Let it breathe

“In the quiet moments, the discoveries are made.”

Vera Farmiga

If you don’t give your creativity time and space, you’re not gonna do it.

Creativity needs breathing room to grow. Not an unlimited time amount of time, of course. Too much time might be just as detrimental as not enough time. In both cases, we usually end up not creating anything meaningful.

Shoving your craft into the last 20 minutes of your day is fine if that’s all you have to give right now. But it highlights an important idea: is our creative pursuit — the thing that you love to do — so unimportant to us that we can only fit it in our busy schedules at the very last moment of our day?

Believe me, I get it. Not everyone is doing their creative work as their full time gig. (Maybe that’s your goal, but you are not there yet. Or maybe you just love doing it in addition to your job.) But that doesn’t mean we should bench it to the sidelines. We need a little space to thrive.

Do your creative work first. Get up earlier if you have to. Find a way to prioritize enough time that allows you to do the work you feel called to do.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #688


Join the Renaissance:

IG@Renaissance.Life

If you enjoyed this blog post, consider becoming a patron.

SubscribeRenaissance Life on Apple Podcast | Renaissance Life on Spotify

Making Creative Space

“Make an empty space in any corner of your mind, and creativity will instantly fill it.”

Dee Hock

Yesterday, I spent the better part of morning organizing my apartment’s work environment. I don’t have a lot of space, a cubby corner sandwiched in-between two windows, so a tidy and intentional area is key. Making art is something I’ve been pursuing more and more, and I wanted to make sure everything was accessible and open. Otherwise, creating feels like a chore.

I’ve discovered over the last couple years that I’m at my most creative when I have everything ready to go and in arms reach. The fewer obstructions I have to get from A to B (from an idea / desire to make, and from the tools, instruments, materials and space needed) the greater chance I’ll follow through. If I lean a guitar next to my desk I’ll inevitably pick it up and start playing. Put a blank piece of paper in front of me and give me some space and I’ll eventually write ideas on it.

We often point to and blame all these big reasons why we can’t work on our dreams yet — ’I don’t have enough money’, ‘I’m not old enough / I’m too old’, ‘I’m not smart enough yet’ — but in reality its the little things, like our environment, that are the true cause of our inability to act.

There’s this inherent unwanted laziness that comes with creating. I don’t have a lazy bone in my body, but when I have to dig around for some sketch paper, or if my guitar is in its case, or if my desk has no room for me to write, I’m less likely to do it.

You can see this pattern in many areas of life:

Health: We hang clothes on our treadmill or weight rack. We don’t know where our workout shoes are when it’s time to run. We keep ice cream and candy in the house instead of healthy foods.

Community: Our days are crammed with work or traveling to and from work. We have work meetings on top of meetings. When we are not working, we are scrolling. And with every second of our day stuffed like a turkey with immediacy, we neglect the important connections of friends and family.

Perhaps we aren’t a couch potato — we’ve just have physically prioritized watching TV over working on our side-business.

Space should reflect priority. We need to give ourselves the space we need to thrive in art, work and life. Physical space, mental space, time, solitude…

By giving yourself the space to create, you’ve created a safe haven for ideas. Prioritize space and you’ll start bursting with ideas and can’t help but lose yourself in creating.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #673

Join the Renaissance:

IG@Renaissance.Life

If you enjoyed this blog post, consider becoming a patron.

SubscribeRenaissance Life on Apple Podcast | Renaissance Life on Spotify

Limitations Spark Creativity

Grief can be the garden of compassion. If you keep your heart open through everything, your pain can become your greatest ally in your life’s search for love and wisdom.

Rumi

Creativity is, in part, about facing our limitations and finding ways to turn them into opportunities.

Things will try to stop you:

  • There will always be a better gadget or tool you could have.
  • There’s too many books (over 130 million, give or take) out there in the world to read them all (I know, I’ve tried — and will die trying :).
  • There will always be sometime you need to learn.

People will try to stop you:

  • They will tell you that you are not good enough.
  • They will tell you to stay in your lane.
  • They will point out all your flaws.
  • They will try to force you to quit.

Life will try to stop you:

  • Work will get in the way.
  • Time won’t be on your side.
  • Mixers and birthday parties will always — coincidentally — fall on the same date and time you were going to work on your art.

