The Three-Legged Stool of Creativity

(edited)

Daily Writing
Part One of a three-part series on helping creativity flow

Leg_1
Leg One – Daily Writing

The way to be any kind of writer is to write, and to write regularly. Just ask Stephen King, who writes about 2000 words a day, sun or rain, winter or summer. I think he might have missed a few days when he was hit by a minivan, but otherwise, he writes.

This blog is what you call a case in point. I started it largely because I need the practice, and vowing to post at least twice a week up gives me regular deadlines to meet outside of November (aka National Novel Writing Month).

Actually, though, I’ve been writing daily since shortly after my first NaNoWriMo. I write at least 750 words a day, thanks to the web site called, funnily enough, 750words.com.The guy who started it, Buster Benson, read a book called The Artist’s Way.

artistsway-250x300
From Julia Cameron’s website

In case you’re unfamiliar with the book, the author, Julia Cameron, recommends that anyone who is having any sort of trouble with their creativity should make a practice of rolling out of bed (or not; you could just as easily do this in bed) and making a three page journal entry first thing in the morning. You needed to write, as fast as you could, making no judgment at all about what you were writing.

There’s something stress-relieving about writing pretty much any old crap that spills out of your mind. I tried this practice myself, back somewhere around 1995 or so. What I found was that once I was done writing those 3 pages, I was done writing for the rest of the day. Maybe that’s because it takes so long to write by hand and my penmanship is so gruesome that I could never make any sense of it later. I quit doing it for quite a while, but a few years back I heard about 750 Words which was started as a way to do your morning pages online, and it changed my life.

Okay, it changed my habits, but that’s a first step, right? Since September of 2011, I’ve written 842,346 words on the site. I never thought I’d keep up the habit, but the site lets you earn badges for writing streaks of varying lengths, as well as other behaviors like writing quickly or making a donation to the site.

badge.pegasus
My Latest Badge

I’m a sucker for swag, even the virtual variety. I have my eye on the Space Bird badge, which you earn for a 500-day streak. I should have it already, but I missed posting one day a year or so back. It was during NaNoWriMo, so I actually wrote that day; I just forgot to paste the words into the 750 words site so I could get credit for them. I had to start over again from the beginning. Boy, did I feel like a doofus!

750 Words also provides a lot of interesting metrics about what you’ve written; that’s how I know about the 842,346 words I’ve written there so far.

I’m sure there are other ways to help yourself get into the habit of the writing. One of my writing friends is trying the “Don’t Break the Chain” method, and other swear by HabitRPG. I haven’t tried either site, but they sound useful and/or fun. I never underestimate the power of fun little rewards, even if they’re as silly as badges, just to keep me going.

The point is: I write daily. I recommend it to anyone who’s trying to be both creative and productive.

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8 thoughts on “The Three-Legged Stool of Creativity

  1. Steve

    You’re a machine! Rapidly approaching the million theoretical words it takes for mastery. I’d tell you to keep it up, but you obviously don’t need me to spur you on!
    BTW, The Magic Spreadsheet is also gaining popularity. Just Google it and it pops up with an association to Mur Lafferty (she didn’t invent it, but she’s promoted it).
    Gotta hit the keyboard now…

    Reply
  2. Brian Cable

    Are you doing one leg of creativity per post? It wasn’t quite clear that’s what you were doing, so I scanned the article a few times looking for the other two legs. Personally I would make that clear in the beginning.

    I read part of the Artist’s Way. It seemed like a long book for advice that basically boiled down to “do something in your art every day”. I did do the morning pages for awhile and enjoyed the process, but I couldn’t keep up the habit. I had the same problem with 750 words (HabitRPG looks interesting, but I bet I’ll have the same issue keeping up with it as I do everything else).

    I also wouldn’t ever publish most of what went into the morning pages. I’d have to keep most of those thoughts private. But they’re fun to look over again, and I agree they do tend to help relieve stress. The one thing I got out of David Allen’s Getting Things Done book is there’s a lot of stress involved with keeping all your thoughts and ideas and plans active in your mind and that there’s real value in just getting them out on paper so your mind doesn’t have to actively try to remember it constantly. I think that may be part of what you’re feeling when you’re doing the 750 words a day thing. I’m glad you can keep at it.

    Reply
    1. brennancm Post author

      Thanks for your thoughts, Brian. I think you picked up most of what Cameron and Allen were saying, though I do plan to reference Cameron again in the third post/leg- as you guessed, one leg per post; sorry that wasn’t clear. Anyway, Cameron does have a bit more to offer, I think. I’m dealing with some family issues right now, but hope to have leg two up later this week and leg three early next week. Also found an interesting post (Robbie Blair) on building a writing habit. You might enjoy this: http://litreactor.com/columns/write-every-day-in-2014-14-steps-for-forming-a-writing-habit. Cheers!

      Reply
  3. Kirsten

    I started doing morning pages at 750 words as well and it helped me so much! I’ve since moved my 750 words habit off line, but whenever I’m especially stuck, it never fails to write everything and anything in those words to get it out of my head. Story inspiration almost never fails to follow.
    Great idea for a blog post series! I’m off to check out the other two legs. 🙂

    Reply
    1. brennancm Post author

      Thanks, Kirsten. Yes, I don’t know how productive 750 words makes me in the short run; some days I just blather about nothing. But writing every day does keep me focused on the process, and I’m sure I write more fiction than I would have otherwise.
      I’m enjoying your blog, too, BTW. I can really relate to some of your struggles!

      Reply
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