What inspires you to write?
What makes your creative juices flow?
Is it the aroma of fresh coffee at Starbucks—the low din of background voices, the cushy chairs and the soft music that rev you up?
Or is it a fresh page in a new notebook or writing journal?
How about sitting on a deck overlooking a beautiful mountain view?
Now for the reality smack down:
How much more, or better, do you write while drinking overpriced coffee sitting in a plushy chair than you do at home? (BTW, when did Starbucks last clean that chair? Just saying.)
And when you break open that Amazon package containing your new Moleskin or Papyrus journal, do you suddenly become inspired to write?
Do you have time to wait for your next vacation to take in that mountain view and start your novel? Or the blog post you’ve been ruminating about for months?
Dear ones, I deliver this message to myself as much as I do to you, when I say:
Don’t tell me you can’t get inspired.
No coffee shop, notebook or mountaintop is going to do the writing for us.
So how do we get inspired?
Good question. For starters, I believe inspiration is a loaded word. It’s loaded because it’s wrapped up in thoughts and feelings. Thoughts and feelings are not reliable. Thoughts and feelings don’t get the job done. So let’s set our thoughts and feelings aside for the moment.
Remember the old Nike slogan “just do it”? It’s totally brilliant in its simplicity. But here’s the catch. Have you heard of the 5 Second Rule created by Mel Robbins? She introduced it in a TEDx talk called How to Stop Screwing Yourself Over, which has been viewed more than 11 million times. Here’s Mel’s one-liner definition of the 5 second rule:
If you have an impulse to act on a goal, you must physically move within 5 seconds or your brain will kill the idea.
But I propose we must take the 5 Second Rule even further. We must ELIMINATE the 5 seconds that your brain (thoughts and feelings) might take to screw you over! If I’m chin-deep in a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey no 5 second rule will trigger an impulse to take action!
So how do we do that? How do we stop the procrastination, the excuses and the inertia from insuring we never achieve our goals?
The only method with a reliable track that leads to success with ANY GOAL is—da da ta da!!!
Form good habits
There’s no secret sauce here, I’m afraid. Habits are created over time. After a while you don’t question them, just like you don’t question why you brush your teeth. Set yourself up with a habit or routine, schedule it in your calendar, assign it high importance, and make it a top priority EVERY DAY.
Habits and routines can make you succeed at just about anything. Yes, talent and inspiration have their place, but they’re elusive. And so what if you don’t become THE BEST? You’ll get better, that’s for dang sure.
If you have a burning desire to write, keep at it. Even when you’ve got nothing to say or you’re certain your own words suck. Do it anyway. Make a commitment to yourself to write every day. Take a lesson from Jerry Seinfeld and don’t break the chain.
Google “don’t break the chain” and you’ll find dozens of articles, apps and calendars. The premise is simple. Get a calendar. Mark a big red “X” over every day that you perform your habit. After a few days you’ll see a chain emerge; your job is to not break the chain. (BTW, Seinfeld has been quoted as saying this is the dumbest non-idea that was not his, but he gets the credit for popularizing it).
One more thing. Make certain when you choose a habit that it’s do-able. Write for 15 minutes a day. Exercise for 10 minutes a day. Practice piano for 20 minutes a day. Do 3 Duolingo lessons a day. You get the idea.
Tools to Help You Form Habits
750 Words is an online tool to help you make a habit of writing. And it’s exactly what it says: you use it to write 750 words a day. 750 words began as a free site but it now costs $5 to join after using it for 30 days.
Its creator, Buster Benson, calculated that 750 words is approximately the length of three pages. He was influenced to create this tool by a book called The Artist’s Way that was popular in the 90s. The Artist’s Way recommended using “morning pages” to spark creativity—to get ideas out of your head and written down first thing in the morning when your brain is fresh.
For me it doesn’t matter what time of day you write or practice a habit, just do it daily.
There are a gazillion to choose from but the apps below repeatedly appear on top ten lists of apps for forming good habits. It’s a matter of preference: how many functions and widgets you need, whether you want an app that’s free, etc. Again, the word of the day here is uncomplicated—pick one you find easy to use that you can stick with.
Habit Bull is a free app available on both iOS and Android. It bills itself as based on Seinfeld’s productivity secret, as well as the book The Power of Habit. You can use it to form habits and goals, and track your progress. It provides an array of categories such as Health & Fitness, Sleep, and Money. It’s got a good FAQ section for getting the most out of the app.
