Creativity

Have You Lost Your Magic and Can You Get it Back?

magic

In a poignant post I read awhile back, Austin Kleon urged us to keep it light and remember to do what comes naturally. He was referring to writers and artists who want to be taken more seriously. Sometimes in pursuit of mastery we can lose that spark of magic that makes us unique.

The advice could be applied to anyone. We’ve all had experiences that sap our spark. When we fail a college entrance exam. When produce a piece of work that nobody cares about. When embarrassed parents shun our silliness. When we do something really cool and awesome and special but nobody claps. Or nods. Or even smiles. Not even the tumbleweed.

We’re sensitive little souls, us creative-types. We create stuff because it’s who we are. But we cling to external validation so we can feel like we’re acceptable.

Please smile. Please clap. Please say “well done”, so I can feel like I matter. Because I don’t – feel like I matter.

That’s when we lose the magic.

magic baby

When we decide that the magic is in being accepted. As if Renoir or Mozart are only magical because a bunch of people of people decided their work was worth seeing. (Posthumously, mostly.)

I didn’t know Renoir or Mozart personally- they’re quite a bit older than me. But I could make an educated guess that acceptance wasn’t a big consideration in their creative head-spaces. If I run into them in the afterlife I’ll check for accuracy, but for now let’s suppose my theory is true.

It’s not about what you get back, in terms of praise, it’s about what you put out. Ryan Holiday is spot on when he suggests:

It’s far better (and more resilient) when doing good work is sufficient. In other words, the less attached we are to outcomes the better.

When fulfilling our own standards is what fills us with pride and self-respect. When the effort—not the results, good or bad—is enough.

We lose our magic when we play it safe. We dampen down our spirit to be less annoying but end up dull. We take the so-called “sure path” to success and end up on a grid-locked road full of other play-it-safers. We censor our words so we don’t look stupid and end up saying nothing important at all.

We stop being light and doing what comes naturally.

True magic lies in authenticity. It takes courage to be authentic and try new things, regardless if we’ll be met with applause or thumbs down. But without authenticity, without letting your all your best stuff shine even if your best stuff could be crap… You risk becoming something much, much worse:

Stale and unoriginal.

Productivity

Sometimes… Don’t Write Things Down

write things down

Productivity experts may be able to motivate the masses, but they know nothing about the ADHD brain.

Success gurus say to write down goals in order to make progress on them. They also suggest creating itemized lists of all the steps involved in getting to completion – a sort of road map to guide us from none to done.

For the most part, I understand the logic. But normal logic does not apply to the ADHD way of doing things.

 

Why NOT write things down?

Most of us are rebels. We have big ideas and sure, we really do want to achieve success with those ideas. But we don’t want to be told what to do.

When you write things down, it can feel like being told what to do. Itemized lists are grown-up versions of self-imposed homework. Many of us are super wonderful at making lists and creating strategies… that we never actually use.

Why? Because making lists and developing strategies tricks our primal brains into thinking we’ve already done the work. Our attention bank is already spent by the time it comes to putting the work into action.

 

Play to Your Rebel-You

Every single time I have developed a robust strategy for moving forward on say, my writing or coaching goals, I’ve sabotaged the plan within 48 hrs. I simply drop it for something shinier or easier.

Yet…

Every single time I’ve decided to do something without thinking too much about it (referred to by some as impulsivity) – I’ve got it done.

ADDers can be over-thinkers and over-planners. We try to get things “right”, but this cripples us. Harnessing our impulsive streaks can be a lot more productive than trying to focus more. Nike says “Just do it”. I say “Hell yes!”

 

How to “Just Do It”

Elaborate plans are overwhelming. We give up before we’ve even started.

Simple plans are easy to stick to because we don’t really have to think about them.

To get back into regular writing and posting, with double the amount of output I previously achieved, I had 2 simple steps to my mental plan. First – read one research-esque thing (news feed, blog post, book chapter) every day. Second – write 500 words on a related topic 5 days a week.

