Real-World Art-ing: The Most Dreaded Creative Question

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“Where do you get your ideas?”

It’s one of the most common questions authors, and probably most creatives, are asked.

And it’s a pretty reasonable question. Here you are, a fan who has gone out of their way to attend the reading of an author you admire. This is probably due in large part because you find something about the ideas in that author’s books fresh and intriguing. This person’s creative work spoke to you in some way.

When that happens, it’s special. And everyone wants to sneak a peek behind the curtain and catch a glimpse of what makes the creator’s ideas different.

But if we’re being honest, authors typically hate this question. And I’m already starting to see why.

People love to ask me questions about my book. And ya know, it’s really kind of awkward for me in general. Some of that is because I’ve been writing in mostly in silence for over five years, so now that it’s suddenly Out There it feels somewhat like having your towel ripped away on stage.

But even discounting that factor, talking about where ideas come from is hard. When this is posed as a question, you want to deliver a story on par with Archimedes’ classic “Eureka” moment in the shower. But most of the time, that story just isn’t there. What you really have to share is more like showing how a sausage is made.

For example, the I got my idea for Mud because I was deliberately looking for a story idea. I wanted to deviate from the vampire and werewolves that were so popular at the time. Golems, quite frankly, just seemed fresh and rich in potential. And then I built it bit by bit, point by point, from there. Every day of writing involves a few new ideas to build out from where I already am. Most of it is a matter of necessity and logic.

What it comes down to, really, is perspective. When you don’t work in creativity regularly, or even just from the outside of someone else’s process, a great idea can seem magical. You don’t see all the work and creativity that was put in before the big idea became a book, so it seems like it just came out that way. But most of the time, creative ideas are a process full of slow, persistent effort.

The real magic isn’t the idea—it’s the slow, persistent effort that comes both before the idea and after it.


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Real-World Art-ing: Do Something

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You know you’ve got a book in you. Or a painting. Or a song. Or some other kind of art. You know it’s in there, because you can feel it in there, kicking around in your soul.

I know the feeling–kind of antsy, kind of inspiration-y. But also a little self-doubt-y.

Because those feelings of inspiration are often quickly followed by that little voice. You know him–he tells you that you don’t have time right now, that it’s selfish to go off on your own to be creative, that this isn’t the right time, but maybe in a few months …

Yeah. Don’t listen to that voice. Don’t put off your desire to create. Do something.

Even if it’s just a little bit.

There is always a reason to take a pass on art. There’s never, ever enough time. You have to make the time. And if you make the time for art enough times, that’s when it starts to add up to something.

It’s not about starting and finishing an entire work in one month, one week, one day. It’s about giving it that 1 percent of effort that you can, over and over and over again.

So don’t listen to that little voice. Make room for the inspiration. Show up, and do something, even if it’s just a little bit. Believe me, it adds up, if you just give it the time.

Sorry, I don’t post on Creative Juicer anymore.

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Technology in the Shower and the Future of the Aha Moment

future of the aha momentYou can now watch TV while you shower. Surely touchscreen computers are not far behind either, to keep you even more connected.

It’s really pretty cool. Who doesn’t want to kick back with a good movie while relaxing in the tub? How great would it be to be able to catch up on the morning’s news while you’re soaping up before work?

But for ages, the shower has been the place for a pause of seclusion, idle thought, and those infamous aha moments. So what does the smart shower mean for our creativity? A recent 99u feature got me wondering.

The article explores what it means to lose the thing that fosters the most innovative ideas: interruption-free space that lets our minds do the passive thinking that is critical for innovation. As if smartphones and tablets weren’t enough, our cars, TVs, and, yes, our showers are all offering us more access to the white noise stimulation of connected life.

And hey, there’s nothing wrong with connection—it’s a basic need that we all have, a part of being human. But if you want to think creatively and get those flashes of inspiration, you’re going to have to cut loose from it all sometimes.

So what’s that mean for the creatively inclined? It means getting deliberate about creating space for that passive thinking time.

A few ways to do it include:

  • Make one day a week tech-free—consider adopting the Sabbath Manifesto.
  • Integrate unplugged down time into your daily schedule. Just find an activity (eating lunch, taking a walk) that lets you step away from the screens.
  • Withhold decision-making. When faced with a question, it’s a gut reaction to roll with the first solution we come up with—but this is often the easiest, most obvious, or the most familiar solution. Instead of acting on the quick idea, take 10 minutes to reflect, and see what other ideas come to you.

how to make space for aha moments in a connected world

The world is increasingly connected—even the shower isn’t safe for much longer. But if we want those aha moments to find us, we need to deliberately find ways to invite them in by seeking out times for passive thought.

When do you get your best ideas?

P.S.—Really, read this 99u article. And heck, check out the rest of the site while you’re there. 99u is one of my favorite sources for thought-provoking articles about creative process.


relaxStop everything.

Just for a minute.

Take a pause and think about your now.

Your breathing. How your body feels. The emotions. The possibilities.

It’s easy, especially as an artist fighting to get a creative outlet into your day-to-day, to lose sight of the contentment of now under the flood of desires and hopes and challenges and plans pushing us into tomorrow.

But we need to pause and soak in the now from time to time. You know, just take a deep breath and relax into the contentment of the moment.

Don’t let this opening month of 2015 pass without taking a pause to take it all in.

Inspired by zen habit’s recent post The Contentment Habit–read it!

How is your now? What do you have in store for 2015?

Ideas are Disposable

Forget about tracking every idea carefully in a thought journal. Your ideas are disposable. (Tweet this.)

So are mine. And I habitually treat them that way.


I’ll have a few article topics or tactics to try pop into my head, scribble them out on whatever paper is closest to me, and then … well, the paper gets lost, or I simply don’t follow up to pull them into anything more organized.

I know, I know. There’s nothing quite like that feeling of a shiny new idea. This new idea is THE idea. It is The One. It is everything. There is something very exciting and compelling about the newness of a good idea.

Go ahead, love the shit out of that idea. There’s nothing wrong with that. But don’t get too attached, either.

Because no one idea is the magical silver bullet that will save you, or your business, or your product, or whatnot.

It’s not about the idea—it’s about having the idea-creation mindset. (Tweet this.)

That is the beautiful thing about ideas. There’s always another one about to roll along. And if you’re like me, you’ll even have the same ideas again, if you lose them once. It’s not about clinging to every idea you have. It’s about having the ideas.

You’ve had more than one idea in your life. You’re going to have even more of them. And if you cultivate a mindset that ideas are everywhere and can be inspired by anything, if you keep on the lookout for them, your brain is going to just explode with creativity.

And you’ll have more ideas than you could ever actually invest in.

Which brings us to the point. The question is not, how do I hold on to this idea? The question is, which ideas are the ones worth pouring my time and effort into?

Because the one thing that gives an idea meaning? Action. (Tweet this.) All the rest, the ones you don’t get to—just toss them aside and keep looking forward.