I’m not a big rules person. In fact, I hate the word rules and it actually annoyed me that “rules” was downloaded to me as part of the headline for this post. But you have to let the message be the message and so I am.
Because at the end of the day, there are several specific guidelines that I swear by in my creative life, and I feel called to share them with you here today.
These aren’t things I came to lightly. No, these are things that I mostly learned the hard way through my 12+ years of being a professional creative and entrepreneur.
Take them or leave them.
1. Don’t check your emails or social media first thing in the morning
What you do first thing in the morning sets the tone for the rest of your day. So you don’t want your tone being set by whatever someone posts on Facebook or an email someone sends you.
You want to set the tone, and that requires you to be intentional about what you do first thing in the morning.
Years ago, I used to check my Facebook and emails right after I woke up. I’m talking, wake up, do my Morning Pages (or sometimes not at all) and then sit in bed and check my Facebook and emails. And what I noticed after a while was the tone of my day was being created reactively, based on what I was reading or seeing.
Not exactly the best way to take control of your morning.
When I stopped doing that and waited to check my social media and emails until after I wrote something, I found I got triggered less and sometimes I didn’t even want to check it at all.
Implementation Tip: If possible, keep your phone away from your bed, so you can’t just reactively grab it right when you wake up and start checking things.
2. Don’t watch or read the news
The societal belief is that you have to know what’s going on all over the world at all times, and I don’t disagree that it’s important sometimes, but that time doesn’t have to be first thing in the morning.
Again, by watching or reading the news first thing in the morning, you’re setting the tone for your whole day based on whatever you read/watch and how you react to it.
Watching the news is guaranteed to bring you down 99 percent of the time as the content is intentionally created to induce fear and worry in you. You don’t want that.
That is going to instantly kill your creative juices and inspiration. As a writer, you need to protect your creative flow and make sure you’ve done your creative work for the day before you allow stuff like the news and other people’s social media posts to inundate you (more on this in the “Rules” section).
Implementation Tip: If you feel like you have to check the news first thing in the morning, I’d recommend switching to Instagram and following @GlobalPositiveNews which is a great place to get world-wide news that won’t kill your buzz.
As a writer and creative, you don’t want anything in control of your morning or the tone of your day except you, which leads me to the rules I believe every writer and creative should abide by.
I rarely break these rules because I created a habit and discipline around following them in my creative life. But if I ever do break them, it’s knowing full-well what I’m risking.
Like they say, you’ve got to know the rules to break them. These are mine.
1. Get your mind right
I can’t stress this one enough as your mind is the center of everything. It’s what’s creating your thoughts, beliefs, and feelings, and it will control you if you don’t take back control.
That’s why I’ve been doing a daily mindset practice since August 2015, when I completed a two-week daily mindset practice test-drive and discovered just how powerful it is.
I believe that everyone should have a daily mindset practice of some kind, but I especially believe this about writers and creatives. For writers and creatives, it’s mandatory that you get your mind right or you can kiss your dreams goodbye.
Here’s the simple three-part practice I do and recommend:
- Step 1: Clear–do something to clear out your mind clutter. My fave way is Morning Pages (check out my post from yesterday to learn more about it). You can also meditate, use Your Hidden Mind or do some EFT (I do a combo of all of this).
- Step 2: Reset to Truth–write out (or speak) your intentions and beliefs about the world and about yourself using “I am” (or similar) statements. This should be a mix of positive things you currently know and believe and things you want to believe. For example, you could write things like: I am a bestselling author, I am making an impact on the world, I am happy, I am joy-filled, I have the writing career I dream of, the Universe has my back, everything is always working out for me, etc.
- Step 3: Feel It–find a way to create the feeling inside you that everything you just wrote down and intended is already true; a done deal; happening for you. My favorite way to do this is through a combination of meditation and visualization. You can also dance, sing or do anything else that makes you feel good. When you’re feeling good you’re on the same frequency as your intentions.
Implementation Tip: If you’ve had a hard time doing a mindset practice in the past, I recommend you use a timer and do my 3/3/3 Method; Complete the three steps in this mindset practice for three minutes each at least three days per week, and work your way up from there (adding more time and/or days as you become consistent with the 3/3/3 Method).
2. Create before you consume
This is a biggie, and also why I said my creative no-nos are checking email, Facebook or the news first thing in the morning. If you allow other people’s opinions, ideas or thoughts into your head before you allow yourself to connect with your creative center and then let something out onto paper, your ideas will always be tainted with other people’s stuff.
