I’m working on a morning creativity routine. My current routine is a bit haphazard. I’ve gotten to where it’s flexible enough to move things around depending on what I want to work on that morning and whether or not I’ll be heading to the gym or not.
I learned that turning the flexibility dial all the way up on a routine makes it no longer a routine. So I usually start the morning deciding what I should do. I’m trying to fix that.
I want something I can do first thing in the morning, every morning. I want to generate ideas and get rid of the monkey mind by doing a morning mind dump. It shouldn’t be going toward a specific or podcast. It might generate ideas, and some might go toward future posts or podcast episodes. It doesn’t have to though.
I’ve recently been listening to the The Three Month Vacation Podcast by Sean D’Souza of psychotactics. That site covers a lot of topics but across it as a suggestion for learning about copywriting. One episode covers the importance of using timers when writing.
I’ve used timers in the past and found them effective. Timers will also be really helpful for the morning routine. If anything, they’re a great signal to remember that good enough is good enough.
This morning creativity routine has two main parts: writing and drawing. I’m going to try making each of them ten minutes. Each ten-minute session will have five rounds of 2 minutes. It’s somewhat related to the Crazy 8s sketching activity that’s used often in design sprints. From Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky, and Braden Kowitz in Sprint:
Crazy 8s forces you to push past your first reasonable solutions and make them better, or at least consider alternatives. And before you get the wrong idea, the “crazy” in Crazy 8s refers to the pace, not the nature of the ideas. Forget about the traditional brainstorm advice to be goofy. We want you to focus on good ideas—the ones you believe will work and help you hit your goals—and use Crazy 8s to tweak and expand on those good ideas.
The interval timer is a reminder that you’re going broad.
Writing with a keyboard (10 minutes)
The canonical Morning Pages from The Artist’s Way is strict: 3 handwritten 8.5″ x 11″ pages written with no intention of them being read. Not even by you. Better that you burn the pages. It can be therapeutic to set your filter to 0%. I’m modifying a little bit with some inspiration from Scott Dikkers in How To Write Funny:
No one’s going to see this writing. The important thing is to keep your fingers moving. Don’t stop to think, don’t stop to correct typos. Just keep writing until the half-hour timer beeps. Since your focus is humor writing, one tweak I suggest to this exercise is to gently guide your mind to think amusing, funny thoughts while you write (but it’s worth repeating that you still must write without judgment—even if you think what you’re writing is terribly unfunny, you must keep writing). If you find it too difficult to guide yourself toward writing amusing things, that’s a valuable discovery.
You try to skew it to things that amused you recently. It creates a notebook you can go through for future material. It goes directly against the capital-M capital-P Morning Pages. I’ll call this phase free writing.
I’ll write in Evernote, hopefully building up a database of my own thoughts. This is mostly inspired by Josh Waitzkin, author of The Art of Learning. On Tim Ferriss’s podcast, he asks Josh how he journals:
I do it on Evernote and then I tag everything thematically, which is hugely important for me. I have all of my journals and all of the resources that I find valuable tagged thematically and through habits in the language of my training process. This is incredibly powerful for being able to give people resources. For me, reviewing the ideas without having recency bias impede how I communicate.
In the future he has that built-up database as a reference for his writing or his work with clients. He wants to avoid recency bias, and the tagged database of thoughts helps him find past research and writing on that theme instead of prioritizing recent material.
Brainstorm with a Pencil (10 minutes)
The other half of the morning creativity routine will be brainstorming inside Notability, which is just about my favorite iPad app. I use the term brainstorming since it’s a mix of words and drawing. While I’m straying from some parts of Morning Pages, I agree there’s definitely something about writing by hand. Julia Cameron in The Miracle of Morning Pages:
“Julia, you say ‘moving our hand across the page.’ Must I really write pages longhand? I’m so much faster on the computer.”
Again, yes. Pages must be done longhand. The computer is fast—too fast for our purposes. Writing by computer gets you speed but not depth.
Writing by computer is like driving a car at 85 mph. Everything is a blur. “Oh, my God, was that my exit?” Writing by hand is like going 35 mph. “Oh, look, here comes my exit. And look, it has a Sonoco station and a convenience store.”
Though I’ll be swapping the pen for a capital P Pencil.
Particularly in this case since it opens up more spatial thinking than typing ever could.
Free writing comes first because the constraint of just using words makes it easy to just get started. If you show up to a track with the intention of doing one lap in a lane, no problem. You might vary the speeds but it’ll be foot in front of the other.
The brainstorming half removes the lane. Let’s change the goal to working out however you want on the track. And you know what, you can also do whatever you want in the field.
Sharing along the way
That’s how I’ll start. I have different templates in Notability right now. One gives me 5 blocks with an image a text area. Another is a landscape oriented storyboarding template. Some days I’ll try Crazy 8s. This portion is shareable so I’ll going to look into creating a Sketchbook section on this site to make sharing easy.
The output of these could be post ideas for the future, but they don’t have to be. I just have to be creative everyday. Preferably first thing in the morning.