The Fearless Five: Increase Your Creative Output
November 9, 2021
by Timothy Wier
(Editor’s Note: The Fearless Five is our weekly newsletter that gives you five things to inspire, motivate, and challenge you as you start your week. To get the weekly emails, subscribe here.)
Have you found yourself saying any of these things?
“I wish I had more time to write.”
“I can’t write as fast as I want.”
“If only I could write more, then I could…”
Well I’ve got news for you: You can.
Your creative output isn’t a static trait or innate ability.
It’s a muscle. And you can build up muscle over time.
So in this edition of The Fearless Five, let’s walk through how to increase your creative output.
1. Great creators are also great consumers.
If you want to increase your creative output, you need to consume more content.
It’s counterintuitive, I know.
After all, if you spend more time consuming content, doesn’t that mean you have less time to create?
Well…yes and no.
Let’s consider a hypothetical scenario.
Two students are charged with writing a five-page essay. One has read 8 books on the subject matter, the other has only read one.
Who do you think will write the essay fastest?
It’s probably going to be the one who read eight books:
They can more readily access the information because they’ve had more exposure to it
They have more examples to draw from because of a breadth of knowledge
They’ve been exposed to multiple viewpoints, and are more likely to synthesize them and even generate an original opinion
On top of that, Canadian psychologist Patricia Huston found that consuming creative works stimulates the frontal lobe of the brain.
This, in turn, engages the part of the brain that enables you to create things.
So if you want to be a great creator, start by being a great consumer.
2. Create without fear or judgment.
Write badly with pride.
While I’m not sure where I heard it originally, this advice has stuck with me over the years.
No one is born a good writer.
The only way to become a good writer is to write over and over again.
At first, you’ll generate really sh*tty content.
But then you’ll start to get better.
And someday you’ll churn out more good works than bad ones.
So don’t judge yourself for writing badly. It’s just part of the process.
And certainly don’t put off a project because you’re pre-judging yourself for it.
In fact, research from Eastern Illinois University shows that putting it off actually increases the anxiety around writing.
So your best bet is to just write the thing and get it over with.
Once you’ve done that, you can always go back and fix it.
But until then: write badly with pride.
3. Establish a process.
Have you heard of the songwriter Max Martin?
If not, you probably know some of the people he’s written for: Taylor Swift, Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys, NSYNC, Kelly Clarkson, Bon Jovi, Celine Dion, and more.
He’s also the third most successful songwriter on the Billboard Hot 100 list (behind only Paul McCartney and John Lennon), with 22 songs topping the chart.
So how is he able to churn out so much highly successful work?
He has a formula and a process.
Contrary to popular opinion, having a formula or process doesn’t inhibit creativity.
On the contrary, it increases your creativity.
Because when you impose limits on your work, you’re limiting the number of creative decisions you have to make.
And when you make fewer creative decisions, each decision can be higher quality.
For Martin, some of the limits include:
Write the melody first, then add lyrics later
Get to the chorus within 50 seconds
No more than 3-4 melodic parts in the song
Every line has a specific number of syllables, and the next line has to mirror that
Your process is going to look different depending on the kind of content you create.
But when you impose limitations on yourself, you’ll find that they aren’t limiting.
Instead, they’ll be liberating.
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