And worse of all — you will try to stop you:

  • Fear.
  • Doubt.
  • Worry.
  • Uncertainty.
  • Pain.
  • Negative, discouraging and depressed mindsets.
  • Past Trauma, Present concerns and Future anxiety.
  • Poor sleep, hangry feelings, and couch sweatpants calling your name.

However, show me a brilliant song that wasn’t influenced by limitation.
Show me a work of art that didn’t have to trudge through doubt and uncertainty.
Show me a bestselling novel that doesn’t tell a story where the hero faces challenge and difficult, or a nonfiction book that doesn’t try to show us how to be better versions of ourselves.

Limitation is in our DNA.
That’s what makes our creativity even more special. To make something, despite our limitations (or because of our limitations), is a powerful way to add value and create change in the world.

Take your limitations and infuse them into your story. See them for what they are — opportunities to help others, and to help yourself.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #672

Join the Renaissance:

IG@Renaissance.Life

If you enjoyed this blog post, consider becoming a patron.

SubscribeRenaissance Life on Apple Podcast | Renaissance Life on Spotify

How is Just a Phone Call Away

‘How’ comes from doing. We never know how until we try it for ourselves. We might have an idea of what it means to do something, but until we get our hands dirty, so to speak, we don’t really know first hand.

This goes for a lot of things — starting a company, asking someone out, traveling abroad, being poor / rich, pretty much everything.

Creativity is usually an individualistic act. But collaboration is not too far behind (and sometimes is far ahead). Let’s not forget, at the end of the day, we are creating for someone. Often, that someone we are creating for ourselves — creating just to create and express our voice. But even so, our work is for others as well. Connections like, buy and celebrate your work.

Luckily, we don’t have to learn ‘how’ always on our own. We can learn from other’s example and experiences, through stories (books, talks, conversations, etc) We can build a tight-knit community around us, and gather closer to people who care about us and what we are going through.

If we surround ourselves with generosity (helping others, letting others help us), then ‘how’ becomes a whole lot easier.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #639

Join the Renaissance:

IG@Renaissance.Life

If you enjoyed this blog post, consider becoming a patron.

SubscribeRenaissance Life on Apple Podcast | Renaissance Life on Spotify

Staying Creatively Fresh

Writer’s block isn’t something I worry too much about. Rather, staying fresh is constantly on my mind when I create (write, draw, song-write etc). In my mind, there’s nothing worse than repeating yourself. In my mind, there’s nothing worse than repeating yourself. (Had to… 😉 The last thing I want is for my work to feel creatively bankrupt or stale. Mmm, smells like bankruptcy. (<- Inside joke from high school that only one person, who isn’t reading this, will understand. Had to… 😉

Stale work is saying the same thing over and over, without improving upon the ideas or having a new resolution.

Letting other creative work inspire you? All day.
Stealing something and putting your own spin on it? Awesome.
Selling your work? Great job.
But repeatedly creating the same thing without improving? No thanks.

There’s no growth. No positive change. No intention behind the repetition. Just the same old same old.

It’s like that friend or relative you have that repeatedly says they are going to do something, but never does (and usually does the opposite). They really want too, but because they don’t, they rarely ever do. (We can easily fall into this rut as well. I know I have.)

Creative staleness can happen on a micro and macro level.

Micro Level

On a micro level, we can easily lean into using familiar tricks and patterns which ultimately can plateau our progress. Writing for example. Lazy writing is using the same words, sentences or structure. One example for me is using ‘—‘ too much to break up a sentence and to give dramatic pause to an idea. (I even had them in this blog post, but edited them out.) Another lazy one I have to watch out for is ending every blog with a “blah blah blah, this is how you can have a meaningful life.” This phrase, “meaningful life”, is a part of my mission statement and tagline for Renaissance Life “The Pursuit of Creativity, Mastery and a Meaningful Life”, so it naturally pops up when I’m writing. Moderation is key here. Adding a line about having a ‘meaningful life’ at the end of every josh dang blog post is sloppy, isn’t winning me any brownie points and quickly detracts from the meaningfulness I’m trying to create.

