One of the distinct challenges of working with your mind is that there is rarely an equal input/equal output relationship between effort and quality of results. Sometimes things just seem to “click”, and at others, you can labor for hours without a discernable breakthrough. That’s why it’s critical to build systems and practices into your life to provide a measure of predictability to your process. If you want a great product, it’s essential to focus first on just showing up regularly and doing the work.
As such, I was thrilled to be included in the new book from 99u called Manage Your Day-To-Day. It features essays from twenty creative do-ers about how to better structure your life to better position you for creative success. There are no formulas, of course, only tendencies and practices. Most of the advice contained in the book is about the architecture of the process rather than the moment of creation, making it invaluable for anyone wanting a peak inside the mind and process of highly productive creative pros.
My essay was on the importance of Unnecessary Creation, or building time into your life to create things “off the clock”. This allows you to develop your skills, tap into your deeper aptitudes, and take risks in a relatively low-risk environment. Here is an excerpt from my essay entitled Creating For You, and You Alone:
Unnecessary Creation provides a forum for the pursuit of voice, and a reminder that you are not the sum of what you make. You and I are not machines, and no matter how efficient we become at delivering brilliant work, we need regular reminders of our capacity to contribute something unique. We need to stay in touch with the intrinsic desire to strive for the “next” that has driven progress throughout the ages.
The twentieth-century mystic Thomas Merton wrote, “There can be an intense egoism in following everybody else. People are in a hurry to magnify themselves by imitating what is popular—and too lazy to think of anything better. Hurry ruins saints as well as artists. They want quick success, and they are in such a haste to get it that they cannot take time to be true to themselves. And when the madness is upon them, they argue that their very haste is a species of integrity.” Merton elegantly articulates how the pressure of the create-on-demand world can cause us to look sideways at our peers and competitors instead of looking ahead. The process of discovering and refining your voice takes time.
Unnecessary Creation grants you the space to discover your unique aptitudes and passions through a process of trial, error, and play that won’t often be afforded to you otherwise. Initiating a project with no parameters and no expectations from others also forces you to stay self-aware while learning to listen to and follow your intuition. Both of these are crucial skills for discovering your voice.
I’m almost through the entire book and have found several tidbits of insight that I plan to immediately implement into my work routine, especially Cal Newport‘s notion of daily “focus blocks” for deep work. There are also essays from Seth Godin, Steven Pressfield, Scott Belsky, Dan Ariely, Mark McGuinness, and many others.
If you’re looking for a quick (and productive) read over the holiday weekend, I’d highly recommend picking up Manage Your Day-To-Day. (And don’t forget to do some unnecessary creation this weekend!)