Most creatives I know think they will get more done if they wait to be inspired. In fact, the opposite is true. But what if you could schedule inspiration?
“What gets scheduled gets done.” – Michael Hyatt
I love this quote. I’ve seen the truth of it play out over and over again. That morning workout I keep saying I’m going to start? It didn’t make the calendar and hasn’t started yet. The blog I’ve been putting off for two weeks? Not going to happen.
The same is true for your writing. If you’re waiting to feel inspired, you’ll never start. Inspiration is fleeting and often comes at the most inconvenient times. Most authors struggle between the extremes of staring at a blank screen during office hours and ditching the family gathering because they suddenly felt inspired.
The Science Behind Scheduling Creativity
Turns out, you can schedule creativity. On the flip side, too much stress will kill it. According to creativity researcher and psychology professor Dr. Jonathon Plucker, you have the power to develop and increase your creativity. “As strange as it sounds, creativity can become a habit. Making it one helps you become more productive.”¹
Psychologist Dr Robert Epstein recommends two key elements to developing the habit of creativity.² First, create routines of creativity. The second, develop practices that lead to a better overall well-being (so your brain can be creative when it’s time!) like getting enough rest, going outside, collaborating with others, and getting happy.
Creating a Writing Routine
So how do you develop a new habit, specifically one as elusive as creativity? Habits forms when new behaviors become automatic, through a three-step process. First, something cues your brain that the process has started. The time has come to be creative. Secondly, there is a routine or the habit, the behavior itself. Finally, there is the reward. Something your brain enjoys that will help it remember this routine in the future.³
- Create a creative writing habit—a time designated to your writing. The cue might be the place where you write. The place specifically set aside for writing. This could be a coffee shop or a home office, but no matter where it is, it needs to be the same place each time. When I first started writing, I set up a desk in a small unused closet. There wasn’t anything special about it, save that it had what I needed: a desk, a comfortable chair, and power.
- Schedule a routine time—it doesn’t have to be daily, but it should be regular. Irregular fits of writing, by definition are not routine. Same goes for long breaks between writing appointments. It needs to be regular, frequent, and on-going to become a habit.
Once you have the cue (designated writing place, or scheduled writing time), design the routine. Start writing. Don’t use this time to schedule appointments, read emails, or do anything other than writing. If you’re struggling for what to write about, or aren’t feeling especially creative, write in your journal—but do it at your writing time/writing place! This may feel like torture at first, but you are training your brain that when you sit down it’s time to be creative. It’s time to write. I promise your brain will get the hang of it!
Now it’s time to create a reward. This can be anything from a sweet treat to scrolling online (whatever suits you!). You’ve earned it!
Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day
It takes a long time to write a book. I realize that’s not profound, but I think sometimes we need to remind ourselves of reality. Books aren’t written in a month—well, not good books anyway. You’ll need to create a habit of creative writing to get it done. The good news is, if you take the time to create a writing routine, to schedule creativity, your brain will come ready to write, resulting in faster, better writing. You may be wondering, How will it be better? Faster I get, but better? The old adage is true, Practice makes perfect. When you follow a consistent writing routine, you will get better at writing just because you’re practicing regularly. Create a writing schedule and stick to it. You’ll be writing better and faster in no time.
1. Novotney, Amy, “The Science of Creativity,” American Psychological Association, January 2009, https://www.apa.org/gradpsych/2009/01/creativity
2. Novotney, Amy, “The Science of Creativity,” American Psychological Association, January 2009, https://www.apa.org/gradpsych/2009/01/creativity
3. Duhigg, Charles, “Habits: How They Form and How to Break Them,” NPR Author Interviews, March 5, 2012, https://www.npr.org/2012/03/05/147192599/habits-how-they-form-and-how-to-break-them