This happens in all types of creative pursuits, not just writing. Comedy, acting, art, songwriting, lyrics, poems, speeches and more.

Example: Rappers relying on ‘uhh’ or a specific curse too much as filler words.
Example: Speakers saying the word ‘um’ or ‘pretty’ or ‘like’ too much.
Example: Musicians using the same chord, tempo or scale progression in every song they make. Like a continuous thump thump thump thump drum kick in 4/4 on every song.

Good Example: Comedians throwing out there material after they finish their one-hour special. This allows them to focus on new ideas instead of treading on old ideas.
Good Example: Actors or film makers who continuously change themselves by taking on new and different roles and projects.

TAKEAWAY: Observe how you create in your practice. Go granular; Observe the specifics. Avoid repeating yourself too much to keep things fresh and interesting. Try challenge yourself with rules and restrictions (i.g. If you write a word too much, like using the word ‘maybe’, challenge yourself it to not using ‘maybe’ next time — or ever again.)

Macro Level

On a macro level, we can fall into traps of or work retreading on the same old topics and themes without any clear variation or difference. Giving old ideas life by adding new ideas are great, but having the same idea repeatedly? Not so much. This usually happens to me when I’m trying to convince myself to do something. For example, an idea I want to do, like experiment with filmmaking, loops in my head, but I haven’t done it yet so I’ll keep talking about it to convince myself to do it. (Which never works.) I’ll end up repeating myself into the ground trying to convince myself. Eventually, I’ll get tired of hearing myself and I’ll shut up and do it already.

Repetition + growth is what we want.
Repetition + repetition is actually what makes us feel stuck. As Mark Twain has said, “is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results”.

TAKEAWAY: Watch out for too much repetition that ends you in the same place you started.

How to Stay Creatively Fresh

Ideas spark ideas.

Let others influence you into your own ideas.

One great way of staying fresh is surrounding yourself with the ideas of others, anyone who inspires you to create.

Another great way is to also surround yourself with new ideas and topics you would normally not explore.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #638

Join the Renaissance:

IG@Renaissance.Life

If you enjoyed this blog post, consider becoming a patron.

SubscribeRenaissance Life on Apple Podcast | Renaissance Life on Spotify

For The Hell of It

“Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen, others make it happen.”

Michael Jordan

A great sign you are on to something you should be doing every day is whether or not you could live without it.

What’s something creative you just can’t not do?
Something you would do even if you never got a dime (paid) for it in your life.
Something you think about often and talk about enthusiastically.

At the end of your life, what would you regret the most never doing?

This is a question that’s great for finding a driving factor in life.

This is art. This is your creative pursuit.

A creative pursuit is an amazing way to clarify your actions and priorities. Like lightning rod to lightning discovering within yourself work you can’t live without is an obvious answer to what you should spend your time doing.

Perhaps you won’t spend your entire life doing it. We are continuously changing, responding to the world around us and loving new things as we grow. We naturally live multiple lives — or book chapters — as we get older.

However, if we feel a passion for something, we should just add it to our lives first and foremost, instead of trying to fit it in to an already stuffed life.

We have to make the time. No-one is going to do it for us.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #637

Join the Renaissance:

IG@Renaissance.Life

If you enjoyed this blog post, consider becoming a patron.

SubscribeRenaissance Life on Apple Podcast | Renaissance Life on Spotify

Creative Flow

“An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage.”

Jack Welch

There’s an interesting trend right now in technology (that you will begin to notice everywhere) where some apps and operating systems no longer have large update cycles. Instead of 2.0 to 3.0 massive updates that address problems and add new features in bulk, we are now seeing a steady stream of continuous updates. These updates are instant, and usually happen without notice. Google’s Chrome Browser for example. I don’t remember a single time I’ve had to actively update it. New features, tweaks, bug fixes, they just flow in while we aren’t looking or while we are sleeping. And, with more and more of our gadgets being connected over the Internet. This is a powerful shift in computing. Kevin Kelly calls this trend ‘flowing’.

What if we were to apply the same incremental, continuous approach to our own skills and creativity?

We aren’t computers. I can’t Matrix download Kung Fu into my brain in a couple of minutes (…yet). But there are ways we can learn and improve more optimally in this fast changing world. Daily habits, for example.