That’s it. Easy. Realistic. Achievable.

And I don’t get bogged down with written plans, detailed by multiple steps that make me feel like I’ll never get to “done”.

Sure, have a goal. Make it simple and achievable. But you don’t HAVE to write it down or have a detailed plan in order to tackle. Etch it in your mind and embed it in your heart. Work on that goal everyday. If it’s simple enough, you’ll do it. Stick to that mental plan for as long as you possibly can. And then, a bit longer.

There may be a time down the road when you WILL need a written out strategy. Goals have different phases on the road to completion. But by the time the next phase rolls around, you’ll already be rooted in the achievement habit and won’t be fooled into thinking that the plan is all you need.

Impulsivity can be an ally just as much as it can be an adversary. But it doesn’t want you to write out a plan for your goals, it wants you to go for them!

Growth

Little Digs: Thickening Your Skin to Withstand the Pricks

Don’t you hate it when people say things that seem like ordinary comments, but really are little digs to point out your flaws?

I was waiting for a courier delivery the other day. When my package arrived, I was surprised by the driver’s greeting. Rather than the expected “Hello ma’am… sign here”, he decided to criticize my kids.   

My kids had posted a note on our front door, proclaiming our house to be haunted, or rather – “hanted”. I opened the door to this brown-suited man, pen in hand, correcting their spelling mistake. I would have shrugged this off, assuming him to be a very conscientious delivery professional with a penchant for spelling. But no. He didn’t leave it at that.

He told my kids, eager as beagles whenever the door rings, about their error. And then made a big deal about the importance of spelling.

Thank you Mr. Delivery Man, for lecturing my wayward children. The neighbors will sleep better knowing our house is not hanted, as my “illiterate” kids would have everyone believe. I shudder to think of the whispers down the avenue.

And by the way – mind your own freaking business! I get to choose what I correct my kids on, not you, a complete stranger!

Maybe he was having a dig at me, the idiot who let the note stand as it was.

Little digs can never hurt me…

What really bugged me was that this statement was a little dig – having your mistakes pointed out for no other purpose than to make a spectacle of them. It makes the other people feel big.

But why should little digs even bug me?

Before I knew about ADHD, I thought I was inept. I had experienced a reasonable amount of success in my professional and personal life, but I just couldn’t get it together on the day-to-day stuff like being organized, on time, etc. It was those things that I counted as measurements of my success, or lack-thereof. I cared more about those trivial things than I did about the fact that I had a happy relationship, great friends, and I job I loved and was good at!

So, that’s why I took offense with little digs. I didn’t take them at face value, I took them as an assault on my character. And most of the time, I blew them way out of proportion.

It wasn’t until I had done A LOT of work on self-acceptance that I was able to thicken my skin to criticism – the real and the perceived kind. When I learned to embrace my own values, I cared less about what other people thought.

Sometimes, criticism can be constructive. But criticism based on personal opinions and values, not on general concern for another’s welfare…. that’s called judgement.

I have no room for judgment in the list of things that keep me up at night.

My hanted house is the only thing that stops me from sleeping these days.

Mindset

Fear Less

fear

Fear is not the enemy. Fear is the friend who keeps you safe – grabs your shirt and holds you back from dangerous leaps and treacherous bounds.

Fear is not an enemy who means to hold you back. It’s just that… he’s afraid. Afraid you won’t succeed, that you’ll embarrass yourself. Afraid that you’ll get hurt or won’t ever recover from missing leaps and tripping on bounds.

Fear is also the friend who hangs around too much, comes over uninvited and interrupts you when you’re trying to get things done.

He’s the friend who nags you to do what he wants you to do, even when you want to do something else.

He’s the guy who calls late at night when you’re trying to sleep, who thinks he knows everything and ignores what you have to say. He overshadows your accomplishments with his own victories and “I told you so’s”.

He’s a friend. But not always a very good one.

