This is a guest post from contributor Zia Hassan. I have known Zia as a friend for years – we went to college together at American University. Throughout time, he has always been an inspiration in his creativity. As a songwriter, guitarist, and singer, Zia is always bringing more light into the world and he has a lot to share. If you are interested in collaborative projects, I encourage you to take a look at the project he completed for his 25th birthday this year – Collision. The Collision project and performance benefited Haiti Relief. Proceeds from the soundtrack will go to Words, Beats, and Life. Proceeds from the book will go to Hollaback DC.
How to Get Into the Best Creative Shape of Your Life
Getting into the best creative shape of your life is hard work. It’s comparable to the challenge of getting physically fit. Most fitness experts recommend a healthy lifestyle, which promotes permanent, long-lasting changes. Living a healthy lifestyle also means that you can’t be as focused on immediate results as you would be if you were doing P90X or the Southbeach diet, but it means that you’re attacking the problem of your current unhealthy lifestyle from all relevant angles.
The same concepts used in developing a “fit” lifestyle can be applied when designing a creatively fit lifestyle. For instance:
1. Eat nutritious foods. Devour as much relevant content as possible. This means skimming the fat by deleting RSS feeds that don’t inspire you or give you new perspective. it means un-following those Tweeps who just post their daily meals. It also means seeking out as much knowledge as possible in the offline world, as well. If you meet someone who is successful (in whatever field), ask them what they did to get what they have and try to apply it to your own work. Just like in the dieting world, it’s important not to get obsessive about this. Watch stupid YouTube videos occasionally. It’s just important to make sure that this part of the plan doesn’t consume your entire life, or you’ll never get around to actually creating.
2. Work out regularly. Sit down at the same time every day, and do your work. Creative work doesn’t get done if you sit around all day dreaming about it. Get something onto paper, even if it’s absolutely terrible. If you can do this, you’ve already made progress. You wouldn’t give up on the gym just because you couldn’t bench press immediately, right? You may start noticing, after you develop this habit, that inspiration starts to strike (coincidentally) the minute you pick up your pen in the morning.
3. Rest. This is two-fold. First, you need to actually rest. As in, sleep. 8-9 hours a night. You can’t be possibly be as perceptive as you need to be in order to be creative if you’re running on 4.5 hours of sleep. No, coffee won’t help. Second, take breaks from creating. Don’t try to write a novel in one day. If your mental energy gets you as far as half a page, don’t over-exert your creative muscles or you’re looking at injury. And mental injury is much more difficult to recover from.
4. Muscle confusion. This is a term used in the fitness world for mixing up your exercise routine. If you do the same thing every day, your body learns to adapt and you end up on a plateau. Same goes for your creative work. Try writing a country song if you normally do hip-hop. Color in neon green. Take a photo in black-and-white. The more things you try, the more you stimulate your mind.
5. Ditch the treadmill and run outside. Seek out new experiences. Be curious. Sticking to your same old routine will only keep your mind stagnant. Go to art galleries, concerts of musicians you’d normally never go to, movies you’d never see, places you’d never visit. If you stick to the same old routine, it’s a lot like being on a treadmill at a gym every day. You don’t want to run in place, creatively.
6. Stop calorie counting. Sure, calories counting can help you lose weight, but it can also suck the joy out of the “getting fit” process due to constant over-analysis. When comes to being in creative shape, you don’t want to be a meticulous perfectionist. I know a few perfectionists and the one thing they have in common is that they rarely produce creative output. Being a perfectionist about your creative work can suck the joy out of the creation process to the point at which you give up entirely.
7. Habits first, equipment later. Some people think that if they buy an expensive piece of exercise equipment or a really expensive gym membership, that the money they spent will motivate them to work out regularly. The truth is: paying for an expensive tool won’t automatically produce work of quality or frequency. You won’t take more pictures just because you bought that super expensive Nikon. You won’t write better songs with that 3,000 dollar Taylor. Pick up your point and shoot and go for it. Make recordings on your iPhone’s voice recorder. Get into the habit first, and when you’re producing a steady stream of output, you’ll know be able to justify the cost of that new condenser microphone.
The obvious lesson here is that living a creative lifestyle is not actually about being creative. It’s about forming habits that will end up making you more receptive to the connections in the world around you, and as a by-product, you’ll end up being more creative.
Now go, go, go!
Zia is a songwriter, music producer, and tech geek. Hear his music, read his blog, and follow him on Twitter @ziasami.