I’ve been talking to death about daily habits this year, but they are a great conduit to creating daily steps of improvement.

Habitualizing* our creativity enhances our creativity.

Whether my arguments of practicing daily habits persuades you, adding a ritual, a practice, around your work gives you access to an endless flow of ideas. Instead of creating something every now-and-then when the feeling strikes, you are putting pen to paper (so to speak) every time you practice.

Creative flow is our direct line to a stead stream of ideas, portfolio of work, momentum and community.

Personally, I don’t worry about writers block anymore, because I know that when I sit down (stand up) to write, I’ll have something to say. Because of my daily commitment to the craft, ideas flow.

Tapping into our creative flow also heightens our awareness of the world around us.

Our experience influence our work (and vice versa). By subconsciously / consciously knowing that we are going to create something, our mind seeks out the interesting out of our experiences.

One could argue that our job as creatives is to tell our story through our work. A part of that job is seeing the world as it is, seeing it as it could be, seeing what we like and dislike or find amusing or interesting — seeing the magic in the ordinary — and saying something about our observations with our work. (Or just creating stuff because it’s fun and we can’t not do it 🙂

Continuously creating gives us the abilities of creative flow.

It also elevates our skills faster than otherwise and gives us the freedom to pursue a life of creativity.

*Not sure if this is a word.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #636

Join the Renaissance:

IG@Renaissance.Life

If you enjoyed this blog post, consider becoming a patron.

SubscribeRenaissance Life on Apple Podcast | Renaissance Life on Spotify

Just Start Already

The three great essentials to achieve anything worthwhile are: Hard work, Stick-to-itiveness, and Common sense.

Thomas A. Edison

Creating something and putting your work out into the world is one of the scariest things you can do. (It’s up there routine dental checkups, or having kids.)

That is, until you do it. Once you start, the fear subsides. Every time you act, the fear diminishes a little more. It’s always there, but it doesn’t have the same sting it once did before you started.

You write and then you hit publish.
You draw and then you share your work online.
You record, edit and then upload.

Create. Edit. Share. Repeat. (Or some days just create and share.)

At the beginning, nobody cares. (Well, your mom cares. Hi mom!) Your work either falls flat, does okay or hits a cultural thread that lifts it to unbelievable heights.

Most of the time our work does okay.

And at any point of the creative process, we have the temptation to give up.

The weather is gloomy or hot, we get sick, we didn’t sleep well, a Marvel movie comes out, something better is happening, and so many other distractions can very easily derail us from creating anything today. And not creating today is a slippery slope. (You take one day off, and suddenly three years slips by and you haven’t made anything.)

This is why I’m so committed to daily habits. When you decide to do a daily habit, there are no days off. (Sticky Weather or sick days be damned. No excuses.) Good or bad, at the end of the day, I make myself sit down, write and hit publish. Otherwise, I’d miss a day. (And there’s nothing worse than missing a day when you have a daily habit.)

On bad days, It might sound awful to you to put out work and ideas that sucks and your not proud to put your name behind, bit it’s actually a secret to a lot of creative’s success.

Creativity is less about what you did on any particular day, and more about your whole spectrum of work.

Waiting for the inspiration to create or for a great idea to show up doesn’t work.
great work to shop.

Consistency and practicing your ability to create-on-demand does.

One secret to creative success is creating more and creating often — you cultivate a lot of okay work, but you’ll also make more great work than you would otherwise have.

Some of your work will shine above the others and that’s the point. (Side-note: if we stopped after shipping one great piece, we’d likely turn into one of those one-hit wonder creatives.) The process of continuous flow of creativity gives us moments of brilliant ideas (and some decent ideas.) Arbitrarily, for every great creative work you shop, you might go through nine crappy or just-okay ideas.

I would argue that one great idea is worth as many mediocre ideas it takes. Because one great idea can change your world (and quite possibly, change The World).

But nothing happens if you don’t start.

When it comes to creativity, starting is everything, because without starting, there’s nothing — just a bunch of ideas in our head.

Once you realize that, and how quick life goes by, the fear of inaction outweighs the fear of doing something new, potentially embarrassing, and likely to fail. Because if we don’t try — if we don’t even test out the waters — we automatically fail before we even get going.

