I’m working on a morning creativity routine. My current routine is a bit haphazard. I’ve gotten to where it’s flexible enough to move things around depending on what I want to work on that morning and whether or not I’ll be heading to the gym or not.
I learned that turning the flexibility dial all the way up on a routine makes it no longer a routine. So I usually start the morning deciding what I should do. I’m trying to fix that.
I want something I can do first thing in the morning, every morning. I want to generate ideas and get rid of the monkey mind by doing a morning mind dump. It shouldn’t be going toward a specific or podcast. It might generate ideas, and some might go toward future posts or podcast episodes. It doesn’t have to though.
I’ve recently been listening to the The Three Month Vacation Podcast by Sean D’Souza of psychotactics. That site covers a lot of topics but across it as a suggestion for learning about copywriting. One episode covers the importance of using timers when writing.
I’ve used timers in the past and found them effective. Timers will also be really helpful for the morning routine. If anything, they’re a great signal to remember that good enough is good enough.
This morning creativity routine has two main parts: writing and drawing. I’m going to try making each of them ten minutes. Each ten-minute session will have five rounds of 2 minutes. It’s somewhat related to the Crazy 8s sketching activity that’s used often in design sprints. From Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky, and Braden Kowitz in Sprint:
Crazy 8s forces you to push past your first reasonable solutions and make them better, or at least consider alternatives. And before you get the wrong idea, the “crazy” in Crazy 8s refers to the pace, not the nature of the ideas. Forget about the traditional brainstorm advice to be goofy. We want you to focus on good ideas—the ones you believe will work and help you hit your goals—and use Crazy 8s to tweak and expand on those good ideas.
The interval timer is a reminder that you’re going broad.
Writing with a keyboard (10 minutes)
The canonical Morning Pages from The Artist’s Way is strict: 3 handwritten 8.5″ x 11″ pages written with no intention of them being read. Not even by you. Better that you burn the pages. It can be therapeutic to set your filter to 0%. I’m modifying a little bit with some inspiration from Scott Dikkers in How To Write Funny:
No one’s going to see this writing. The important thing is to keep your fingers moving. Don’t stop to think, don’t stop to correct typos. Just keep writing until the half-hour timer beeps. Since your focus is humor writing, one tweak I suggest to this exercise is to gently guide your mind to think amusing, funny thoughts while you write (but it’s worth repeating that you still must write without judgment—even if you think what you’re writing is terribly unfunny, you must keep writing). If you find it too difficult to guide yourself toward writing amusing things, that’s a valuable discovery.
You try to skew it to things that amused you recently. It creates a notebook you can go through for future material. It goes directly against the capital-M capital-P Morning Pages. I’ll call this phase free writing.
I’ll write in Evernote, hopefully building up a database of my own thoughts. This is mostly inspired by Josh Waitzkin, author of The Art of Learning. On Tim Ferriss’s podcast, he asks Josh how he journals:
I do it on Evernote and then I tag everything thematically, which is hugely important for me. I have all of my journals and all of the resources that I find valuable tagged thematically and through habits in the language of my training process. This is incredibly powerful for being able to give people resources. For me, reviewing the ideas without having recency bias impede how I communicate.
In the future he has that built-up database as a reference for his writing or his work with clients. He wants to avoid recency bias, and the tagged database of thoughts helps him find past research and writing on that theme instead of prioritizing recent material.
Brainstorm with a Pencil (10 minutes)
The other half of the morning creativity routine will be brainstorming inside Notability, which is just about my favorite iPad app. I use the term brainstorming since it’s a mix of words and drawing. While I’m straying from some parts of Morning Pages, I agree there’s definitely something about writing by hand. Julia Cameron in The Miracle of Morning Pages:
“Julia, you say ‘moving our hand across the page.’ Must I really write pages longhand? I’m so much faster on the computer.”
Again, yes. Pages must be done longhand. The computer is fast—too fast for our purposes. Writing by computer gets you speed but not depth.
Writing by computer is like driving a car at 85 mph. Everything is a blur. “Oh, my God, was that my exit?” Writing by hand is like going 35 mph. “Oh, look, here comes my exit. And look, it has a Sonoco station and a convenience store.”
Though I’ll be swapping the pen for a capital P Pencil.
Particularly in this case since it opens up more spatial thinking than typing ever could.
Free writing comes first because the constraint of just using words makes it easy to just get started. If you show up to a track with the intention of doing one lap in a lane, no problem. You might vary the speeds but it’ll be foot in front of the other.
