the word derives from two Latin terms, techno, which means “art or skill,” and legin, which means “to speak.” Interesting. And the definition of
word can refer to the creation and use of technical means and their
interrelation with life, society, and the environment. But it can also refer to
the terminology and nomenclature of an art or science. Then again, technology
can mean any scientific or industrial process, invention, method, or the like.

Internet meme. Who else feels like this?

Tumblr has tons of blogs talking
about technology mishaps and addictions. I found posts that said, “My internet
was down all day and I died several times … When both the internet and cable
signal are down, times are indeed dire … If your subway is broken down, the taxi
driver may be a horrible person who charges you a crap ton for each block.” And
that’s just one social network.

The list goes on forever.

And depending on how much time you have, how fully you want
to flesh out your idea out and many creative offspring you want your seed to
produce, you might also consider the following categories:

Personal examples, memorable moments, public signs, song
lyrics, movie lines, urban myths, scientific constructs, historical references,
people you know, famous hypotheses, possible inventions, pop culture references,
parallels in nature, poignant warnings, business personification, human
absurdities, childhood memories , iconic images, classic jokes and common

And don’t forget universal human motivations, theoretical
concepts, interesting patterns, personal stories, immediate actions people can
take, powerful insights, noticeable numbers, objective observations, public declarations,
inspiring invitations, powerful questions, palpable consequences, something
you’re not okay with, something that offends your sense of order, practical
implications, real world applications, possible related situations and
geographic locations.

That’s movement value.

Turning a seed into a forest.

And the exciting part is, it all started with that ground
zero experience of a broken subway train, and thinking to myself hey wait, I think there’s something here.

Walking the Factory Floor

In the early stages of creation, the goal is to get your
ideas to ground zero.

To offload all of the raw materials so they can be processed
to their rightful inventory location. Cognitively, this closes the open loops
in your mind and keeps your brain from nagging and freaking out about losing or
forgetting them.

But once that phase is done, let the production begin.

What’s interesting is, the next stage of creation is the
opposite. Production, the ongoing activity of crafting new ideas, is fluid
experience. It’s a living, breathing, evolving organism that exists on neverending
artistic continuum, with no finish line in site and no constraint of


But like any good foreman, you still have to walk the
factory floor. On a routine basis,
you have to take a casual, curious and thoughtful sweep of every idea you’ve
recently accumulated. Otherwise you
lose track and overlook the quality of your inventory.

In my
inventory system, all of my ideas are organized into several different
categories, aka, compartments of life that are meaningful to me:

Innovation & Art

Humanity & Society

Self & Soul

Poetry & Passages

Mystery & Being

Technology & Design

Health & Science

Relationships & Love

Thinking & Feeling

10.  Success, Life & Career

11.  Work, Business &

each folder are hundreds and sometimes thousands of ideas that I’ve inhaled
from a multitude of inspiration sources. Most of the documents are nothing but a
single sentence, although some ideas are more fleshed out than others.

ideas are sorted in a couple of ways:

First, chronologically,
which allows me see which ideas were created on which day. This organizing
principle allows me to see fluctuations in my inspiration. For example, if I
notice twenty ideas from one day but only six on another, I can reverse
engineer my inhaling process to find patterns in my life that produced such

Second, alphabetically, which allows an arbitrary overview of my
ideas. This organizing principle allows me to see patterns in my inspiration.
For example, if I notice a collection of eight ideas that start with the same word or
phrase, I can use that as inspiration for a larger module.

Thanks to these sorting mechanisms, each time I walk the factory floor­­, I open
the various folders of ideas and just let the language wash over me as the serendipitous
construction and collection of words massage my brain.

And something magical

It’s called distributed

Creativity researchers discovered this psychological
process, whereby new ideas arise from combining many disparate pieces of
information or concepts over an extended period of time. Turns out, visualizing
a large volume of content creates a mechanism to hold your ideas and continually
reflect them back to you in an objective, reviewable format. Which, in turn,
helps you generate new ideas that may not have occurred to you otherwise.

Like iron filling drawn to a magnet.

George Carlin was a master of distributed cognition. Not
just because he took a lot of acid in the sixties, but also because he made a
habit of walking the factory floor. He once remarked that he was “blessed with some pretty deep files. His creative inventory was clearly a deep source of
pride for him.

During one of his longer interviews, he painted a vivid
picture of how distributed cognition worked in his process:

“With my files, every time you see it, touch it, look at it
or think about it, it gets deeper in the brain, the network gets deeper, and at
some point, it gets to be a telling mass that says to you, okay you’ve got
enough data, take a look at this now.”