When in doubt —
When hesitant, or fearful —
When others tell you that you shouldn’t or can’t —
When you tell yourself that you shouldn’t or can’t because of X Y and Z —

Just start already.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #634

Join the Renaissance:

IG@Renaissance.Life

If you enjoyed this blog post, consider becoming a patron.

SubscribeRenaissance Life on Apple Podcast | Renaissance Life on Spotify

Just Show Up

“Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work.”
Chuck Close, photorealist

Quality matters. Creating crappy work isn’t going to going to bring the boys to the yard, so to speak. Whether we are talking getting people to read your writing, sign up for your newsletter, listen to your music, buy your product… — Sh🙈t gets you sh🙈t.

One unfortunate side effect of seeking quality is the more you seek it, the more it paralyzes you from creating. This can lead anyone down the slipper slope of chasing perfection.

Perfection is the enemy of creativity. It stops you from starting and finishing. Perfection is a chatty chap. Perfection says, “if it’s not the best idea you’ve ever had, it’s not worth publishing / doing / uploading” and “if you mess up, throw it all away”. Perfection also has a lot to say about whether or not your ideas are any good. What Perfection doesn’t realize is creating is a process.

Some of your ideas will suck. Some will be great. But it’s often the case, we have to wade through the sucky ideas to get to the great ones.

Deciding to create — be it art, music, business… you name it — whenever you feel like it will get you a few good ideas every now and then. But those ideas are few and far between when you dedicate yourself towards creating every day.

Daily habits make me better at what I do.

It gives me no excuses not to create.
Whether I feel like it or not. Whether I have inspiration or not.

I just show up every day, and do it.

Ideas and inspiration comes when you show up.

It’s funny, most days I’ve got zero ideas about what I’m going to write about until I sit down and write. But that makes sense in a way. Showing up gives you the space to create, otherwise, we’d fill the void with errands, errata, eating and other things.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #620

Join the Renaissance:

IG@Renaissance.Life

If you enjoyed this blog post, consider becoming a patron.

Shakespearean-Yoda Advice

“If the CEO does not follow the cultural norms of the company then the cultural norms won’t happen.”

Stephane Kasriel, CEO of Upwork, from the Distributed Podcast

Why do we take the advice of some, but dismiss the advice of others?

The tone matters, of course. If someone is giving me advice and their tone says “you’re dumb, why are you (not) doing XYZ…”, I’m likely not going to take them up on it. The same is true if the advice is unsolicited or un-actionable. Even if the advice is sound, if all I’m getting is negative criticism I’m not going to listen.

I think the biggest contributing factor in whether or not advice is taken is if the advice giver has or is living out what they are saying. In essence —

Is this person following their own advice or not?

If not, then proceed to throw it in the trash.

I can’t count how many times I’ve seen someone close gives great advice (to me or people around me), but because they don’t eat their own dog food, so it’s not taken. And then, you hear the exact same advice from someone who lives it out— typically someone in the public sphere, an Author, YouTuber, Entrepreneur… — and suddenly the advice is the best idea you’ve ever heard.

The same holds true to giving advice. If you want to be able to help others and give advice that’s taken, you’ve got to listen and act on your own advice. “You should put 20% of your monthly income into an investment fund, like a ROTH IRA or Index fund” “You should spend your time more wisely” “You should focus on email marketing to gain more sales” Okay. Cool. Are you doing it yourself? If not, then you better start.

Follow your own recommendations

The same holds true in art and work.
Talking about doing something is not the same as doing it.

As much as I love coming up with ideas, if they are never executed, then they don’t matter.
Impressing people and inspiring people are two completely different things.

If you want to be creative, find your true fans and make a living doing it, you’ve got to create.

To take it back to middle school english class (I still suck at grammar):

’Creative’ is a noun.
‘Create’ is a verb.

To be a creative, you must create.

And share it with the world.

As Author Jeff Goins discovered on his journey of becoming a writer, “You are a writer. You just need to write”.

To be, you must do. (Wow, so Shakespearean-Yoda of you Josh)

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #612

Join the Renaissance:

IG@Renaissance.Life

If you enjoyed this blog post, consider becoming a patron.

Related:

The phrase, “Eating Your Own Dog Food”