Hear Ye! Hear Ye! I have long studied the greats and the writing is on the wall: the REAL secret to creative success is surprisingly boring. It’s not very sexy. It’s actually kind of dull. But what is it?
OK it is 8pm and I need to write a new blog post, now.
I have a busy week and will have no time to write my scheduled weekly post any other time, so I need to pull a creative rabbit out of my hat – pronto.
Trouble is, I’m not inspired at all. Even though writing is one of my favourite things to do in the world, I just don’t feel it right now … but I am going to do it any way.
Because that’s the trick: It’s not about feeling inspired.
You see I don’t think that you can expect to make something amazing happen as a creative person without realising that you are often going to need to do things that you don’t feel like doing at that time.
The REAL secret to creative success is surprisingly boring. It’s not sexy. It’s kind of buttoned-up and a wee bit on the dull side. What is it?
It is consistent, focused action, over time.
Yep. I told you right? A bit of a boring secret. And of course, no secret at all. But nevertheless, that’s what lies behind all great creative work, amazingly wonderful artworks, cool brands with cult followings, mind-blowing novels, classic rock albums, billion dollar empires.
Consistent, focused action, over time.
That’s actually what Napoleon Hill’s secret is. That’s actually what almost all of the great careers boil down to. All the greats are very specific in what they do and why (they’re focused), they keep at it (they’re consistent), they work hard (they take action), and they keep doing these things, again and again, until the job is done (over time).
My Name Is Seamus, And I’m An Ideaholic…
I don’t even know how to put this into a blog post in way that is interesting, that’s how boring this secret is. And why do I find it boring? Well, because like most creative people, I absolutely love the first bit of the creative process: the idea phase. The 1% inspiration. I love closing my eyes and combining pre-existing ideas in different combinations until I have created something new. Something shiny. Something exciting.
In fact, I would go so far as to say I get a bit of a high off coming up with new ideas. I am an idea addict. I’m not being glib, I really mean it. I get an endorphin rush when I come up with a new idea in my mind and I am quite happy to spend an afternoon going deep into a swirling ocean of ideas in my mind, creating a new story idea, a new brand, a new business idea, a new song, whatever.
But then, once this is done, what are you left with?
Well, not nothing, an idea is something but it is abstract. There is nothing tangible about it until you take action.
Focused action. Consistently, over time.
It isn’t until you start laying bricks, one at a time, that the architects grand design starts to becomes an actual building. It isn’t until you put pen to paper that the next great novel starts to becomes an actual book. And neither the house nor the book can become something that people, be it just the creator or indeed the whole world, can admire.
Inspiration Is Over-rated
If you stop to think about your favourite creators, be they musicians, painters, writers, entrepreneurs, whatever, and how they manage to create such wonderful things that you admire, you come to realise that they don’t just whip something up “when inspiration strikes”. They don’t just wave a magic wand and hey presto – a masterpiece appears.
No. They go from the idea stage (if they even have one to start with) and they get into action. And then they stop for the day. Probably not much done, but they have made a start. Next day, they get back to it and do the next thing. And the next day they act again. And so on and so forth. Consistent action, always on the same project or limited set of projects, until things get finished, eventually.
Now, if these great creatives were to stop when they didn’t feel like it, or change projects half way through, nothing would get done; they would not be recognised as the great creators that they are.
Likewise, if the amateur painter in the suburban garden shed never completed a canvas, the painter would never have the satisfaction of knowing that she actually finished something, and of showing her husband or friend or local artist group. By finishing art, and in most cases, then showing that to people, no matter how few, we feel validated, and this is extremely important to our senses of self-esteem and well-being. More so than we sometimes recognise.
I might even go so far as to wonder: if you call yourself a creative person, but you never finish anything … are you really a creative person? I think finishing things is an inherent part of the creative process. Unfinished, things actually haven’t been created at all.
So that’s why I am writing this blog post tonight, even though I’d rather do something else. I dreamed up an idea, a vision in my mind, of what I ultimately want to create out of Rebel Zen, but in reality I haven’t created anything until I actually do it. And, dull as it may sound on paper, successfully creating something requires consistent, focused action, over time – step by step, starting with this humble blog post.
In closing, it’s worth noting that, as usual, I quite enjoyed writing this once I made myself start…
What are you working on? Hold yourself accountable to finishing it by telling us about it in the comments below.