Tag Archives: Productivity

Review of Growing Gills by Jessica Abel

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Review of Growing Gills by Jessica Abel

Jessica Abel is a prolific comic book author, a writer, a cartoonist, and the chair of the illustration program at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. I became aware of her through her excellent blog. When I discovered she wrote a book about creative focus, I knew I wanted to learn from her.

Abel conducts workshops in creative focus, so her approach is very hands-on. The book is very hands-on, too. Each chapter has homework that applies the skills she talks about in the text, practical activities that will help you implement a different way of preparing, thinking, and working. I confess I haven’t done the exercises—yet—but I see how readers don’t fully benefit from just reading the book (you’ll just forget and work the way you always have); if you want to increase your focus (and productivity), you have to change the way you operate. The exercises enable you to implement successful creative strategies.

Growing Gills

Growing Gills is subtitled How to Find Creative Focus When You’re Drowning in Your Daily Life. It’s not a quick read. Transforming your creative life takes time.

The 19 chapters cover topics such as identifying passions and obstacles, idea debt, open loops, self-compassion, prioritizing, and breaking down a project into manageable tasks.

The book is divided into four parts.

In Part 1, So, What’s Stopping You, Abel identifies and defines what prevents creatives from finishing projects.

Part 2, Build your Custom-Powered Exoskeleton, covers goal-setting and creating a system to schedule your tasks and track your progress.

Part 3, Aligning your Today with your Tomorrow, helps you build a creative routine with enough flexibility that you don’t ignore your other life responsibilities.

Part 4, Falling Down & Getting Up, tells how to get going again when you get stuck.

Growing Gills is well-written by an established artist and writer, who understands the challenges of a being a creative, and has helped others overcome hurdles to productivity. It is well worth your time to read it, but do the associated activities to actually grow your own gills.

7 Things Creatives Should Do Before 9:00 AM

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7 Things Creatives Should Do Before 9:00 AM

Full disclosure: The suggestions listed below may only work for full-time writers and artists or the unemployed. If you have a day job, you might find this article frustrating. Or, you could try utilizing the information below on your days off, or implementing only the tips that fit your situation or schedule.

wake

  1. Get up. Yeah, I know, it sounds obvious; but if you’re not doing getting up before 9:00, maybe you should try it. Going to bed before midnight helps.
  2. Drink a glass of water. Your brain won’t work well if it’s under-hydrated.
  3. Reading biblePray, meditate, or read something inspiring. For me, it’s a chapter of scripture. I read, pick out a passage that speaks to me at that particular moment, and rephrase it in my own words in my journal. Then I pray and ask God what He has for me that day, and ask Him to guide me.
  4. Go to the gym. If you don’t belong to a gym, hop on your bike, work through an exercise video, jog, climb stairs, practice yoga, lift dumbbells, or take a walk. If you’re not doing something that requires total concentration, let your mind wander. Observe what’s going on around you. People-watch. Listen to birds sing. Free your brain to collect inspiration.
  5. Clear your mind with freewriting. Even three minutes of dumping your worries or just writing down whatever silly thoughts enter your consciousness will help your creativity emerge.writing
  6. Plan what you want to accomplish this day. Be reasonable. Writer Anne Lamott, in her book Bird by Bird, recommends giving yourself a small assignment, something that would fill a one-inch square picture frame, something that moves you forward without overwhelming you. Consider all the things you are obligated to do, and figure out a way to accomplish your daily chores while still giving you time to work on your art.
  7. Eat a healthy breakfast, preferably containing protein. I generally have a cup of coffee and some yogurt while I read my Bible (see #3). Hint—a donut or four cups of coffee do not constitute a healthy breakfast. Fuel yourself for productivity.

Oil_painting_palette wikipedia

Once you’ve done these seven things, you’ve already overcome some of the worst barriers to creativity: inertia, apathy, hunger, thirst, and lack of motivation. Now get out there and make something beautiful and amazing!

 

Review: Crank It Out! by C. S. Lakin  

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Review: Crank It Out! by C. S. Lakin  

I’m a long-time fan of C.S. Lakin’s website, Live, Write, Thrive, where she shares helpful articles about the craft of writing. Her book Writing the Heart of Your Story is one of the best writing books I’ve ever read. When I saw she’d written a book about productivity for writers, I knew I must buy it.

In Crank It Out! The Surefire Way to Become a Super-Productive Writer, Lakin identifies the Productivity ABCs: attitude, biology, and choices. How you handle these three factors determines how much you can accomplish. She says, “Time does not equal productivity. The trick is to get the most ‘productive’ bang from each minute you write or engage in any writing-related activity.”

Lakin cautions that if you don’t have the skills necessary for writing, you can’t be a productive writer, but you can apply the productivity tools to mastering the craft.

Crank it out

In regard to attitude, she recommends you examine your mindset. If you have excuses for your current lack of results, if you’re casting blame on the other people in your life, your attitude is causing your low productivity. She tells the stories of people who managed to write and publish books under less than desirable writing conditions. She quotes Yoda (from Star Wars): “There is no try. Do.

