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How To Be More Creative Part 3: Questions of Consistency

leonardo da vinci

Nobody rushed Leonardo

This is part 3 in a series. Read Part 1 and Part 2.

You can’t do very much reading about creativity without bumping into Leonardo Da Vinci. In the last month I’ve read a couple of books about him, and what I didn’t know was unsurprisingly profound, although I had thought I knew the broad strokes.

One of the most interesting things I read concerned his work habits.

He worked…creatively.

When I was trying to gear up to write my book, as I’ve mentioned, I read a lot about how to write. No question surfaced more frequently than “How much should I write every day?” As if there was an exact answer. Of course, pretending there was an exact answer allowed me to keep stalling as I searched for it.

Leonardo would sometimes work for many, many hours in a row. This pleased his well-paying patrons immensely. But at other times he would put down his brush and vanish. This did not please his well-paying patrons quite as immensely. Sometimes he would stare at a painting without ever touching a brush. Sometimes he would work for a couple of strokes and then leave.

When they asked him what he thought he was doing skipping out on the party, he would basically tell them that you couldn’t schedule his genius. Sometimes he needed to be in front of the work-in-progress, sometimes he needed to be away from it. Sometimes working for two days straight without a break produced results, sometimes it would have been counterproductive.

My own habits

That whole “I-know-when-I-should-be-working” thing sounds wonderful to me, but I’ve never been able to make it work. So far nothing produces results for me like daily writing. I don’t do word counts or time limits. Some days I might only write 100 words on a break at work, but then there are days when I will bang out 4,000 without giving the clock a second thought.

If I get out of the habit, I feel like I lose it. I don’t yet (if I ever will) have the confidence to step back and know that I will realize that it’s time to jump back in.

What about you? Whatever your artistic endeavor, what are your habits like? Are you a Leonardo? Do you need consistency to stay creative?


PS: For a quite-insane look at the creative need in novel form, I highly recommend that you read my book review of The Gargoyle.

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Eduard @ People Skills Decoded July 27, 2010, 4:19 am

    You stroke a cord here Josh. I sometimes get pressured by collaborators to write with steep deadlines, sometimes I even pressure myself. And it’s a great way to sabotage the quality of what I write. If you’re just putting information out there, deadlines are fine. But good writing involves a lot of creation; and creativity cannot be squeezed on command.

  • Boy am I glad you talked about one of my favorite people today. Leonardo has been a huge influence on my life, just for the amount of wok he was able to accomplish in one life and the fact that people are still studying his work today.

    I know that I tend to work in a scattered fashion, one project here, one project there. Which makes the world of e-books perfect for me. However, there is one thing that I know is true, and as you said, you have to have a work habit. You have to do a little something every day no matter what, because it is too easy to give up on a project and pretty soon, 4 months went by.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire

  • Sarah Bush July 27, 2010, 10:38 am

    This post really resonated with me.

    Leonardo’s willingness to listen to himself and his artwork and do what needed to be done regardless of conventional standards of productivity is what it’s all about.

    On the other hand, it’s also so important to show up—a lot–to maintain your creative momentum–and to keep your creativity a part of your life.

    Of course, by the time Leonardo was working in a pattern that suited him and his work best, he’d already put in a lot of working-everyday-time developing his craft to the nth degree–that’s why we all know him today!

    I like what you do Josh, work everyday, but don’t put parameters on it–so everything counts and it all helps your creative goals in the long run.

  • Boris Bachmann July 27, 2010, 10:48 am

    Everyday (I try anyway – for stuff that matters). Doesn’t have to be hours and hours, but every day. Yesterday, my training was exactly 5 minutes plus some stretches.

  • Ryan J Pitts July 27, 2010, 7:02 pm

    I love Leonardo. You know you’ve done great things when a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle is named after you. With creating new equipment, my mind is full and always working, I see things and then when they start becoming reality things change and they start becoming more, or evolve. Sometimes the projects get finished quick, and others I feel like Leo, where I walk away. Customers would rather it be done quick, but when they do get their special piece, they are pleased. I’m just glad that the ideas have not stopped coming yet! Thanks for the post.

  • cinderkeys July 29, 2010, 10:52 pm

    The best thing for me is reasonable self-imposed deadlines. Problem is, my life has been so crammed that any deadline feels unreasonable. So my output’s been pretty slow.

    As long as I still have output, though, I’m not going to beat myself up over it.

  • C.J. Good July 31, 2010, 3:27 pm

    Thanks for writing the insightful and thoughtful article. The topic spoke to me . I am always looking to be inspired and motivated. Your article really resonated with me.

    ~~ Like an immovable tree, real love does not interfere or demand. It delights in both worship and sympathy. To have that sweet weakness aiding me, to touch providence with my hand, able to take it into my arms, as the soul is present, is to be caressed. There is no necessity for selfish human perceiving. Every part of the object is delightful and wonderful. Soul gropes for soul, and finds it. Love is looking with care, intense and fascinated. Beholding an object in thought in its absence, to hear it come, go, enjoy all its attributes, without judgments, totally accepting it, is love.~~ C.J. Good

    • Josh Hanagarne July 31, 2010, 7:39 pm

      You’re welcome ! I’m so glad you enjoyed it.

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