He’s not writing, he’s listening for what wants to be

Carlin proves that production truly is an open loop. Unlike
processing, where the goal is to close the loop and finish the task and get the
idea out of your head and into a folder, production is neverending. These ideas, theseuncompleted
tasks and unmet goals, tend to pop in your mind. And because they’re always
growing,your brain treats them as unfinished business, as if to keep
reminding you that there is a job to be done. That’s why your mind keeps
inserting bits of the idea into your stream of thought.

You’re not working on material, the material is working on you.

If you want to become a more prolific creator, I challenge you to create this kind of ritual. Casually, curiously and thoughtfully sweeping every idea you’ve recently accumulated.

You’ll find that walking the factory floor has a
profound effect on production.

Dig Your Creative Well Before You’re Thirsty

pages are the enemy.

If you want to consistent
generate compelling content,
the trick is to ensure that there’s something
going on all the time, not just the moment you sit down and decide to start working.
To assure your process of creation isn’t driven and dictated by time pressure
alone. To insure that your instrument is finely tuned for the world to move
through you.

means, you have to dig your creative well before you’re thirty.

George Carlin
was a thirsty guy. In a posthumous book about his prolific creative process, he
explained that his brain got used to the fact that casting about for new material
made it feel good. And so, it started networking on its own, making connections
and comparisons, and pretty soon there was an automatic process going on all
the time, one that left out unimportant or less interesting areas so it could
concentrated on areas it trained itself to passively look for.

far out, man.

But the
human brain loves this.

says it’s a goal seeking, problem solving machine. And by feeding into it the
parameters of what you need or want or expect, it starts to do a lot of work
without you even noticing. Because that’s what the brain does. It forms neural
networks. And if you train it correctly, areas of your brain will start to
communicate with one another as they notice ideas that belong together.

no longer working on material; the material is working on you.

This cognitive process called unconscious rumination.

Samuel Sinclair Baker popularized the term about fifty years
ago. Born to immigrant parents over a century ago, he became a famous
advertising executive in his first career, an original founder of Miracle Grow
in his second career, and a bestselling author of diet and gardening books in
his third career.

Prolificacy was literally second nature to him.

I bought his book, Your Key to Creative Thinking, at a used book fair for one dollar. And once I
read the back cover about his mental strategies to help people reach greater
heights of productivity than they ever thought possible, I was sold.

Unconscious rumination, he says, is when you let your mind
have fun occupying itself with a variety of ideas, so that the subconscious
impressions combine with your conscious efforts and realizations. You allow
your inner mind to get to work mulling over, sorting out, organizing and
categorizing material that has been previously absorbed. And over time, your
inner brain, that’s been working on a solution while you’ve been applying
conscious thinking in other areas, speaks up. That way, the idea you want
emerges at a time when the mental spotlight isn’t on it.

I’ve personally watched this process play out in my work as
a musician.

Twenty plus years writing songs, and I still find myself
dumfounded as to where certain lyrics and melodies and rhythms come from.
Apropos of nothing, I’ll be in my studio and spontaneously start strumming or
singing or tapping my foot in a really interesting way and say to myself, what the hell, where did that come from?

Unconscious rumination, that’s where.

Long before I stepped into the studio that day, my mind had been unconsciously
churning away, gathering pieces of melody and lyric together like a musical jigsaw
puzzle. Because the
seed of any idea, sorting itself from others, may
take weeks or even years to germinate and come to the surface, fused with later

It only
seemed that it was instantaneous.

You’re no longer working on material, the material is
working on you.

your creative well before you’re thirsty, then, is a passive process. It’s an
unconscious experience that happens independent of your effort, since the brain
seems to enjoy working alone a lot of the time.

But you’re not completely off the hook.

You still have to accumulate reference files for your brain
to work on. And you have to make yourself hyperaware of unconscious rumination. And in time, you’ll soon find that consistently generating compelling
content won’t be as hard as people make it out to be.

Who needs a blank page
when you’ve got a bustling brain?

Get Your Idea to Ground Zero

We’ve already established that if you don’t write it down,
it never happened.

The next secret to becoming a prolific creator is, if you
don’t process what you write down,
you’ll never make anything happen. After all, what good is a good idea if you
can’t find it?

Being prolific, then, isn’t just about using your right brain,
it’s about using your brain right.

I’ve always struggled with this ability. As a textbook right
brainer, I’m the kind of person who’d rather be swept up by my imagination than
bogged down by the details. I’d rather dream in the blue sky than dig through
the nuts and bolts.

