Use Baitless Hooks: 9 Practices for Process-Oriented Creativity

Thomas Edison was a fisherman.

Sure, he was the world’s greatest inventor, too.

But fishing was his thing. His territory. His place. His solace.

And in those days, fishing was serious business. A man could never be disturbed while he was fishing.

Fast-forward to a few centuries later.

If you take the official tour at the Edison Winter Estate in Ft. Meyers Florida, you might get a chance to snap a picture of Tommy’s favorite spot.

According to their records, Edison built his own private 1500 ft. pier for fishing in the deep water, which he visited daily.

But that’s not the cool part.

What IS cool is that Edison NEVER used bait.

That’s right. Just a hook.

He was known to go fishing without any bait so he could be alone with his thoughts. For hours. Every single day.

That’s how processed oriented he was. That’s how detached from outcomes he was.

And of course, 1,093 patents later, I guess it worked out pretty well for him!

SO, THAT’S THE SECRET TO SUCCESS: Go fishing every day.

Just kidding.

Like it would be that easy.

No. It isn’t about fishing.

This is about practicing a simple; three-word philosophy in your creative life:


Horizon, not point.
Process, not answer.
Ball, not scoreboard.
Discovery, not answers.
Pursuit, not attainment.
Journey, not destination.

Unfortunately, we live in a society where outcome (not process) is a primary value. And this makes it difficult for people to love the work more than what it produces.

To do things “just cuz,” and not FOR someone or something.

AND I BELIEVE: Until we teach ourselves to abolish our intentionality, until we become intrinsically motivated, and until we discover that the purpose can be found in the process … the true potential of our ideas will never be fully realized.

BUT, HERE’S THE GOOD NEWS: If we can learn to adopt a more process-oriented attitude, we’ll never run into this problem.

So, let’s explore nine practices for using baitless hooks in your creative life:

1. Think Modular. Whatever you’re creating, it’s not what you think. It’s not a blog post, a drawing, a scribble, an essay, a chapter, a verse or a poem. It’s a “module.” I coined this term a few years back as an objective way to define content.

I define a module as, “an unclassified chunk of creative material.” And when you start to view your content in this fashion, the possibilities for what that content might become are endless! What modules are you working on?

2. Autotelic, not exotelic. According to creativity guru Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, there are two ways to approach any activity. First, there’s exotelic, which means we do something not because we enjoy it, but to accomplish a later goal, i.e., to catch fish.

Then there’s autotelic, which means there’s no reason for doing something except to feel the experience it provides, i.e., because you love sitting on the dock. The challenge is to stop trying to label everything. This will lower your inhibitions and enable your natural creativity to flow organically. Why are you creating?

3. Carry no agenda. Don’t create “for” anyone or anything. Not the media, the customers, the fans, the galleries – NOBODY! Just do it for the sake of doing it. Eventually, (hopefully), the “for” will appear on its own. It will be a nice added bonus when someone wants your work. (However, even if they don’t, at least you enjoyed making it!) It’s a win-win. Whom are you creating FOR?

4. Detach from numbers. Forget the clock and forget the score. Retire the counter and scale back scales. Of course, this may come as a challenge to many, especially Westerners who were raised in a hyper-competitive culture.

However, when we start to focus on the activity and not the results, our performance gets better. And of course, the results get better. When you detach, your inner emptiness is more able to catch the flow of the universe. What do you need to stop counting?

5. Beware of intentionality. As important as it is to set goals, sometimes it’s better not to have any. No purpose or agenda whatsoever. Especially in the world of creativity, Intentionality blocks creativity and buries solutions.

Ever sat down at the piano and told yourself, “Alright, so create something! Go!” It just doesn’t work that way. Inspiration comes unannounced. And often when you care (and try) the least, you do the best. So, just relax. Discard your agenda and just start creating. What would happen to your productivity if you were less intentional?

6. Create incidentally. Speaking of intentions. When faced with any task, endeavor or project, two questions also need to be asked: “What needs to be done intentionally?” And “What do I hope will happen incidentally?”

First, let’s explore the word “intentional.” It comes from the Latin intendere, which means, “To direct one’s attention.” So, it’s the action you take first, along with the attitude you maintain while taking it. And, in many cases, that which you intend to do is simple, process-oriented and free from agendas. Like creating. Or thinking. (Or fishing.)