The brainstorming half removes the lane. Let’s change the goal to working out however you want on the track. And you know what, you can also do whatever you want in the field.
Sharing along the way
That’s how I’ll start. I have different templates in Notability right now. One gives me 5 blocks with an image a text area. Another is a landscape oriented storyboarding template. Some days I’ll try Crazy 8s. This portion is shareable so I’ll going to look into creating a Sketchbook section on this site to make sharing easy.
The output of these could be post ideas for the future, but they don’t have to be. I just have to be creative everyday. Preferably first thing in the morning.
I started sharing time lapse videos while making slides for the sketchnote videos. I’m curious how this video will look if I just post it straight into the WordPress iOS app.
My current flow looks something like this. Wait, I’m on my iPad. Let me just draw it:
We’re running out of books that we read and we can’t really read a book a week so we’re considering flipping things around so that if the podcast episodes or recommendations for other podcasts that we are learning things from. The other half of that is that I would be making the schedule now it’s about things I’m learning from books.
MacStories has a section called iPad Diaries. Each post highlights different apps or different tasks, talking about what that workflow looks like on an iPad. In the past year I’ve become kind of an iPad enthusiast. I guess the proof is that I’m typing this on a 10.5″ iPad Pro in its first week of release. At the same time I’m wondering what I’ll do with the 9.7″ and the 12.9″. I’m thinking through the right combination.
I also really wish apple didn’t discontinue the silicone case for the latest generation iPad Pro. Yes, it didn’t feel great paying $80 for a case but the case sure felt great. I’ll probably sell my 9.7″ and keep the first generation 12.9″.
It looks like there’s going to be more and more people moving to an iPad as their primary system especially with iOS 11 on the horizon. People don’t claim as loudly that tablets are for consumption only.
When I was initially deciding which one to buy, I came across MacStories’ iPad Diaries and couldn’t get enough of it. I’m writing these iPad Journal posts thinking that there’s room for more here. My main use cases for the iPad are different from Federico Viticci’s. It’d be great to have someone write about their iPad use as a high level digital artist.
That person is not me. But I can give my perspective as a very low level digital artist. I do use the Pencil a lot. I have a background in design. (And a job in it, too!)
I love looking into other people’s workflows. I’m hoping other people might enjoy glimpsing into mine.
This should probably be a tweet. Actually it should be one of those tweets that’s a screenshot from the iOS Notes app. Like the kind that you do if you’re a B-list celebrity making a public apology.
I’m going to write on this site from now on. It seemed like the right time to do it. A lot of this really is just trying to put into action some of the lessons from the most recent podcast that I did and the most recent sketchnotes video that I did.
The most recent podcast episode was about Creative Confidence. The book talks about taking action a little bit early. Instead of planning and planning and planning you want to try things out and fail and learn from that quickly.
Our point? The first step toward being creative is often simply to go beyond being a passive observer and to translate thoughts into deeds. With a little creative confidence, we can spark positive action in the world. So the next time you start to say “Wouldn’t it be great if …?” just take a moment, remember John Keefe, and tell yourself, “Maybe I can finish it by the end of the day.”
I was about to plan was plan for a few weeks leading up to our 8th episode before launching. Instead I’m just going to do this soft launch, try putting content in and seeing what works.
My most recent sketchnotes video was about Austin Kleon, author of Show Your Work. I’ve been writing and posting things for a full year now. I’ve been putting it online but I haven’t been finding people to look at it. I wasn’t really showing it at all. I’m hoping this site will be the central place to show my work and get feedback on it.
I never had comments enabled on my previous sites. I’m going to go ahead and do that and see what that leads to.
I made a previous video about a conversation between Tim Ferriss and Chase Jarvis. They talk about this focusing question: what would this look like if it were easy.
They both used that question when starting their shows. Wally and I try to remember it when we make our podcast episodes. I’ve used in the past when trying to write daily.
Last year I wrote 100 posts in hundred days using a static blog engine to publish it. That started easy. As the number of posts increased it became not-easy. It also became tempting to tinker on page layouts and write code instead of writing paragraphs.
After the initial 100 posts, I moved everything to a WordPress installation to make things easier. That really helped me focus on creating posts. I took the time to make a custom theme and I had ideas for long posts requiring flexibility for different kinds of imagery and videos and custom designed sections.
Then I made none of those custom designed posts. But ran into hiccups with normal posts. There were too many times where I was trying to update my theme and trying to do custom things in WordPress without actually being a WordPress expert.
I’ve done what I could to focus on making things easy. Now I can focus on making things.