Carlin always managed to keep me on point, though. He used
to say that every artist needs a scientist buddy. A nerdy left brainer who’s
hard at work in the underground laboratory, indexing and categorizing and
processing, while the goofy artist goes out in the world and puts on a show.

Does that kind of dualism ever manifest in your creative

Odds are, you probably have to wear both the artist and
scientist hats. But the good new is, logic and order and sequence and systems
can be just as sexy as the ideas themselves. You just need a cool mantra for
processing information. Here’s mine:

Get the idea to ground

It’s a bit dramatic, I know.

But the reality is, we live in a time of unprecedented
information overload, and it’s hurling towards us faster than our constitutions
can handle. Our brains require a ton of psychic energy to collect and process
these large inventories of open loops, so frankly, I’m just trying to give my head
a rest.

David Allen, the world heavyweight champion of getting
things done, says that anything we allow into our psychological world, doesn’t
belong there. What our brains want is for new ideas to be moved downstream,
processed and entrusted into a concrete system, so they can peacefully return
to their natural state.

Now that’s your brain right.

And so, ground zero is the central cockpit of creative control.
The entry point into the processing workflow. It’s the primary location for offloading
raw materials into the factory. It’s where the scientist buddy does his best

For you, that could mean your studio, cubicle, drawer, workstation,
desktop, laptop, mobile device, sketchbook, whiteboard or a even dedicated wall
in your office. All are good options. The thing to remember is, it doesn’t
matter what your ground zero is, only
that it’s the primary filter for
everything you inhale.

Because once your ideas land, a good chunk of the mental work
is already done. You’ve noticed something, you’ve captured it, you’ve sent it
to ground zero, and now you can process it downstream and get to the right
brained work making the word flesh.

Let me share a recent example of this process in action:

I was listening to a podcast interview about the unstable
financial life of actors. The guest, a successful movie star, was reminiscing
about his lean years as a young performer. And he used the phrase “episodic

That caught my attention. Something about his language
clicked with me. I don’t know why, but I literally felt those two words in my
body, and so I said to myself, get that
idea to ground zero.

I grabbed my phone, opened up the email app, sent a message
to myself with the words episodic earnings
in the subject line, slid the phone back in my pocket and went back to whatever
I was doing. The next morning, I opened that email, copied those two words,
deleted that email, opened a blank document, pasted the words episodic earnings at the top of the page,
saved the document with those two words as the file name, dragged the document to
my inventory folder, and then let it drift downstream to be fleshed out at a
later date.

The whole thing took less than sixty seconds. The
scientist’s work is done. And now, from this point forward, whenever the artist
is ready to step in and get to work, those two words will be waiting for him,
ready to grow into something meaningful.

If you don’t process what you write down, you’ll never make
anything happen.

It may
sound like a lot of work at first, but once you perfect your personal creative
workflow, you’ll become more prolific than you ever thought possible.

like this carve a neural pathway. They allow processing to become second nature
to you. And in time, you’ll hone your ability to play the roles of both the
goofy artist and his scientist buddy.

If you don’t write it down, it never happened

Tom Clancy was the bomb.

Quite literally, in fact.

He wasn’t just the master of espionage and military science;
he also knew a thing or two about being prolific. With seventeen bestsellers and
more than one hundred million copies of his books in print, he was one of the
most successful thriller authors of all time.

In the novel Debt of Honor, the main character finds himself at a high stakes political meeting,
attempting to restart the nation’s economy after an attack by a formerly
friendly nation. Addressing the chief of staff, he says the immortal words:

If you don’t write it
down, it never happened.

When I first heard this phrase, it had a profound effect on
my creative process. It taught me to stop trusting my memory and start managing
my creative workflow intelligently. To train myself to become an informational
virtuoso who’s fast, responsive, proactive, organized, and never lets a single
idea get away. It taught me never to encounter inspiration without picking its

And now, as a result of this training, when an idea crosses
my path, I am ruthless.

My sixth sense will pick up on ideas before they even hit
the ground. Even if they show up unsuspected and unforeseen, I will seize them
with the devastating swiftness of creative ninja who’s so fast and efficient,
that by the time his opponent realizes he’s just been decapitated; the ninja is
already down the street drinking green tea.

You’ll never see me coming, and you’ll never see me leave.

Because if I learned anything from watching ninja movies as
a kid, a true mercenary practices the art of invisibility. He leaves without a
trace. He burns himself completely.