Now, on the other hand, the word “incidental,” comes from the Latin incidentem, which means, “To occur casually in connection with something else.” So, it’s the consequence of the intentional stuff. And, in many cases, that which incidentally occurs is organic, serendipitous and reciprocal. Like money. Or fame. Or recognition. (Or catching fish.) Is this an intentional action or an incidental consequence?

7. Studio, not gallery. This is a cool way to think about it, according to Steven Pressfield. He wrote The War of Art, which I believe is the most important book on creativity written in the past 20 years. (And I read a LOT of books!)

Anyway, Pressfield talks about a dichotomy. First, there’s creating for hierarchy, i.e., the impression it makes on others. You know, the gallery. Then he talks about creating for territory, i.e., the act itself and how it affects the artist. You know, the studio. Do you think Edison was fishing so he could snap a picture of the 3-footer he caught and show it to his buddies?

8. Become a suspender. In addition to suspending your agenda, using baitless hooks is also about suspending your preoccupations and preconceptions. For example, “Will anybody like this song?” “Will this book even sell?” “What will my husband think when he sees this painting?”

You challenge is to – at least temporarily – remove the barriers of potential criticism and trust your artistic voice. Just go. Rely on process. What do you need to surrender to?

9. What finish line? Finally, Van Gough once said, “A great work of art is never finished.” That being said, be sure your focus is on the journey, not the destination. This is especially appropriate when it comes to the issue of money. See, as artists, it’s easy to create stuff we KNOW is going to be bought. Or to create stuff for which there is a guaranteed market or readership or customer base.

But seeking destroys the process. So, create because you love it. Create because you can’t (NOT) create. Create because it’s your purpose. Create because it’s really fun. Create because your work emotionally touches others. When you do it THAT way, your best work will come to the surface AND people will want to pay for it. It’s a twofer! Are your profits byproducts?

Look. You know the drill. You’ve heard it a million times.

“Process, not destination.”

As a creative professional, I’m challenging you to start thinking a little differently. Put these nine practices to use and start approaching your creative process like the great Thomas Edison did.

Use baitless hooks.

Is your art focused on product or process?

For the list called, “49 Ways to become an Idea Powerhouse,” send an email to me, and I’ll send you the list for free!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Coach, Entrepreneur

Still haven’t finished that book you started in 2006?

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14 Obligations of All Creative Professionals

1. Create a movement. Not a company. Not a product. Not a service. A movement. This requires a significantly higher level of passion, inner fire and tolerance for ambiguity. The cool part is, it’s more rewarding, more fun and more engaging. The challenging part is, you sleep a lot less. Oh well. Are you building a following?

2. Create a referral-rich environment. Several ways to do this. First, people need to be aware what you DO, what you’re DOING and what you’ve DONE. Second, people need to see you in action. They need to see you being you, doing what you do best. Thirdly, you need to be good. REALLY good. So good that people will gladly wait in line and pay higher prices than they should. So good that people, once they’ve worked with you once, will immediately tell all their friends about you. What percentage of your new business is referral based?

3. Create a world. All you have to do is ask yourself the following powerful question: “If everybody did exactly what you said, what would the world look like?” Spend a few hours brainstorming a half-dozen bullet point answers. I mean literally write them down.

Then, once you’re finished, you’ll have a template, a framework, a foundation, for the type of world you desire to create. And the best part is, now all you need to do, is make sure that everything you do, gives people – your fans, your movement members – the tools to BUILD that world. What new world are you creating?

4. Create clear outcomes. That last example used what I call a “Back to the Future Question.” Other examples include: How would you BE if you were already living your dream? For your life to be perfect, what would have to change? How do you want the world to know you 3-5 years from now? These types of questions accomplish four goals:

(1) they ENABLE people to act as if the desired changed already occurred
(2) they HELP people imagine what they need to become in order for their goals to manifest
(3) they EMPOWER people to speak from the future, then look back to identify the steps that led there
(4) they INSPIRE people to paint a compelling, detailed picture of the desired future and make meaningful strides toward it.

Hey, McFly: Are your outcomes crystal clear?

5. Create despite poverty. OK, so, business sucks. Sales are down. The economy is in the crapper. Fine. Stop complaining about it and just accept it. Say yes to what IS and force yourself to create new ideas anyway. Every day. If needed, channel your frustration into your creativity. Remember: Ideas are your #1 source of income. Remember: Writing is the basis of all wealth. Are you falling in love with your own excuses?

