Inspiration is Overrated: 6 Ways to Cash in on Creative Discipline

“Inspiration is for amateurs.”

I learned that from Dave Barry, who, last time I checked, wrote over twenty bestselling books and won the Pulitzer Prize.

Guess he was right.

HERE’S MY QUESTION: How can you create more than enough creative ideas so that you NEVER need to worry about running out?

ONE-WORD ANSWER: Discipline.

Discipline is the hallmark of inspiration.
Discipline is the foundation of all creativity.
Discipline is the four-letter word that guarantees success.
Discipline is the directed willpower that will eliminate artistic blocks.
Discipline is the differentiator that will set you apart from all other creative professionals.

Here are six ways to cash in on creative discipline:

1. Art requires structure. For that reason, you need to be “due at the page.” Or the canvas. Or the studio. Or the wheel. Whatever your primary creative venue is, commit to the schedule of “being due” at same time, every day.

Even if your mother in law is in town and wants to get together for coffee at 7:30am, you tell her, “Sorry Phyllis, I’m booked up during that time slot every morning. Can we make it 10:30?” It’s all about setting boundaries.

Because if you don’t set them for yourself, other people will set them for you. And then they will violate them. And it will be your fault. As Julia Cameron explained in Walking in this World:

“It is impossible to say yes to our art and ourselves until we learn to say no to others. People don’t mean us harm, but they do harm us when they ask for more than we can give. When we do ahead and give it to them, we are harming ourselves as well.”

Remember: Choose your creative time wisely. Let nobody steal it from you. What’s your creative schedule?

2. “Finding” the time doesn’t work. “Find” comes from the Old English term findan. Which means, “To come upon, alight on.” Which implies a search. Which means it’s possible that you might NOT find the time to create.

“Make” comes from the Frisian term makia, which means, “To build.” As in “BUILD into your schedule.” As in “BUILD your entire day around it.” Which implies a commitment. Which means it’s NOT possible that you WON’T create.

As Cameron explained in Vein of Gold, “The reason there is never enough time is because our time is not our own. We do not make it that way. Therefore, we do not experience it that way. When we believe there is “no time,” that is what we experience.”

Remember: You’re a creative ninja who sneaks in a little art at every opportunity. And you’re never too busy to create art. What did you make the time for today?

3. Patient faith, not inspiration. Creative scheduling notwithstanding, maybe nothing will come. Maybe you’ll get one measly idea all day. Maybe you’ll sit there, staring at your screen for two hours, scratching your butt – accomplishing nothing.

That’s OK. It happens to me sometimes. It’s all part of the deal. As Leonard Cohen reminded us in his amazing documentary, I’m Your Man, “You have to go to work everyday with the knowledge that you might not get it everyday.”

So, just show up anyway. Maybe it won’t be so bad. How patient and faithful are you willing to be?

4. Don’t believe your creative drought. Next, remove the term “writer’s block” from your vocabulary. It doesn’t exist anyway. Writing is an extension of thinking. You don’t have writer’s block – you have THINKER’S block.

Therefore: If you want to write more, think more. As Julia said in Finding Water, “Once we stop calling our writer’s block ‘writer’s block’ and begin using words like ‘resistance’ and ‘procrastination,’ we are suddenly no longer in rarefied territory.” What’s stopping your creative flow?

5. Don’t be so artsy fartsy. Cameron also says, “We do a disservice to ourselves is to make our work TOO special and TOO different from others. We need to normalize our days. The minute we identify with the rest of humankind, we are on the right track.”

My suggestion is to think of yourself as a blue-collar worker. Punching in, clocking out, every day. A union grunt who sports one of those work shirts with the embroidered nametag on the front. Just a working stiff, cranking out a double shift at the idea factory, trying to earn your keep to put bread on the table.

This kind of attitude humbles you and welcomes the muse to join you in the creative process. Is your big-shot artist posturing assassinating your ability to be a disciplined worker?

6. Lay a certain amount of track each day. George Carlin committed to writing twenty pages EVERY day. He did that for fifty years and went down in history as one of the greatest thinkers and comedians of all time.

Personally, I write for four hours a day. Minimum. Often times closer to seven. And when I clock out at quitting time, I always ask myself the same question: What did you write today? And if I can’t answer that question, I have failed as a writer.

The crazy thing is, people are always astonished when I share this hourly quota with them. Sometimes they’ll say, “God, do you have a life?” And I say, “Yes. I DO have a life – the life of a writer. And a writer writes. Always.” Did you hit your creative quota today?

REMEMBER: Famed poet Beckian Fritz Goldberg once said, “Discipline is the highest form of love.”

So, creativity is like breathing. All that matters is if you’re doing it NOW.

What awaits you in the refining fire of discipline?

For the list called, “49 ways to become an Idea Powerhouse,” send an email to me, and you win the list for free!

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

Download a free copy of The Nametag Guy’s (unofficial) 9th book!

HELLO, my name is Scott’s…
“Live your name.”

10 Ways to Out Write the Competition

On July 24th, 2008, The New York Times published an Op-Ed written by Jerry Seinfeld to celebrate the life – and commemorate the death – of his friend and colleague, George Carlin.