Though you shouldn’t shut him out completely, you may have to kick him out when he won’t go home. And though shouldn’t ignore him, you’d do well to remember he’s not your only friend.

Confidence is also your friend – the one who’s got your back. Who says “You can” and celebrates when you do. He’s the guy that listens and nods when you tell stories of success and gives you a nudge when you confess your failures.

He’s the friend who wants you to succeed because he knows you can. He’s the one who consoles Fear then gags him and sticks him a closet so he doesn’t ruin the party.

Fear and Confidence… they’re both your friends. But it’s up to you which one you hang out with more.

Only when we are no longer afraid do we begin to live.
Dorothy Thompson

Creativity

Non-Conformity and Being Prolific: An Interview with Bryan Hutchinson

bryan_hutchinson_positive_writer_5

While ADDers are well-endowed in the creativity department, many of us find it difficult to bring our multitude of ideas to life.  For this post, I have had the wonderful opportunity to pick the brains of Bryan Hutchinson – one of the most productively creative and inspiring ADDers I know. Let’s get to it – enjoy!

 

Andrea:  Bryan, you have published eight books, including the best-selling “Writer’s Doubt”, created two hugely successful blogs, and authored featured articles for national magazines and newspapers. Most ADDers I know struggle with finishing stuff.  Yet when it comes to productive creativity, you’re kind of a machine. What’s your secret and where can we buy it?

Bryan: Ha! You’re very kind, Andrea. My secret is actually quite simple, I stopped trying to conform to linear ways of doing things.

Most people with ADHD fight with themselves all of their lives, trying to do things in standards ways in which they have been taught. I remember in school, already at a very young age, I did things in non-standard ways and I would always get in trouble for it. Sometimes I needed to walk or fidget in order to think. I always got in trouble for that and the teachers thought I was lazy and I didn’t care, and frankly, so did my parents.

As an adult I can work on my own personal projects in any way I please – and I do. And because I do, I have become extremely prolific. But that happened in my 30’s. The problem with most of us with ADHD is that because of how we’re taught to behave in school, we think there is something wrong with us and most do not ever become comfortable doing things their own ways.

 

Andrea: I’ve noticed that too. In the opening of your book “10 Things I Hate About ADD”, you describe ADD as a gift that comes with some side effects (darn that falling pipe!). This philosophy is what has always drawn me to your writing. What is your reaction to the naysayers – who claim that ADHD is exclusively a disorder whose “gifts” are merely incidental – and how should we punish them?

Bryan: The problem here is actually very simple. Linear thinkers see non-linear thinking as defective thinking. This is normal. It’s like the writing advice that says we should write every day and we should write a specific number of words. That’s absolutely linear thinking. I write when I feel compelled to write, and when I think of writing a specific number of words for a day, well, that makes me want to throw up. I write however many words I’m compelled to write. Period. When I decided to embrace my quirks (which writing, when compelled, is seen as), I felt less guilty and I excelled. No one holds us back more than we do.

 

Andrea: Sadly, you’re right. Often we are our own biggest enemies – whether that relates to our ADHD or to our creativity. This is not necessarily a chicken-or-egg question… but how do your ADHD traits influence your creativity and, conversely, how has creativity influenced your ADHD? (If chickens or eggs are involved, that’s fine.)

Bryan: My ADHD traits are my creativity, so this question doesn’t make sense to me anymore. And frankly, I’m okay with that. As an adult who has become successful at doing things his way, it’s hard to see my ADHD traits as defects anymore. We’re taught we are defective as children because we don’t settle and do things appropriately, but I was pretty unhappy and unproductive trying to conform.

 

Andrea: Speaking of doing things your own way, I’m curious about your writing process. When I’m writing a blog post, one idea leads to another and another and another. Before I’ve written one full post, I usually have at least five other beginnings to other posts. I don’t watch you write because that would be creepy and impossible, but I imagine you probably have “too many” ideas too. How do you keep focused on what you’re working on, but still keep track of all the other thoughts that come into your head?