6. Create enduring enthusiasm. The word enthusiasm literally means, “Filled with God.” So, when you say you’ve lost your energy, your spark, your burning desire, I don’t buy it. I don’t believe for a second that, for some strange reason, you’re (now) no longer filled with God. That’s something that never really goes away, whatever your definition of “God” is.

The challenge is, you can’t SEE it because it’s buried under a steaming pile of excuses; you can’t HEAR it because you’ve chosen to stop listening; and you can’t FEEL it because you’re hanging out with losers. What saps your enthusiasm?

7. Create first thing. Get out of bed, get into the shower, grab some hot tea and commence mental puking. First thoughts, best thoughts. Slice open a vein and bleed your truth all over the page. Or canvas. Or dance floor. Or whatever medium you use. The goal is to create your own daily ritual of creativity that serves as a personal time-out, a portable solitude, routine of reflection and a practice of meditation.

When you create “first thing,” this process lends you stability and intimacy. It enables you to ventilate and prioritize your thoughts. It also trains your censor to stand aside so you can get current and catch up on yourself. As Julia Cameron suggest in The Artist’s Way, “Get down on the page whatever it is you are.” Are you starting your day with practice?

8. Create for revenge. For all those jerks that said you were crazy. For all those haters who said your work was no good. For all those idiots who said they could do it WAY better than you. Create cool stuff just to get them back. Wave it in front of their face. Make ‘em smell it. How do you like me now, chumps?

9. Create higher visibility. Stop being a secret. Anonymity is bankruptcy. Stick yourself out there – in person, online, on paper – everyday. Be ubiquitous. Be pleasantly persistent. Be The Observed. Then, BECOME a known entity. BECOME the obvious choice. BECOME That Guy. What are you doing to make your brand even more visible?

10. Create mini Sabbaths. You don’t even have to be religious. You don’t even have to make it a full day. You just need to physically and mentally displace yourself. No work. No thinking. No nothing. Almost like a mini vacation. Anywhere from fifteen minutes to two hours.

EXAMPLES: Go for a walk, grab a cup of tea at Starbucks, break out your guitar and play a few tunes, or head out to your car, dial up the comedy channel on satellite radio, lay back and laugh it up. It’s one of the healthiest practices you could incorporate into your daily life. What’s your Sabbath?

11. Create new connections. That’s all creativity really is, anyway. And all you have to do is, while observing the world, ask yourself questions like, “What else is like this?” “Where else have I seen this before?” and “Now that I have this, what else does this make possible?” Remember: Thinking is LINKING. And myriad connections (always) exist. How many unrelated things have you connected this week?

12. Create new value You HAVE to. Like, every year or so. Your fans, readers, audience members and customers crave it. Sadly, too many artists are unwilling to renovate, redo and renew because they’re too comfortable and too complacent, suckling the teat of their sacred cows. They don’t think they need to renew to be great, and they’re wrong. You must rapidly reinvent yourself, or people will forget about you. When was the last time you brought NEW value?

13. Create positive inflow. To create kick-ass art, begin by flooding your mind, body, soul and life with only positive things. YES books, YES music, YES people, YES food, YES networking events – YES everything! Remember: Negativity isn’t just unattractive; it’s unproductive. How do you stay positive?

14. Create self-evident ideas. First, engage the customer’s BRAIN. Make ‘em think – but not too much. Make it easily digestible, repeatable and defendable. Make ‘em nod in agreement because of your self-evidence and unarguability. Then, engage people’s FISTS. So they think, “Well, I’m sold!” So they exclaim, “OMG, I have to have one of those!” So they declare, “Dude, we gotta get this guy!” How long does it take people to “get” what you do?

As a Creative Professional, what are your obligations?

For the list called, “10 Best Books on Creativity You’ve Never Heard Of,” send an email to me, and I’ll send you the list for free!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Coach, Entrepreneur

Nobody seeing YOUR name anywhere?

Bummer. Perhaps my monthly, all-access coaching program would help.

Rent Scott’s Brain today!

12 Ways to Jumpstart Your Creative Metabolism

1. Bathtubbing. That means writing and writing and writing until you get something good. Letting the shanks, the crap, the not-so-good material come out first and swirl into the drain. This allows you to release it without committing to keeping it.

Eventually, once you’ve found your rhythm – the groove and the tempo of your creative nature – and once you stop pumping out cold water and start releasing the hottest, best stuff you got – THEN you jam that rubber plug into the drain and bathe in its beauty. (Here’s a great journaling exercise to make this happen.)

