TSLS 0024 - Five rules I follow every time I start a new project

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I usually hate so-called creative “rules”, but something had to change.

The last few times I started something new, I’d been hearing this tiny nagging voice in the back of my mind that would pop up from nowhere and remind me of my shortcomings from the LAST project I started. How much time I wasted, how many things I could have done better, etc etc etc.

I’d promise myself that this time it’d be different, and that everything would work itself perfectly this time, only to fall back into the same patterns - until I figured out these five crucial things every creator should keep in mind when doing their creative work.

1) I give the project a deadline and stick to it - instead of letting it drag on for eternity.

Deadlines are always fun (when you set them yourself at least!) but to break your procrastination habit, it’s essential. Why? Because discipline is freedom.

Deadlines helps you remember that time is precious, not to be wasted, and ticking away at every moment. 

The situation you’re in today will never ever be exactly the same again. Things change and people change every single day. Your dreams, your health, your opportunities - all of that can change, for better or worse, at any time. No matter what you do, a situation will never be completely perfect, so stop waiting for perfect before you put a date or a deadline on your dreams.

2) I turn off the TV, close all my computer tabs and give the project your full 100% attention every single time.

It’s always scary to put your all into anything because there’s always the opportunity that you might fail, and it will be awful. Or that the work won’t turn out as brilliant as you imagined it would. So you think to yourself:

If I don’t put in my full effort, I will never have to experience that failure.

This, of course, this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and creates the failure anyway.

There’s nothing that can take away that potential risk of something failing, but if you’re not working to the best of your ability, you’ll have no one else to blame but yourself if it does. And worse, you’ll always be wondering what might have happened if you had just put in that full effort. So don’t do that to yourself! Give it your all. And don’t worry too much about the outcome.

3) I take frequent breaks (because it’s way more fun than burning out all the time).

There are too many choices to make! Too many decisions! It’s so hard to keep up! I don’t know what to do first! Sound like you? That’s okay. All you’ve got to do is step back and take a break. This might sound counter-productive, but it works.

As a burnout pro, trust me on this one: It’s 100 times better to enjoy breaks with crumpets and tea knowing you can easily get back to work whenever you want, than steaming full ahead for two weeks and neglecting yourself, then being bed bound for a month, wishing desperately you had taken more breaks. Or maybe that’s just me.

Go do something unrelated to writing, like taking a walk to get some fresh air. Eventually, you’ll feel the touch of inspiration - the urge to get started again, and when that happens, attack with full force. No matter how much you think you’ll remember to do it later, it can never recover the excitement you felt in that first moment if wasted. Go with it!

4) I do it my way (instead of waiting for permission or praying for miracles.)

Your life isn’t on a set path leading to happiness and success without your effort, like in the movies. You have everything within yourself to become the person you want to be, but you can’t sit and wait for it.

No one is going to come at any stage to inform you of the best times to write, or to let you know whether or not it’s going to be worth it. No one is going to give you opportunities unless you work your ass off and then kick down doors while hunting for them.

Show up for your life, show up for that new project of yours, take responsibility for your actions and remember that your whole success depends on you, how hard you work and the choices you make. 

5) I write what you want to write about, not what I “should” be writing about.

If you are ever directing your writing life towards what’s “traditional”, “normal” or “trending”, pause and reflect.

As a creative, you need to avoid these words like the plague. You should always take risks with your creativity, and operate under the idea that nothing is impossible - because that’s where great things happen. 

You can’t limit your dreams based on only what you consider possible, or only on what’s been done before. If you did, you’d never stretch yourself as an individual, you’d never grow, and you’d always end up compromising in your life. Also, you’d hate writing because it wouldn’t stir your soul.

Too many people in the world are trying to be average and ordinary in this world already, there’s no need to add to the crowd.