If you want to hone your ability to process information with
that kind of speed, the first step is to relieve yourself of any and all
editing duties. To retire your red pen.

This is a serious mental block that thwarts the creative
process. We waste time and energy trying to judge if a particular idea is good.
But that’s not our job. As artists, our job is to treat everything we encounter
with deep democracy, fundamental affirmation and radical acceptance. Never
meeting an experience with a tilted head.

Without this posture and way of seeing the world, we become
the type of people who think, well, if I forget something, I didn’t need to
know it. The silent dialogue in our head says, that’ll never work, that’s stupid, I can’t use that, that’s not
logical, I’m not allowed to do that, I should really wait until I have hard
so we walk through the world thinking that most great ideas are just
waiting to be talked out of.

And it becomes an infinite progression of confirmation bias.
We begin to favor information that confirms our beliefs, selectively documenting
only those ideas that support our existing position of what a good idea is.

Mitch Hedberg used to have a great joke on this:

“Sometimes in the middle of the night, I think of something
that’s funny, so I go get a pen and I write the idea down. Unless the pen’s too
far away, and then I have to convince myself that what I thought of wasn’t

Now that’s funny.

Ultimately, if you want hone your ability to process
information quickly and manage your creative workflow intelligently, the first
two steps are to stop trusting your memory and stop editing.

Because if you don’t write it down, it never happened.

How to Get Your Career on the Runway

Prolificacy hinges on the power of one.

Before she was the creator of the wildly hit show Girls, Lena Dunham made her first feature
film, Tiny Furniture. The movie was created
on a shoestring budget with mostly friends and family members, shot in Dunham’s
own apartment. And while some critics said the film lacked substance and that
the characters were unlikeable, the movie still won an award at a major film
festival, launching her career as a writer, actor, director, filmmaker, author
and activist.

But here’s the part of the story most people don’t know.

During recent radio interview, Dunham explain that the
significance of that first film was, it
got her on the runway.
It gave her momentum. It paved the way for
prolificacy. And once she started booking meetings with producers and networks
that could say yes to her, she
had something to do the talking for her.

Prolificacy, then, hinges on the power of one. Sometimes you
have to put work out there that’s less than amazing today, to motivate yourself to make something even better tomorrow. Otherwise the curse of
perfection trumps the commitment to progress.

In fact, there’s actually some science behind it.

A friend of mine who teaches quantum physics says that motion
organizes and creates order. In his research, he found that through motion, all
things tend to their equilibrium and find their place in the universe, thus conspiring
towards some unifying geometrical situation.

He calls it the theory of gravitational order.

Which may sound odd and nerdy and esoteric, but it’s
actually a helpful reminder that life rewards action. And that it’s not about
getting things right, it’s about getting things moving in the right direction.

My first book wasn’t exactly a literary masterpiece. Clocking
in at just under a hundred pages, and considering the number of typos and
adverbs poor grammar and rambling stories, I can’t even bring myself to flip through
it anymore. It’s just too painful.

And yet, that book got me on the runway. It launched my
career, built my brand and changed my life forever.

Because prolificacy hinges on the power of one.

What will you kick out into the world to activate
gravitational order?

Confront the Realities of Your Creative Inclinations

Sundance knew he shot better when he moved.

When he applied for the job as the payroll guard, the
crotchety old miner told him to hit the tobacco plug, but with no fancy
footwork and no quick draw theatrics.I
just need to see if you can shoot the damn thing
, he says.

He stands there, aims, shoots and misses by by a yard.

But right when the old man starts to walk away, he looks
back at the target and famously asks, “Can I move?”

And before we know it, Sundance holsters his gun, draws and
fires from the hip in the classic western tradition, and the bullets connect
while the tobacco plug jumps and bucks around the dirt. He’s hired on the spot.

Do you have that level of understanding about your own work?

If so, becoming a prolific communicator will come naturally
to you. Creativity, after all, is a function of identity. You can’t have one
without the other. Whatever kind of work you do, what you make will be inextricably
connected to what you are.

That’s why the theme of identity is so prevalent in my work.
Not just because I wear a nametag twenty four seven, but because few things
fascinate me more than the formation, nuance, complexity and absurdity of why
people are the way they are. And so, after writing a handful of books of the
subject, here are a few truths I’ve come to realize:

You can’t run from who you are. You take yourself
with you, wherever you go. And your identity chooses you, not the other way
around. No matter how hard you work to kick nature out, your truest self will always
bubble up the surface. When Michelangelo famously said the sculpture was inside
the stone, he wasn’t talking about art, he was talking about us.What you
make can’t not come from what you are.

