06 Apr Quarterly Insights Part One, 2020: A Lesson In Creativity
A blank canvas. The beauty in writing is starting from scratch, and creating something out of nothing. Or rather, drawing together inspiration pulled from all parts of the brain.
There’s no better feeling than opening up a new document on Word, plugging in my headphones, and pressing play on Arthur Rubinstein’s Chopin: Nocturnes, Op 9: No. 1 in B-Flat Minor. My writing precursor.
As soon as the melody on the high notes begin, a signal is sent to my brain to enter flow state, where everything around goes blurry. All noise outside shuts off; all I can hear is the piano chords, and the humming inside my head that starts when I switch gears into flow. You can try talk to me, but all you’ll get is a ‘hmm’, or a ‘tell me later’.
There’s no high that can replicate the feeling. This quarter has taught me that a good day is being able to enter my dream like flow state and create to the capacity my daily mental energy units allow me to.
I’ve explored whether I can reach this in other ways. But I’ve yet to find something as rewarding as writing that perfect sentence. Constructing the perfect paragraph. Or reading back on a chapter and being like, ‘BAM!’
At the start of this year I signed up to a 100-day workshop run by Seth Godin. The underpinning of this workshop is to create every day, that’s the number one rule. No matter whether it’s good or bad, you must write, ship and publish.
With coaches and peers to keep you accountable, along with prompts to guide your writing, I’m nearly sixty days in and haven’t broken my streak. I’ve always written regularly, but I never wrote every day.
This was a 100-day project to become a writer. After all, how could I be something only three days a week?
In the past few weeks, I’ve been thinking about the creators in the world I’ve admired. Steve Jobs and Tupac Shakur are amongst my favourites.
When I think about their creative genius, two qualities strike me. The first is how prolific they were.
In the space of five years, Tupac created a dozen albums (and in total produced somewhere around 700-900 songs), eight films, music videos and even two books of poetry – all by the age of 25. Mind boggling. Over 25 years later and I still play at least one song of his each time I train.
Steve Jobs, who revolutionised multiple industries, created some of the most remarkable products in existence. Truly transformative. Imagine a world now without the iPhone, iPad and iPod?
The second quality is the finer details – the pursuit of excellence. Steve Jobs showed this with his insistence for little curves on the edges of the app icons. The calligraphy classes. The incredible launches to bring new products into the world. The campaigning attitude he’d bring to his work. The ability to drive frenzy over the art his company created. Tupac had an ability to package together poetry, rap and an ability to tell a powerful story like never before. Self-mastery at its finest.
But when analysing these creative geniuses, what stands out is their courage to ship daily. Their best work changed the world. But they both had clunkers too. Bad songs, albums, products and launches. Yet the question to consider is would the iPod, iPhone, iPad have come out without these clunkers? Would California Love, Dear Mama, Ambitions Az A Ridah have come out without the flops?
Probably not. But they were forgotten quickly in the presence of the remarkable.
This has been my biggest lesson in the new decade so far. I’ve got to write 200 crappy words a day in the hope of one golden sentence. The sentence that moves the needle and sparks another one. And another, and another.
A decade of experimenting meant writing this book, Transform Your Body Transform Your Life.
It started with making mistakes with myself. Then my clients. Then coming up with words, phrases and methods to solve these mistakes.
A lot of bad work led to ‘Cleaning the Palate’.
A lot of bad work led to the critical period of ‘Consolidation’.
In fact, it all started on a plane ride with a piece of tissue. Playing with words to formalise these phases.
The RNT Transformation Journey went through a process.
It started as three phases, then evolved to five. It’s now five phases with stages, essentials and accelerators in each. All in one place in the new book coming out on 24th May 2020. Time to ship.
The hardest bit about writing isn’t writing. It’s doing it daily without fear. Showing up every day.
The second hardest bit about writing is refining your words. Making it crystal clear for your readers.
I learnt that this quarter during the editing process of the book. I had no idea just how difficult this would be.
Vomiting a bunch of words onto a document is easy. I wrote my first draft of 42,000 in 21 days. What came next was sheer brutality, and what I liken to the beautiful struggle of creating. Spending an hour agonising over one paragraph. Rewriting a sentence multiple times to make it land just right. Going for long walks thinking about the structure of a chapter.
The best bit? Reading out the entire book out loud to the point of a sore throat. Sitting in a room alone reading, and re-reading a sentence out loud is enough to drive anyone crazy.
Doing so while watching out for the following, nearly tipped me over the edge. All I could hear was:
Watch out for adverbs.
Don’t say same thing twice in two words.
Delete very or really.
No passive voice.
You probably need to delete half of the sentence.
Or worse yet, asking myself after every sentence:
What point am I making?
Is it necessary?
Is it clear?
Is it as simple as possible?
Is it as short as possible?
No wonder I nearly collapsed. I remember it distinctly. Wednesday 29th January, two days before the first submission deadline. Sweaty palms, aching legs, fever symptoms. I was going editing mad, and the medicine was Bad Boys II. Great film, easy watch. And sleep. Lots and lots of sleep.
Why do I put myself through this? What’s the goal? What am I trying to achieve? What is ‘it’? I’ve spoken regularly about my struggles with ‘What’s next?’, but the editing process has grounded me. Ah, the process. The journey. That’s what ‘it’ is. The agonising questions, feedback and thoughts to ponder on, calculate, and solve. The editing process has taught me to take pride in creativity, and lean into the complexities.
I’ve never written for income, trust or acclaim. You may ask why I then ship my work. Why am I producing this rambling article, when I know it should probably stay as a journal entry? I do this in the hope it may stir thought or spark action in another being. Maybe it’s for impact then? Maybe it’s first for myself, then the hope to create impact. Finding that intersection between the two. Facilitating transformation.
I write for the process of writing. The joy of entering a magical place where all else around me stop. It’s purely internal pleasure. Selfish I know, but being a selfish creative has always served me in producing my best work.
It’s why I love bodybuilding and focusing on my physical being. It’s selfish, all consuming, and there’s little end reward. The joy and fun is in the process. The extra rep. The progressive overload.
There it is – progressive overload. It’s the path to self-mastery that I live for. There’s never an end. Only checkpoints. A good day is better than yesterday. A good month is better than last month. A good year is better than the last.
I can’t predict tangible returns, but I can always show up and get better.
I’m grateful for having this opportunity to write. Even if I’ve just vomited nearly 1500 words here without editing. I write for myself, but with the added bonus of my work having an ability to change thought, improve health, and transform lives. That’s a beauty I’m grateful for. It’s a beautiful intersection that drives my creativity.
Transform Your Body Transform Your Life is out May 24th 2020 on Amazon and Kindle. Stay tuned!
To explore all of my Quarterly Insights I started in 2018, scroll through the Coaches Corner here.
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