9 Things You Can Do To Be An Enthusiastic Creator

I came across this great post over at Pick The Brain called The Ten Habits of Passionate People.  While these habits are applicable to anyone, I think that they're particularly relevant for creative people.

I thought I'd go through the list and write a bit about how they relate to creators generally and musicians specifically.  By the way, that's a picture of Steve Vai up there, if he's not the world's most passionate guitarist, he's at least the world's most passionate looking guitarist.

Note: My list has 9 items instead of 10 because #1 on their list is to "wake up early."  That's advice only the criminally insane can give. 

1.  Listen Vigorously  

The best musicians listen to everything.  I remember reading an interview with the aforementioned Steve Vai where he spoke about his love of Jimmy Page, Frank Zappa & The West Side Story Soundtrack.  You should keep your antennae open.  My love of Def Leppard eventually led to instrumental rock guitarists like Vai, which led to Progressive Rock, which diverted to classical music and jazz, which led back to The Beatles, which led to Folk singer/songwriters, which led to modern pop/punk, which eventually got me back to Def Leppard. :-) The point is, you'll discover that all music is connected and you can learn from and enjoy it all.  To quote Duke Ellington: "There are two kinds of music.  Good music, and the other kind."

2.  Simplify 

If you have things in your life that don't make you happy, make you money or relate to your passion in any way, then get rid of them.  Most of us need to keep working our day jobs, but if you take a close look at your life, you'd be surprised how much bullshit you've committed yourself to.  I find that simplifying often means saying no.  Say no to everything that doesn't contribute to the work that you want to do.  I've gotten really good at saying no, and you know what?  Most people are totally cool with you saying no to their project.  The ones that aren't are almost always dip shits.  To be concise: Simplifying = Pissing Off The Dip Shits.

3.  Slow Down

In our quest to be productive, we often clutter our brains with so much crap that we are incapable of producing anything.  One of my favorite things to do is to stop what I'm working on, put on some good music and just walk around my room in a circle.  Sounds silly, but moving around and not working on anything specific really helps to clear the cobwebs in your brain, or brain-webs, as I like to call them.  Sometimes, you've got to take the time to exterminate those brain spiders because they will definitely fuck your shit up.  Plus, only one third of the population believes that walking around in a circle is a sign of insanity.  Fortunately, it's the same third of the population who get mad at you for saying no to their project, and as we've already discussed, those people are dip shits.

4.  Workout

Physical exercise really does aid your creativity.  It's an even more effective way to eradicate the brain spiders than walking around in a circle.  Plus it's more socially acceptable.  But seriously, the benefits of working out are legion.  If you're vain like me, when you look better, you feel better.  When you feel better, you're more creative.  It's just solid math people.  

5.  Practice Daily

I relay this story often, but when I was in high school and college, I had a big piece of poster board on my bedroom wall.  The top of the chart listed every day of the month.  The left side of the chart listed everything that I wanted to work on: Scales, arpeggios, sequences, finger-picking exercises, etc.  I'd check off everything that I'd practice and I'd list the metronome speed that I'd practice each example at.  Not only did this hold me accountable for practicing everything that I needed to work on, it was also visual proof that I was improving.  Side note: chicks find dudes who utilize practice charts made out of poster board to be incontrovertibly sexy. 

6.  Network

Look, creating your art in a monastery kind of blows.  The purpose of making something is to share the human experience with other, you know... humans.  While focusing too much on social media can impede your creative process, I've found that connecting with other creative types through Twitter and Facebook to be an inspiring and validating experience.  Plus, how am I supposed to know what you're eating for lunch if I'm not on Twitter?

7.  Keep A Gratitude Journal

I recently started keeping a Gratitude Journal on my Google+ account.  It's easy to focus on what you're not accomplishing.  If you sit down at night and list 5 things about your day that you're thankful for, you'd be surprised by how much you're actually getting done.  That positive feeling starts to carry over into the next day and sets you up to be even more productive and enthusiastic. 

8.  Be Prolific

Enthusiastic people constantly produce.  Is there any better feeling than discovering a new band or singer/songwriter and realizing that they already have 10 albums out for you to go back and explore?  We should all strive to create a large body of work.  People take you more seriously when they see that you have a history of producing.  Be a consistent craftsman, not a dilettante... or a debutante ... or a Tauntaun.  No one likes upper class young women... or smelly pack animals from Hoth.

9.  Have A Blog

A blog is a great vehicle for working out the things that are important to you.  You can use a blog to release written articles, podcasts, videos and new songs.  It's also a great way to get feedback from your community.  Many of my favorite content creators like Chuck Wendig and John Scalzi run very active blogs.  Their enthusiasm comes through in every word that they write and they've built vibrant communities around their work and the work of other talented creators.  What could be better than that? 

Can you think of any other habits that enthusiastic creators possess?  List them in the comments below. 


  1. I love this post! Great list John, and fantastic humorous asides :) (I guess I'm criminally insane, because I have to get up early to write or it doesn't happen)

    1. Thanks Nicole! I actually used to get up early all of the time. Unfortunately, with child care and work schedules, it is impossible for me to get up before everyone else. I'd love to do it though. If our schedule changes, I'll definitely get back in that habit.

  2. Nice post. I tend to get stuck in three, so I will have to try the circle walking.

    Another thing that creative people do is to not let perfectionism stop their creativity. It is easy to get hung up on a detail, a color, a word or a note and let that stand in the way of your creation.

    1. Agreed. I alternate between hyper-editing of my work (My "Steampunk Girl" and "Empire State" songs took 2 months to record, each) and letting things go a bit more ("Let Your Geek Flag Fly" took 2 hours to record). I think the key is to find a balance.

  3. Really good stuff here, John. I'm very interested it doing the Gratitude Journal. I like to focus on the positive things vs. the negative and do believe that doing so takes some effort on certain days. I also wonder how many things that I should be thankful/grateful for slip by unnoticed because I'm not focusing in that direction. Really great idea.

    1. Thanks Carl. I've been getting a lot out of doing the Gratitude Journal. Hope it helps you.

  4. The best musicians listen to everything.

    Just as the best writers read everything. Agreed!

    (The rest of this list is just as excellently applicable across creative endeavors...)

    1. Thanks Paul! That was the idea. I'd recommend checking out the original post that inspired mine over at Pick The Brain. I think you'll dig it.