This is great news.

Because once you reach a certain level of understanding about
how you work and how you’re wired, there’s no stopping you from hitting your
target. And once you confront the realities of your creative temperaments and
inclinations, the likelihood of hitting the wall is drastically lower.

I’m reminded of something my mentor used to say:

hide your limitations, channel them.

attention deficit disorder. This condition negatively affects millions of
people each year and it results in a great deal of emotional pain,
disappointment and in some cases, pharmacological side effects. And yet, I’ve
read inspiring stories about people who channel their condition into artistic
superpowers like multitasking, detail management and writing wicked technical
punk rock songs.

But there
are two sides to every cognitive coin.

On the
other side of the fence, I’m one of those weirdos with hyperfocus, or as my
wife likes to call it,reverse attention
deficit disorder
. I tend to become intensely engrossed with the task
at hand, to the point where all emotion drains from my face, I lose complete awareness
of my surroundings and disappear inside myself like a sea turtle. One morning
I was so zoned out during a writing binge that I spilled hot tea down my pants
and didn’t even notice.

yet, I usually find a way to channel my hyperfocus into productive, meaningful
work that’s useful to others. Because there’s always way to channel your limitations
in the service of making your ideas happen.

Otherwise, the more mysterious your own creative process becomes
for you, the greater your fear the well is going to run dry.

Confront the realities of your creative inclinations.

There’s no telling how many plugs of tobacco you might hit.

Create a Unique Inspiration Pool That Nobody Can Replicate

Our greatest currency in this world is our originality.

And yet, it’s also our greatest burden.

Because the interminable pressure to create and produce and
constantly crank out new material, day after day, without being derivative or
repetitive or stale, can overwhelm even the most prolific creator.

That’s why we need a system.

And we’ve already explored the metacognitive level, through the power of awareness plans as a
plugin for the human operating system. We’ve already examined the ritualistic level, by identifying a repertoire
of faithful forces to keep the creative life constant. The next step is to
consider the recreational level, by
creating a unique inspiration pool that nobody can replicate.

Tom Waits has a few things to say about this.

In my opinion, he is the most original songwriter of his
generation. For more than thirty years, he’s won over millions of fans around
the world with distinctive and mysterious songs that he refers to as “Halloween
music, murder ballads, field hollers, cautionary tales and parlor jingles.”

In a famous interview about his creative process, Tom told
the story about an oil stain he once saw on the drapes of his childhood home.
He described it as a wink from somebody who was living inside drapes, and how
that experience activated his imagination, letting him know that there was life
on the other side of the veil.

“I’ve been looking at stains ever since I was seven, waiting
for a message,” he said.

Tom also talked
about his habit of turning on two radios at once, because he liked hearing
things wrong.
He would also take a tape recorder, put it in the trashcan
with wheels, turn it on, roll around in the yard with it, and then play it back
and see if he could hear any interesting rhythms.

Strange guy, huh?

And yet, he was recently inducted into the rock and roll
hall of fame.

The only place where cover bands aren’t allowed.

Proving, that sustained artistic originality is possible.
Even if we’re not as eccentric and talented and successful as Tom may be, the
flow of ideas doesn’t have to stop. We simply need to view our eclectic
pursuits as rich areas to mine.

I remember when I first started practicing hot yoga.

Within weeks of taking my first class, dozens of new ideas, thoughts,
language, metaphors, examples, inspirations, influences and textures, that I
never would have come across elsewhere, started pouring out me. Which is interesting,
considering how much sweat literally pours out of my body during class.

But once yoga became a staple in my recreational life, the
level of originality in my writing skyrocketed to new levels. It’s like someone
unlocked a valve, I took trip to another land and my feet have never returned to the ground.

You really can’t spell recreation without creation.

Proving, that it’s not
enough to write things worth talking about, we have to live things worth
writing about.

Life is
subordinate to our art, not the other way around. Our first responsibility as creators
is to be human beings, to be real people, with unique
inspiration pools that
nobody can replicate.

The adventurous part is, the whole world is your rhetorical
toolbox.Everything goes
into the hopper and enables you. Everything around you is a point of connection
with crossover usefulness. Everything is just one ingredient in a big, boiling
pile of inputs.

songwriter Jolie Holland once said, “It’s like you walk around eating poetry
and then you throw up a song at the end.”

wherever you look, there’s something to see.

If we
can learn to create from there, from that place of humanity, the pressure of sustaining
artistic originality won’t be the burden it used to be.

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