Yes, it’s true that there’s nothing brand new anymore. But there are still new ways of looking at old things or new ways to connect things that seem unrelated.
And you lose your power to do that when you don’t give yourself the space to be present with your thoughts, emotions, and ideas without interference.
Create before you consume is a rule that ensures you always do your writing and/or creative work before you let the world in.
Implementation Tip: Create a habit of doing your writing first thing in the morning, even if that means you have to do a shorter session or get up a few minutes earlier. It’s worth it.
3. Get into a feel-good state before you put words on the page
This is my own personal rule, but I highly recommend you adopt it. Something I’ve noticed over the last two years is when I’m in a feel-good state and then I do my writing, the words flow easier, ideas are always within reach, I enjoy the process a lot more, and I get better results from my efforts.
In the past when I’ve tried to force myself to just do it or to try and “push through” Resistance or procrastination, it’s always ended with me sitting in front of a blank page or feeling insanely shitty about the thing I did write.
Yuck. That is not the state to do your writing in.
And yes, I know they say you have to feel the fear and do it anyway or discipline yourself to do your writing even when you don’t feel like it. I used to be one of those people who said things like that.
But I’ve recently discovered there’s a new way to do it. A way that doesn’t require you to push through anything or force yourself to write when you don’t feel like it.
And that is to first get into a feel-good state and then sit down to do your writing.
When you’re in a feel-good state, you’ll be more inspired to do your writing and creative work, because feeling good puts you in alignment. And when you’re in alignment you’re also on the same frequency as all of the good ideas and messages and stories and other things that you can use for your writing.
In a negative, feel-bad state, all you’re be able to attract is more of the same because you’re tuned to a negative frequency. Great ideas don’t live in negative land.
I truly believe you can go much further much faster with your writing and your writing career when you first get into a feel-good state before you do anything related to your writing. And I also believe being on the feel-good frequency is what causes you to attract more ideas, opportunities and other things to feel good about.
Here’s an example for you: In mid-2018, I was in a really feel-good state (I had just finished doing my AM mindset practice) when I downloaded an idea for a screenplay. I didn’t have all of the story pieces yet, but I had a spark and it was something I knew I wanted to pursue further.
A few months later, on my 35th birthday to be exact, I was in a really feel-good state and I checked my emails and saw a message about a Romantic-Comedy script contest that Stage32 had decided to run. A film executive they work with was interested in finding some Rom-Coms to develop (Netflix created a rebirth of the Rom-Com genre in 2018 by releasing a couple of smash-hit Rom-Coms that went viral).
The contest was the perfect opportunity for me to write and submit that story I had downloaded the idea about a few months prior.
I noticed that I was in a really feel-good state when I received the idea for the story and saw the announcement about the contest, so I made a decision: I would only work on this particular story when I was in a feel-good state.
Over the next three months, I wrote, revised, got feedback on and then revised again, that screenplay. And on December 12, 2018, I submitted it to the Stage32 Rom-Com Script Contest.
I made sure I was in a feel-good state during all of this, including when I actually uploaded and submitted the script to the contest. That was the key to all of it.
On February 14, 2019, I found out my screenplay was a Quarter-Finalist in the contest. Two weeks later, it got upgraded to Semi-Finalist.
I was ecstatic, especially considering this was only the second screenplay I had ever written.
I know that I got this outcome because I did everything, from downloading the idea to writing, revising and submitting the script, from a feel-good place. You don’t get results like that without alignment.
Feeling good is now the compass for my writing life as well as my overall life. If it feels good, I do it. If it doesn’t feel good, I don’t do it (or I find a way to shift it so that it does feel good).
And if I get an inspired idea or nudge to take an action when I’m in a feel-good state, I act on it immediately.
Let me just add, none of this is permission to just skip your writing session if you “don’t feel like it” or are in a bad or negative mood. Not at all.
It’s an invitation for you to go get into a feel-good state, doing whatever you need to do to make that happen, and then work on your writing.
Eventually, if you do this enough times, the feel-good state will stick with you longer and longer, and you’ll Resist your writing and creating a whole lot less.
Implementation Tip: Make a list of everything that makes you feel good, no matter what it is. Write down everything from the big things, like your family and friends, to the little things, like getting a manicure or massage. Now when you want (or need) to get into a feel-good state, you can go back to your list and do something off of it to shift you mood pronto.
There are other guidelines I use from time-to-time in my creative life as well, but these two No-Nos and three Rules are my musts if you want to be at your creative best.
Dream life or bust,