Bryan: I don’t have a perfect method for this. I’m not sure I even have an answer. I used to try to keep track, but it’s too difficult. This is one of those things where I accept what I remember and try not to regret what I forgot, but a notebook doesn’t hurt (when I remember to use it).

 

Andrea: I love how at ease you seem with your ADHD, and with your own creative process. Whether you’re writing about ADHD or the art of writing, positivity is a theme that runs through your work. What inspires your positivity and how do you maintain it!?

Bryan: Hmmmm… I think this is because I’ve been pushed down so much in my life and the more negative I felt, the more negative consequences I had, whether anyone was pushing me down or I was doing it to myself. At some point, I realized that positivity really does work. I know, there are a lot of naysayers out there who say positive thinking is a waste of time, well, their path takes them in one direction and mine takes me in another. Which one is right or wrong? I don’t know, but I do know I am quite productive being positive.

 

Andrea: I have to agree with that one. Negativity has never made me, or anyone I know, better at anything – apart from complaining. Because you have mastered what it takes to be a Positive Writer, I wonder what one piece of advice you would give to other ADDers who aspire to become writers? (Yes, this question is largely self-serving!)

Bryan: Be a writer. It’s that simple. No one needs my permission or anyone else’s permission to be a writer. If you write, you’re a writer. So be one. Keep writing until you get to “The End.” However, with that said, it doesn’t hurt to be inspired, and in all honesty, the best writing is inspired writing. So, find ways to become inspired. Whatever makes you happy. Take a trip. Explore a new store or mall. Watch a movie you love. Do something out of the ordinary. Meditate. Or, read my new book. 🙂

 

I must say, Bryan Hutchinson has always been a source of inspiration for me – for both his message and his creative output. Whether you are trying to get ahead in your own creative career, or just need a lift when ADHD is getting you down, check out Bryan’s books here. And make sure to check out his latest book:

Inspired Writer: How to Create Magic with Your Words (Sold nearly 10,000 copies in the first 3 days!!!)

My biggest, gushiest heartfelt thanks to Bryan. As prolifically productive of a writing-machine that he is, he still took time out to participate in this interview with me. I have to say guys – we’re lucky to have him as part of our tribe 🙂

Productivity

Scrap the Apps – Do What Works

scrap the apps

Do you remember the days when an application was something you completed to get yourself a job, not something you used to get that job done?

If not, go away. You make me feel old.

Apps of the contemporary definition have become an inherent part of modern living. They make a multitude of tasks, commitments and goals more manageable.

At least, that’s what we think.

Three times recently, I’ve been stood up by people who forgot our appointment because their pc calendar didn’t sync properly with their phones. They didn’t get a reminder to remember me.

Of course, I forgive this oversight easily. I’ve been unreliable in the past too. But it does get me thinking…

If a person relies on their phone to remember important dates and commitments, why wouldn’t they use their phone’s calendar in the first place? Why rely on two different apps to sync with each other when quite possibly one would do just fine?

I get that there are reasons to organize your life with sophisticated apps that integrate with other sophisticated apps. I’m don’t disagree with those reasons. What I am saying is this:

Sometimes apps fail us.

Sometimes they fail us because we don’t know how to use them properly. And sometimes they fail us because, although they sound great in theory, all they really do is over-complicate what could be a really simple thing.

notebooks

ADDers have a tendency to over-complicate things too. Even with old fashioned “apps” called notebooks, we often have several of them, making it arduous to retrieve the info we need.

Relying on multiple apps to simplify life management is like hiring a team of Michelin Star chefs to fry a couple eggs. They could definitely do it. But you know what happens when there’s too many cooks in the kitchen.

Complicated apps, just like complicated systems, fuel chaos instead of diminishing it. If you’re getting bogged down and dropping balls, maybe the best approach is to de-clutter your systems. The good old fashioned calendar has survived for thousands of years because of one reason:

It works.

Creativity

Mediocrity and Cultivating Creative Confidence

creative confidence

How many times have you scrapped a project because you were sure it was going to turn out like crap?