In her discussion of biology, Lakin asks you to take cues from your body and also to enhance your health. If you always crave a nap at 3:00, that’s not your best writing time. She explains how to track your energy levels to find when your most productive time is. And she provides evidence about how good sleep, diet, and exercise habits impact your output.

In talking about choices, Lakin encourages you to retrain your brain for optimum focus. She suggests some habits that will boost your enjoyment of life and also make you more productive, such as journaling and reading for pleasure. She also suggests streamlining your routines to help raise your productivity. I especially like her Chapter 10 on combatting distractions and Chapter 11 on self-sabotage.

I have over-simplified the scope of Crank It Out. It is full of helpful information to help you accomplish more in your writing and in life in general. It is well worth reading, and I know I will be rereading it every few years.

Creative Juice #54

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Creative Juice #54

Twelve more sources of creative inspiration:

  1. The guitar in art.
  2. Beautiful modern quilts.
  3. Man’s best friend.
  4. The loveliest GIFs ever.
  5. I always love seeing Suhita Shirodkar’s sketches.
  6. When I was in high school in the late 1960s, I sometimes took the bus into New York City so I could wander through Central Park.
  7. Unique, affordable travel accommodations.
  8. Take a walk in the garden.
  9. Prize-winning travel photos from the National Geographic contest.
  10. A new application for the Five Second Rule.
  11. Pixilation enters the world of sculpture.
  12. Lessons learned at Uffizi Gallery.

Guest Post: Clutter Is Killing Your Creativity (And What to Do About It) by Jeff Goins

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Thanks to Jeff Goins, author of The Art of Work and blogger at Goins, WriterYou can also follow him on Medium

Some weeks, my desktop is a disaster: full of papers and files and sticky notes with half-baked ideas. Yes, I am your typical “creative.” Disorganized and disheveled, I proudly chalk it up to the artist in me. But if I’m honest, this is embarrassing.

Clutter is not my friend; it is my enemy.

Clutter

Clutter is procrastination. It is the Resistance, a subtle form of stalling and self-sabotage. And it keeps me (and you) from creating stuff that matters.

The mess is not inevitable. It is not cute or idiosyncratic. It is a foe, and it is killing your art.

Clean up your mess

Before beginning her career as a successful author and speaker, Patsy Clairmont did something unexpected. She washed the dishes.

She wanted to take her message to the world, but as she was readying herself, she felt nudged to start in an unusual way. She got out of bed and cleaned her house.

In other words, Patsy got rid of the mess. And it put her in a position to start living more creatively. We must do the same.

Bringing your message to the world does not begin on the main stage. It starts at home. In the kitchen. At your desk. On your cluttered computer. You need to clear your life of distractions, not perfectly, but enough so that there’s room for you to create.

The relationship between clutter and creativity is inverse. The more you have of the former, the less you have of the latter. Mess creates stress. Which is far from an ideal environment for being brilliant.

Make more with less

Jack White has an interesting philosophy on creativity. He believes less is more, that inspiration comes from restriction. If you want to be inspired, according to Jack, then give yourself boundaries. That’s where art blossoms.

At a public speaking conference earlier this year, I learned this truth, as it relates to communication. An important adage the presenters often repeated was:

If you can’t say it in three minutes, you can’t say it in 30.

We spent the week of the conference writing and delivering five-minute speeches every day. We learned that if we couldn’t summarize our ideas in a few short sentences, then we couldn’t elaborate on them for half an hour. Sure, we could ramble and rant. But that’s not communicating. It’s word vomit.

I’ve learned to do this with writing. If I can’t say what I want in a sentence or two, then I’m not ready to share the idea. Prematurely broadcasting an idea before it can be described succinctly will cause you to lose trust with your audience and cost the integrity of your message.

When attention is sparse, the people with the fewest, most important words win.

Be Ernest Hemingway

In a world full of noise, it’s nice not to have to weed through digital SPAM to find the nuggets worth reading. But this doesn’t come naturally. Succinctly getting your point across is a discipline.

I like to talk — a lot. I often process ideas out loud as they come to me. But I find this frustrating when other people do it. So I’m trying to master the art of clutter-free writing.

Here’s what I do: I write and write and write, getting all my on “paper” (or computer or whatever). Then, I take out as many words as possible while still clearly communicating my message.

Because if I can say it in five words instead of 15, I should.

This process of cleaning up your message is not intuitive for people. But it isimportant — an essential discipline for anyone with something to say. If you don’t know where to begin, start here:

  1. Reclaim your inbox. Throw away magazines and newspapers you have no intention of reading. Clean up your email, getting it down to a manageable amount (zero, if you can).
  2. Clean up your desk. Again, throw away stuff you haven’t used in months.
  3. Find a clean space to create. This is different for everyone, but it needs to not stress you out.
  4. Limit distractions. Turn off email, phone, and social media tools. Force yourself to focus on one thing at a time.
  5. Start creating clutter-free messages. Remember: less is more. Use restrictions to be more creative.
  6. Repeat this for the rest of your life.

For more on ways to be more structured and focus as a creative, I’ve found these books to be really helpful:

How do you deal with clutter and creativity? Share in the comments.

About Jeff Goins

I write books and help writers get their work out into the world. I am the best-selling author of four books, including The Art of Work. Each week, I send out a newsletter with free tips on writing and creativity.