“Every comedian does a little George. I couldn’t even count the number of times I’ve been George downright invented modern American stand-up comedy in many ways. Every standing around with some comedians and someone talks about some idea for a joke and another comedian would say, ‘Carlin does it.’

I’ve heard it my whole career: ‘Carlin does it,’ ‘Carlin already did it,’ ‘Carlin did it eight years ago.’”

And he didn’t just “do” it. He worked over an idea like a diamond cutter with facets and angles and refractions of light. He made you sorry you ever thought you wanted to be a comedian. He was like a train hobo with a chicken bone. When he was done there was nothing left for anybody.

I know George didn’t believe in heaven or hell. Like death, they were just more comedy premises. And it just makes me even sadder to think that when I reach my own end, whatever tumbling cataclysmic vortex of existence I’m spinning through, in that moment I will still have to think, ‘Carlin already did it.’”

NOW, HERE’S THE COOL PART: Did you know that during George Carlin’s 50+ years in show business, he wrote twenty pages of new material, every day?

Yep. Most people don’t know that.

Most people know that he:

o Released 23 comedy albums, one of which won a Grammy.
o Wrote three best-selling books.
o Featured in 14 HBO specials.
o Starred in his own sitcom.
o Acted in numerous movies.
o Appeared on NBC’s The Tonight Show over 130 times.
o Inducted into the Comedy Hall of Fame in 1994.
o Received the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor in November of 2008.

But twenty pages a day? Most people don’t know that.

George Carlin was the consummate example of how to “Out Write” the competition. And it earned him a spot in history as one of the greatest Thought Leaders of all time.

What about you? What did YOU write today?

Here are ten questions to ask yourself if you want to out write the competition:

1. What ideas do you have that you discuss and write about with the most passion? If you can talk about it forever, you can write about it forever. This a great place to start for someone who’s not sure which topic to tackle. Remember: Passion makes writing easier.

2. Are you writing for an audience or just talking to yourself? Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Talking to yourself (on paper) is a powerful device for self-realization and idea clarity. But when you’re going to publish something, you need to envision your audience at the onset. Remember: Always write for your ideal reader.

3. Is everything you know written down somewhere? Your memory is a moron. Don’t trust it. Learn to have a paper memory. As George Carlin remarked, “A good idea is no good unless you have a way to find it.” You win when you customize your Content Management System. Remember: If you don’t write it down, it never happened.

4. Are you writing to sound like a writer or to sound like YOU? Hopefully the latter. Because your job as a writer is to DISAPPEAR from the page. To help someone forget he is reader. To be a great date for your reader. Remember: Writers that sound like writers are usually annoying writers.

5. What did this piece of writing cost you? Odds are, not much. Maybe your time. And your vulnerability. And your comfort zone. Other than that, writing costs very little. In fact, it’s probably more expensive NOT to write. Think about that. Remember: Writing time is rarely wasted time.

6. What’s your writing schedule? “Inspiration is for amateurs,” Dave Barry once said. And I agree. You don’t need inspiration; you need discipline. Discipline is the hallmark of inspiration, the foundation of all creativity and the only four-letter word that guarantees success. It is the directed willpower that will eliminate artistic blocks, and it will set your writing FREE. Remember: Discipline is your differentiator.

7. What did you write today? That’s the question you need to ask yourself at the end of every day. And if you don’t have an answer, then you don’t have the right to call yourself a Thought Leader. Period. Come on. This is what you DO. Stop making excuses. Remember: There is no Writer’s Block – only Thinker’s Block.

8. Have you written about that yet? Every time you think something powerful, experience something cool or say something brilliant, this is the question you ask yourself. If the answer is, “Yes,” pat yourself on the back. If the answer is, “No,” make sure you write it down within thirty seconds. If the answer is, “Maybe,” make sure you write it down within ten seconds. Remember: Ideas are free; but execution is priceless.

9. How much of your writing have you publicly deployed? Strive for about 80-90% – then keep the rest exclusive. Don’t worry about piracy. Don’t worry about giving away the farm. Let your competition worry about that. You go write some more. You will win. Think about it: Do you think Tom Peters look back at his body of work and says, “You know, in retrospect, I really should have published LESS”? No way. Remember: The more “by” that comes BEFORE your name; the more your credibility will enable people to “buy” what comes AFTER it.

10. What are you risking by sharing this material? If the answer is, “Not much,” you lose. Here’s why: Thought Leaders are trust agents. Trust is a function of intimacy. And intimacy is a function of self-disclosure. So, I’m not suggesting you reveal your deepest secrets or darkest perversions in your next blog post. Rather, I encourage you to be fearless in your writing. As my mentor often reminds me, “Good writing is like walking across a stage naked. Remember: Slice open a vein and bleed your truth all over the page

FINAL THOUGHT: Writing is the basis of all wealth. I’ve said that many times on this blog.

Because your biggest differentiator as a Thought Leader is to be able to say, “Oh yeah, I’ve written about that before…”

So, go write something.

That’s what Carlin would do.

How will you out write the competition?

For the list called, “9 Things Every Writer Must Do Every Day,” send an email to me, and you win the list for free!

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

Download a free copy of The Nametag Guy’s (unofficial) 9th book!

HELLO, my name is Scott’s…
“Live your name.”

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