Strides is available for free in the App Store and you can also download it to your computer. On iOS it has a nicely laid out dashboard and uses cute little icons for popular habits like Exercise, Sleep, and Journal. Or you can name your own goals.
Productive is free on iOS. I like that it separates goals into morning, evening, and do any time. The free version is limited and you need to upgrade to the premium version if you want to receive reminders or track stats. The premium version is currently $3.99.
Momentum Habit Tracker
Also billed as based on Seinfeld’s productivity secret, the Momentum Habit Tracker is an app available only for iOS. It, too, allows you to choose from several categories of daily habits, or you can create your own. The free version limits you to three habits a day. I didn’t find this app very intuitive on my iPad but perhaps the experience is different on an iPhone. I’d give it a try since it’s often near the top of those top-10 lists.
The Miracle Morning
Mr. Groovy uses Hal Elrod’s Miracle Morning as his tool for forming good habits. While I’m still in REM sleep he’s up at 5:30am, reading, writing, and working out. Miracle Morning has been a game changer for him.
Based on a book by the same name, the premise of Miracle Morning is to develop a morning routine that packs the most important daily activities into your schedule before 8am. You start the day with winning!
You can find a condensed, 6-minute Miracle Morning routine on Hal Elrod’s website along with information on all his books, podcast, and videos of his keynote speaking engagements. He
built an empire built up a series of individual books tailored specifically to realtors, salespeople, college students, entrepreneurs, etc. His Miracle Morning for Writers has glowing reviews on Amazon.
TED Talk Lists
This list includes gems from Matt Cutts, Dean Ornish, and seven others. It covers a range of topics for building good habits, and starts off with Judson Brewer’s A Simple Way to Break a Habit.
I haven’t viewed any of these talks yet but I’m excited to see Tim Urban made the list with his Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator. Tim is the brains behind a popular website I recently learned of called Wait But Why.
After telling you repeatedly you don’t need to be inspired to write, I want to share with you what actually inspired me to write this post.
Check out this photo:
If I added this to a collection of photos of sandy beaches, glorious rainbows, and brilliant sunsets, and asked you which view inspires you the most—you wouldn’t choose this view of paint buckets, would you?
Well, someone has.
Our friend Jillian from Montana Money Adventures faces this view of paint buckets when she sits down to write. How do I know this? Recently Mr. Groovy and I made a trip to Montana and were fortunate enough to get an invite to Jillian’s home. As she gave us a tour, she pointed out her “writing chair” that tickled me to no end. Jillian settles down in that chair with a cup of grocery store tea, and her laptop, and she writes away. She creates most of her posts and the content for her new classes sitting in that chair with that view.
You might wonder why Jillian chose that view and the answer is very uncomplicated. Opposite those buckets is a small corner of Jillian’s basement just big enough to fit her armchair. It’s a place where her five young children cannot see mommy if she tucks in her legs and feet. That spot gives her privacy and quiet time.
When I looked at those buckets it was as if a blivet knocked me over the head! (You can take the girl out of Brooklyn but you can’t take Brooklyn out of the girl.) Jillian doesn’t need a perfect atmosphere, a mountain view (although she’s minutes away from spectacular views), or Starbucks coffee to write. She developed the habit of writing! All she needs is a space where ten little feet, hands, and eyes won’t find her. It’s pure genius!
But I’ll let you in on a little secret. Some days, even tucked away in that corner of the basement, Jillian can’t avoid detection. One of her kids might tenaciously seek her out and then, whoops, there goes the writing. And so I wondered—what does Jillian do when she gets interrupted one too many times, and the frustration builds?
And then I stumbled upon the answer. Also tucked away in the corner of Jillian’s basement is her secret. It’s stashed away in her bathroom cabinet and brought out only when she needs the big guns.
I swear, I wasn’t snooping.
Make sure to check out Mr. Groovy’s post 10 Unusual Signs You’re Kicking Butt Financially (recently featured on Rockstar Finance) which includes photos of our Montana trip. Also, don’t miss Jillian’s starring role as Guest Picker on this episode of Talking Trash With Mr. Groovy. And finally, please let me know the creative ways you’ve come up with to form good habits in the comments.