Why wait for the muse when you could be churning out product? It’s not a very romantic notion, but many of the most effective writers/painters/inventors work every single day—even if it’s only for a few minutes.
Here’s what bestselling author Gretchen Rubin has to say about the power of frequency in our new 99U book:
Frequency keeps ideas fresh. You’re much more likely to spot surprising relationships and to see fresh connections among ideas if your mind is constantly humming with issues related to your work. when I’m deep in a project, everything I experience seems to relate to it in a way that’s absolutely exhilarating. The entire world becomes more interesting. That’s critical, because I have a voracious need for material, and as I become hyperaware of potential fodder, ideas pour in. By contrast, working sporadically makes it hard to keep your focus. It’s easy to become blocked, confused, or distracted, or to forget what you were aiming to accomplish.
Frequency keeps the pressure off. If you’re producing just one page, one blog post, or one sketch a week, you expect it to be pretty darned good, and you start to fret about quality. I knew a writer who could hardly bring herself to write. When she did manage to keep herself in front of her laptop for a spate of work, she felt enormous pressure to be brilliant; she evaluated the product of each work session with an uneasy and highly critical eye. She hadn’t done much work, so what she did accomplish had to be extraordinarily good. Because I write every day, no one day’s work seems particularly important. I have good days and I have bad days. Some days, I don’t get much done at all. But that’s okay, because I know I’m working steadily. My consequent lack of anxiety puts me in a more playful frame of mind and allows me to experiment and take risks. If something doesn’t work out, I have plenty of time to try a different approach.
This is an excerpt from Manage Your Day-to-Day, the new book from 99U, with contributions from Gretchen Rubin, Dan Ariely, Seth Godin, Stefan Sagmeister, and many more.
It’s an old businessperson’s axiom: you have to spend money to make money. But what happens when you have no money? Many aspects of the world cruelly require the very thing we need more of. The more people you know, the easier it will be to make friends. If you have chickens you can get eggs. If you have eggs you can yield more chickens. Facebook’s Julie Zhuo on how to break this vicious cycle:
One great line from Gagan Biyani’s talk last week has stayed with me: faking the chicken. It means doing whatever it takes to get the chicken in place so that you can start reaping the benefit of eggs.
Or, if you’re lacking confidence, fake it until you make it. Act as if you have conviction in what you’re saying even if the entire neighborhood’s butterfly population has taken up residence in your stomach.
Or, if something seems out of your capabilities, surround yourself with people that have done it before. Take inspiration from those who make it look possible, and maybe even easy. Trick yourself into thinking you already have the chicken.
At the end of the day, that’s life—the constant wrestling with and pushing of the self. The cycle of striving for better and better cycles, so that we can achieve something of meaning in an unfair world.
Read her entire essay here.
A common myth that still pops up is that you use one side of your brain more than the other, and whichever side you use denotes whether you are technical or creative. With so many articles still around to spread this old wive’s tale, the NPR Cosmos & Culture blog decided to cut to the truth. The answer?
It takes both sides to be logical and creative.
A left hemisphere advantage for math is mostly seen for tasks like counting and reciting multiplication tables, which rely heavily on memorized verbal information (thus, not exactly what we think of as “logical”!). And there are right hemisphere advantages on some math-related tasks as well, especially estimating the quantity of a set of objects. This kind of pattern, in which both hemispheres of the brain make critical contributions, holds for most types of cognitive skills. It takes two hemispheres to be logical – or to be creative.
However, it is true that we use each individual hemispheres for certain tasks.
Dividing up tasks and allowing the hemispheres to work semi-independently and take different approaches to the same problem seems to be a good strategy for the brain … just as it often is in a partnerships between people.
The bottom line?
But I think the answer to your question is that what we see across the pattern of asymmetries is neither a random collection of unrelated differences nor divisions based on one or even a small set of functional principles (e.g., the left hemisphere is “local” and the right hemisphere is “global” … another popular one). Rather, some of the underlying biology is skewed, and this has far reaching consequences for the kinds of patterns that can be set up over time in the two hemispheres, leading to sets of functional differences that we can hopefully eventually link systematically to these underlying biological causes, and thereby deepen our understanding of how the brain works.
As we do every Friday, we’ve collected our most-shared Twitter links for your weekend reading pleasure.
From the web:
Benoit Mandlebrot was a legendary mathematician and father of fractal geometry. Before he passed away in 2010, filmmaker Errol Morris had a chance to get his thoughts on the creation of fractals, his talents, and more. In this brief preview, Mandlebrot shares his insights on what it feels like when you know you’ve discovered your natural talent and passion, the value of declaring a problem as impossible, and how naming an idea after a random word in a Latin dictionary can give it a sense of reality.
Todd Henry’s The Accidental Creative is a keystone book for any successful creative career. While the book is from 2011, there are timeless tips on how to nail a creative project strategy within its pages. One of the most powerful insights Henry shares is about nailing your project strategy by asking the “Five W’s”:
1. Why is this a project to begin with?
2. What purpose does the work serve, what is the end-goal?
3. Who needs to be involved, and who is the project ultimately for?
4. When does it need to be completed and when are the project milestones (if there aren’t any, make some)?
5. Where will the work appear and where will it be worked on?
Henry goes on to explain that, while the most critical part of any creative project is to first answer the five W’s, the next (and sixth) question is what often makes or breaks the creative side of the project; “How will these objectives be accomplished?”
Get the book here.
The Harvard Business Review posits that our language can have a profound effect on our creativity. Compare “How can we” with “How might we” The latter suggests wide open possibility, the former a glimmer of probable success. From the piece:
When people within companies try to innovate, they often talk about the challenges they’re facing by using language that can inhibit creativity instead of encouraging it, says the business consultant Min Basadur, who has taught the How Might We (HMW) form of questioning to companies over the past four decades. “People may start out asking, ‘How can we do this,’ or ‘How should we do that?,’” Basadur explained to me. “But as soon as you start using words like can and should, you’re implying judgment: Can we really do it? And should we?” By substituting the word might, he says, “you’re able to defer judgment, which helps people to create options more freely, and opens up more possibilities.”
Read the entire article here.