Or – frantically scribbled down a clever idea in the middle of the night, only the rip it apart the next day, cursing: “What was I thinking!?”

Or – failed to try your hand at something, because you were sure that you couldn’t do it very well so why bother?

We live in a world that obsesses over excellence. We revere it like an ancient god with powers far beyond our own. And in turn, we reward it with acclaim, adoration, idolatry even.

Why do we seem to think that the only creativity worth admiring is the kind that is exceptional?

And what does that do for the creative confidence of us mere mortals?

Cultivating Creative Confidence

Creativity is not a gift. It’s an attribute we all possess. We don’t manifest art because we are creative. We’re creative, plain and simple. What we produce is an expression of our souls.

Being good at it shouldn’t even be a consideration. Who stops having sex because they aren’t the best lover in the world? Expressing creativity is a human need. We shouldn’t stop making stuff just because it might not be the best-thing-ever.

Being creative takes courage to be uncertain about your talent and make stuff anyway, because that’s what your soul needs you to do.

Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties.

Erich Fromm

Reveling in Mediocrity

Personally, I’m sick of awesomeness being so exclusive.  I want to see more okay or not-too-bad things get the spotlight once in awhile, and “average” people getting attention for their efforts. I love watching amateur theatre or admiring the work of aspiring artists and writers. It brings me joy to see the work that comes from someone else’s joy. It doesn’t have to be amazing for me to appreciate it.

Don’t get me wrong: I love masterpieces too. But few of us are prodigies. Excellence, in fact, is born of repeated effort. Perhaps if we embraced this a little more – if we loved our crap simply because it was our own effort that produced it – we would have the creative confidence to work at it until excellence emerged.

Sadly, I – like other people I know – have passed up many opportunities to express my creativity because I thought my work would not be good enough. I missed out on getting better. But, as I grow older, I am getting more courage to tolerate uncertainty and let my okayness shine. Do you have the guts to embrace mediocrity and keep making, even when it feels like you’re not good enough?

For more on this topic, check out this post: Anything Worth Doing is Worth Doing Badly.

 

Creativity

Keep Making

keep making

Synopsis: How do you stay positive when you’re not sure that what you are creating is good enough? Simple: keep making. 

Every dream is burdened with a doubt that one day you will be good enough to succeed. You create – with no certainty that what you’re creating is good or will ever get noticed. How do you keep going?

When you feel like you can’t stand the uncertainty of success: Consider nature in all her creative power and prowess.

The sun doesn’t ask why she rises each morning and sets at dusk. She doesn’t lament that, despite her best efforts, the snow remains cold, completely unaffected by the charm of her warm kiss. She doesn’t complain when the clouds dilute her beauty or when the night overshadows her light in a blanket of obscurity.

She concerns herself with only two things:

Rising and setting.

It’s not her business who sees her or whether she’s liked. Her business is to keep shining.

The waves of an ocean or lake don’t cry over their brevity, their crests and troughs fizzling as they reach the shore. They don’t worry that bigger waves are always right behind them, ready to take their place. They don’t fight against the tide that drags them back, to start again.

They concern themselves with only two things:

Rising and falling.

It’s not their business how long they last, or how many times they’ll have to start all over again. Their business is to keep flowing.

And so it is with your dream, no matter how big or small, important or insignificant it may feel at times.

Do not worry if it is good enough.
Do not care if other people like it or notice it all.
Do not fear the darkness that eclipses your efforts or the bigger waves that threaten your progress.
They are momentary.

Concern yourself with only two things:

Rise and set.
Ebb and flow.
Keep making. And resting.
Keep making. And resting.

It’s not your business whether you’re good enough. It is your business to bring your creativity to the world – your art, your writing, your business, your service – whatever it is.

When it’s not good enough – keep making.
When someone else is doing a better job – keep making.
When no one is paying attention and you feel all your work is for nothing – keep making.

Like the sun and the waves,

Your time will come.