3 Lessons from the Continuous Creation Challenge

Last week I found myself with an opportunity to fully control my home environment–my husband was out of town for the week. I decided to take advantage and try the Continuous Creation Challenge (C3). (Read more about how I prepared for it.)

So how’d it go? 

I loved it. Then I hated it.

I started off pretty strong. Monday and Tuesday I got a few things done that I’ve had on my list for a long time, like converting wordhaus’ Facebook group geared toward writers into a Fan Page geared toward readers (hey, you’re reading right now, this is perfect for you … come check it out. If you like it, Like it). I was pleasantly surprised by how much I was able to do. And with some of the clutter cut out from my evenings, time felt slower. It was nice.

And then Wednesday. Wednesday is my busiest day at work. By the time I get home I’m tired and overstimulated. There was no creative juice left. I tried to give myself a some mental rest by playing with my dog and even just staring at the wall, but it just wasn’t happening. My brain just needed something to take in for pure enjoyment for a bit. My five-day C3 became a three-day C3.

However, I still learned a lot from the experience. I learned …

How to use media
Though the reflexive attitude toward media tends to be negative, especially in this kind of context, I’ve never bought into it. I love my books, my movies, my TV shows. Most of what I choose to consume I consider art, not just entertainment. But after my C3 experience, I’m thinking that how I consume media is even more important than what  I consume. Used well, I can use it to give myself satisfying breaks from other things in my life and recharge. Used poorly, I end up feeling like I’m constantly racing through what I’m currently consuming in an effort to also consume the next thing.

When I get my second wind
For a few years now, I’ve been waking up at 5 a.m. so that I can do my fiction wiring when my mind is fresh, before the day bogs me down. I tried writing after work at first, but my brain is just not its best after work. But while doing my C3, I reconnected with the night owl I was in my younger years and realized I can do some good writing if I pick up my computer again when I get into bed.

There is never, ever enough time
Whenever I take on something new my brain just buzzes with ideas. So when I decided to do the C3, I very quickly racked up a list of all the things I would do. I mean, take out all that TV and reading, and my time is practically endless! I’d conquer every project I’ve been putting off for the last six months! Except that I can remove any activity I want, my evenings, from time home to time to sleep, is about four, maybe four and a half hours. And I still have to make dinner, walk the dog,  go to the gym, all that regular stuff. There’s hardly time left to complete one project, let alone a full list. Turns out media wasn’t as big of a productivity problem as I thought … that’s just life. It’s not about making time, it’s about prioritizing.

So the experience was, overall, a win. And I’d try the C3 again sometime, though I’d do it very differently. To start, I’d pick a single project to work on. Also, I’d do it at a time when I could completely remove myself from my daily life. And, I’d do my media rules very differently–about the complete opposite, in fact. I’d completely ban myself from the Internet, while allowing limited amount of reading and TV at designated periods.

Because this was never really about what I was cutting out–it’s about what could be gained. Giving myself the opportunity to do my best work and reconnecting to my creativity. Not only have I succeeded in that, but the lessons i’ve learned from it will carry into my creative practices moving forward.


Do you have any questions about C3? Have you done one? If so, what did you learn?


4 thoughts on “3 Lessons from the Continuous Creation Challenge

  1. Thanks for sharing the results of your experiment, Emily. You confirmed what I’ve long suspected. It’s not about giving up This or delaying That, it’s about the priorities I assign to This and That and The Other. It’s been my experience too, that I can’t relax by turning off the television and hiding all the stacks of books. Without focusing on something outside my work and life’s problems, my mind continues to race with ideas, plans, and worries. I’m impressed that you did so well on your challenge. I intend to start planning one-day Continuous Creation Challenges. Just long enough for me to refresh the well of creativity and give it priority, but not long enough for me to fail to accomplish what I intend and feel worse about not creating. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Starting with a twenty-four hour C3 is great, Suzanne. I don’t know what I was thinking when I did my first one for seventy-two hours, but I’ve recently realized that I don’t need to be all macho and try to break a personal C3 record every time I do one. My 120 hour C3 was a bit nuts and I doubt I’ll ever try one that long again.

      By the way, I totally agree that the C3 – or life in general – isn’t about “This” or “That,” but rather about the priorities of everything. The C3 helps me temporarily prioritize in an ideal way and those good habits carry forward for a long time after the experience is done. Well, that is, until they start to wear off and I get to urge to do another C3. 🙂

      P.S. Emily, I love how you use “C3” instead of “CCC.” As I was reading how you hated certain parts of it, I had this mental picture of C3PO (a.k.a. Continuous Creation Challenge “Pissed Off”).

      • D’oh! I should have known an abbreviation already existed for that. Love your jump to C3PO though!

        And yes, I should have started smaller–Suzanne, I think you have the right idea on how to get started. Good luck!

  2. Hi Emily,
    I enjoyed very much your review of C3. To be aware of your media distractions is part one to be able to controle them. I found out in my retreat that I needed the daily connecting (just 1 hour) through social media to have a sense of connection with my peers. The comments helped me to clarify my goals more.

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