Are you complicating the creative process?

Mon, 29th Jan, 2018

When I made my very public promise to become more productive, I started to search for a great new workflow to get my blog posts from idea to completion. I also began searching the various app stores to familiarise myself with some of the great applications for creative writing. I could feel myself being seduced by features and sleek user interfaces; then I stopped.

I had almost forgotten some of the first bits of advice that I had given on this subject: you already have all the tools you need to get started. I didn’t need a new flash application or a great new service (with a very reasonable subscription price I'm sure). What I needed to do was to look beyond the distractions and start writing, so here are my easy to follow steps to maintaining a consistent, quality output.

Go to the bottom of the page for the audio version of this article or the TLDR version.

Keep all of your ideas in one place

Having one place (for me it's on my phone) where you can jot down all of the ideas you want to share (no matter what the medium) is vital. This means that I'm not scrabbling around for an idea at the last-minute. I use an iPhone and for the longest time, I rebelled against some of the default applications that came with that device as I thought they were inferior to some of the paid alternatives on the App Store. However, recently I have become fully invested in using the default notes application. It is just a really simple place to keep text in a list form and over the years it has become more useful because you can add extra information such as links and photos to make your ideas even more meaningful. Any phone you get no matter what operating system it uses will have some variation on the notes app. Sometimes I will highlight a certain note if it's, for example, time-sensitive but generally, all my ideas go on one big list. Then when you're ready to get creative, all you have to do is just pluck an idea from the list and get going.

Make a meaningful timetable

I set myself the goal of producing something new every two weeks. This seems realistic given my schedule. If you want to maintain a creative output then you'll need to consider a schedule that works well for you but one of the best pieces of advice I give to people when starting a creative project is to find a meaningful schedule and (most importantly) stick to it. To ensure that I don't miss my deadlines I use a task manager (in particular OmniFocus) to keep track of the key stages in creating a piece of work to share. Then when it is done and you are all (hopefully) enjoying what I've made or getting some meaningful information for my work then I just repeat the steps and start again.

Get on with it

Not the most inspiring instruction but vital to sharing your creation. This was where I was getting distracted, I was exploring fully featured writing applications and snazzy new systems when what I really needed to do was just sit in front of my screen and start writing (or in many cases, dictating). Overcomplicating the process will make it cumbersome, daunting and definitely not something you will want to stick to for any length of time. Out of all of the fantastic applications, with their impressive features, that I have tried over the years I now predominantly write with a simple text editor which can sync across all of my devices. Nothing fancy, just a simple writing experience without many of the distractions of other applications.

I know some of my thoughts here are very similar to my article about "Tips on Starting a creative project" but I really think that if we (because you're coming with me on this journey) are going to make 2018 something different, something better, then we really need to get the rules and processes sorted at the beginning. This process is deceptive in its simplicity.

TL;DR (too long; didn't read) version: Keep a list of all of your creative ideas so you have plenty of choices. Create a sustainable schedule for sharing your creative output. Don't over complicate the creative process by using tools with lots of features you may never use, sometimes a simple text editor is all you need.

So that’s my quick guide to maintaining consistency in my output, without making it too complicated so as to make it a chore.

Let me know how you get on and I'll see you here next time.