The four disciplines that lead to consistent creativity

consistent creativity

By Mark Schaefer

I’ve written at least two blog posts a week for nearly 10 years. With my partner Tom Webster, I’ve hosted more than 100 podcast episodes in four years, and I’ve written six books since 2011 (not counting three versions of The Tao of Twitter).

So I’m often asked how I keep up this rate of consistent creativity. To me, creativity isn’t a “Eureka!” moment. And while I recognize that varying degrees of creativity may be part of our human diversity, I also believe there are learned behaviors that can set the stage for creative success.

They are …

1. The discipline to absorb

We live in a world where we are absolutely bombarded by ideas every day. If you need to create content for a living, may I suggest that you are not lacking for ideas, you’re simply not aware of them?

Begin living your life through the eyes of a reporter. When you hear a podcast, read a blog post, skim a magazine, attend a lecture (or even a sermon at church), go on a hike … observe your world through this lens: “How could I make this the subject of a piece of content?”

My biggest sources of creative inspiration:

  • Questions people ask me
  • News articles
  • Books
  • Magazines
  • Conversations with smart friends

2. The discipline to record

So step one toward consistent creativity is to be aware of these possible ideas. Step two is to write them down.

This seems like such a simple discipline doesn’t it? But I find that if I don’t record these inspirations immediately, the ideas get lost in the daily hurricane of life. It’s not uncommon for me to call a friend and ask “what was that idea we discussed last week … I forgot to write it down!”

If you have the discipline to capture this stream of ideas, then, when it’s time to sit down and write your blog, record your video, or produce a podcast, you’ll never have writer’s block because you’ll never be staring at a blank screen. You’ll have a juicy list of ideas to choose from every week.

The only time I ever hit a dry spell in my blogging career was when I got out of the habit of writing down the ideas.

3. The discipline to create

Creating content must become part of the fabric of your life, just like eating a meal, watching TV, or taking the train to work.

You can’t create content as an afterthought. Schedule time to create, just as you would schedule time to work out or see a friend for coffee.

I normally block out the 2-3 hours every week when I sit down to write. It is a sacred time, early in the morning on a weekend. Nothing is going to get scheduled over that time. I’m not going to be interrupted. I even believe that knowing this is my time to write — in this chair, at this time, with a pot of coffee — somehow conditions me to be creative. I know it’s time to write. I look forward to it.

4. The discipline to relax

Creation take focus and, speaking for myself, it’s hard to focus when my mind is going a million miles an hour with the challenges of the day. You need to give yourself permission to set your mind free on creative fun for that time you have set aside for your content.

That’s why my creative time is early Sunday morning. There are no meetings. There is no noise. And yes, the week is going to rev up tomorrow … but that’s for tomorrow.

Put on some comfy clothes, light a candle, play some music, have some tea. Do whatever it takes to be present in the task and allow the creativity to flow!

I hope these ideas help you. What are your obstacles to consistent creativity? Do you have any of your own traditions and disciplines when you create content?

SXSW 2016 3Mark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world.  Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

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