Use two skills that all creatives should crave.
I’ve learned a valuable lesson repeatedly over the last 20 years: all good ideas somehow start with my wife.
I realized this, again, sitting in a cozy nook at a local bookstore. I was part of a small audience, listening to best-selling author Gregg Hurwitz. It was my wife’s idea, of course, to start reading his books. He read a passage from his latest book, then took questions from the group.
I sat mesmerized for over two hours.
Here was a person who has used his creativity to make a healthy living, and was sharing his best advice on how he does it.
He covered how he researches his characters, how he is working on a TV show, how his background in Shakespeare and Jungian psychology helps him, how he worked for Marvel and DC Comics, how he formed a relationship with Jordan Peterson, and how a crazy ending in the latest Orphan X story was all part of his original plan when pitching the book.
He is a creative powerhouse, having written and sold his first novel at age 20, and then having written a new book every single year since.
There is one statement from Gregg, however, that consumes my thoughts right now. I heard him mention it in a recent interview.
He said there are two skills that he craves. Having those two skills allows him to be creative for long periods. Having these two skills allows him to write for nearly 10 hours every day.
Creativity is a muscle, Gregg said, that needs to be exercised again and again. And the best way to exert those muscles is to have the two skills that Gregg craves.
Once I heard Gregg discuss these two skills, I started to crave them, too.
1. Don’t Fear Failure
The first skill that Gregg Hurwitz craves is this: don’t fear failure.
It’s okay to fail. When you are creating, it is okay to fail. It’s even okay to have fear. But if we consistently move forward despite the fear of failure, then we can conquer the fear of failure.
This is how Gregg Hurwitz found a publisher for his first novel at age 20. And it is also how he can write a book a year. He is not afraid to write a book that fails, which allows him to write and publish often.
I certainly crave the ability to set aside fear and simply create. As someone who writes, that is an amazing skill.
For me, though, I can’t just tell myself to “stop fearing failure.” I have to break it down. How do we avoid fearing failure and what does it mean to act that way?
Years ago, a client came to me with an idea that I thought was completely stupid. It was for a mobile app. I did not tell my client my opinion, but trust me, it was stupid. I am even embarrassed to share it publicly.
Around the same time, another client sent me a screenplay to review. I thought it was a can’t miss project. A big name was close to being attached. It was exciting.
Guess who had the better idea?
The movie never happened. Funding vaporized. The actor backed out.
As for the app, it exploded. Huffington Post did a feature on it. Tens of thousands of downloads in a matter of days.
Most people who heard about the two ideas would have expected one to do better than the other — and they would have been wrong.
I learned a lesson: sometimes good ideas flop, and sometimes stupid ideas make tons of money. Who am I to pre-judge? The only way to truly judge an idea is to execute on it. Then we won’t need judgment. It will be obvious.
For Gregg, myself, and others, the fear of failure can be crippling. So let’s ditch it together, and just start to execute the creative ideas that we’re given.
2. Eliminate the Gap Between Wanting to Do Something and Doing It
The second skill that Gregg Hurwitz craves is the ability to eliminate the gap between wanting to do something and doing it.
As soon as he has an idea, he wants to execute.
This one resonated with me.
Many of us are idea people: people with good ideas — if we tried them. But the gap destroys the idea. Procrastination, delay, doubt, angst, or analysis paralysis take over.
Gregg’s creative output relies on him having an idea and then moving forward with that idea quickly and decisively. That is how he can publish a novel each year. And that is how his creativity becomes his source of income and fulfillment.
Gregg’s latest best-selling series started with a simple question: what would James Bond’s life look like if we saw him come home at night? He quickly turned that question into his novel Orphan X.
There are ideas and questions that I am asking that need to turn into real-life answers.
What if I turned a story that I’ve told my children a hundred times into a published children’s book?
What if I started a business based on people being discouraged by the volatility in the market?
What if I helped every person I saw in need?
What if I carved out 15 minutes a day to write?
What if I made a list of people that I care about and contacted them weekly to see how they’re doing?
What if I started a video series based on funny events that happen at my office or my home?
What if I took 10 minutes a day to memorize my favorite jokes, poems, chapters, verses, sayings, or quotes?
What if I went back to the sport that I loved when I was a teenager?
What if I surprised someone with a gift that he or she’s always wanted?
Those are all ideas. I’m sure you have some as well. And right now there’s a gap — the gap between the idea and the execution of that idea.
The Undeniable Idea
Avoiding the fear of failure and closing the gap between desire and doing isn’t necessarily enough, though.
While I listened to Gregg in person, he gave advice that supplements the two skills that he craves. He said you have to work on the right project. He also gave advice about how you figure out the next, right project. He said:
Work on your idea that is undeniable.
What idea can be executed right now? What idea cannot be denied? That is the project that you need to work on.
When he conceived of his latest book series, Orphan X, he could not stop thinking about a super-spy who attended neighborhood association meetings. He was consumed with seeing the contrast between a spy’s life and everyday, mundane life. It was undeniable to him.
Five books later, he’s still going. True to his own advice, the last sentence of the fifth book was his original idea before he wrote the very first book. He was consumed with an idea. He hasn’t stopped writing. The idea could not be denied.
In short, he believes creatives should crave two skills:
- Don’t fear failure. Avoid being crippled.
- Close the gap between desire and action. Kill the gap.
Then, work. Work on the idea that you have to work on — the idea that cannot be denied.
Mind Cafe’s Reset Your Mind: A Free 10-Day Email Course
We’re offering a free gift to all of our new subscribers as a thank you for your continued support. When you sign up using this link, we’ll send you tips on how to boost mental clarity and focus every two days.