The challenge is, you’ve GOT to be in it for the long haul. Because the longer you write, the more likely you are to discover things that weren’t available to you at the onset. Like waiting for the water to turn hot. You’ve got to stand there, naked by shower, holding your hand under the spigot every few minutes, just to see if it’s turned yet. Are you constantly moving until meaning and truth manifest?

2. Be innocent and ignorant. Curiosity, innocence and youth = creativity. So, even if you’re not that sweet little untainted whippersnapper anymore, your goal is to temporary suspend your adult habit of self-criticism.

To silence that goddamn crotchety grownup inside of your head and let your inner child – so beautiful, honest and pure – broadcast his creative spirit and come out to play. Are you growing UP or growing OLD?

3. Creativity is about being uncomfortable. Develop your a tolerance for ambiguity. Fear only the KNOWN. Comfort zones are overrated, anyway. Take fanatical risks. Let’s get glorious! Explore the magnificent foreign terrain of your mind.

And, be comfortable NOT knowing what something is at the beginning, trusting that you’ll figure it out when you get there. Have unshakable faith in those unplaceable thoughts that catch your inner attention. Sure, some ideas may come without any visible anchors, but they DO have a destination. How are you practicing intentional discomfort?

4. Glug, glug, glug. Take a swig and drink in the world. Swish it around for a while like a dental patient and spit it back into the steel basin that is your canvas. What are you drinking in?

5. Observe inner patterns. Never ignore the persistent imagery that touches your soul. It’s a clue. It’s what you should be writing about. So, honor that which constantly invades the landscapes of your dreams, follow it down the rabbit hole and see where it leads. Are your dreams trying to tell you something?

6. Paint, schmaint. Your medium is YOU. The human soul. Not paint. Not clay. Not the written word. YOU. Your life. Your truth. You are the stuff art is made of. What medium are you creating with?

7. Oontz … oontz … oontz. Let the rhythm grab hold of your heart. Boogie all across the page. It’ not a canvas or a page – it’s a dance floor. And the music never stops. Only YOU choose to change the volume. How often are you dancing?

8. Pitch black. You create in the dark, not knowing what else is in the room. But then, when you least expect it, the light suddenly flickers on. And all around you – on the walls, floors and ceilings – you see an illumination of beautiful truth.

BUT, only if you trust your pen, passion, abilities and the inherent geometrical organization of your ideas. Only if you’re willing to (eventually) uncover the intrinsic poetry in your thoughts. Are you willing to create blindly?

9. Refuse to discard hunches. Cherish that moment when your eyes squint, your brow furrows and your head tilts to the side like a curious dog … because you’re noticing something. You’re SEEING something. Something good. Always trust that peripheral perception. (Learn my creative capturing process called “Freezing.”)

Be awake to (and respect the integrity OF) the words that seize you and refuse to let you go until you’ve given them careful consideration. And remember to say the most important three words of creative discovery: “Now THAT’S interesting…” What irregularities are you finding to be interesting?

10. Render everything you observe in some way. “Render” comes from the French word, rendre, which means, “To give back, present, yield.” So, you see something. It collides with your brain. Merges with your heart. Co-mingles with your creative soul.

Then, it bounces off of you, returning to the world though the new guise of your own personal filter of truth and passion. Through YOUR eyes. How are you rendering everything you observe?

11. Start anywhere, then go back and let it lead you somewhere. That means transforming vague, non-directed and unharnessed ideas into expanded chunks of creative perfection. That means taking something that (initially) makes no sense, then returning to legitimize it.

Think of it this way: You let the hose run for a while, allowing whatever type of water that wants to come out … to come out. Then, you go back later and jam your thumb into the spout. This narrows, focusing and lasers your idea, casting it into a healthier, more coherent structure. Are you reworking generality into genius?

12. Writing = Wring It. Literally. Another anagram. And what a great word, too. Wring. That means you write and write and write until there’s nothing left to write, at least, for the moment.

You take an idea and squeeze out its essence. Twist out the juice. Gripping so forcefully that the veins in your forearm pop out, mangling your material until SOME meaning comes. Ah, yes, art: The Glorious Squeegee. What did you juice today?

How are you jumpstarting your creative metabolism?

For the list called, “10 Best Books on Creativity You’ve Never Heard Of,” send an email to me, and I’ll send you the list for free!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Coach, Entrepreneur

Nobody seeing YOUR name anywhere?

Bummer. Perhaps my monthly coaching program would help.

Rent Scott’s Brain today!

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