He was one of my favorite authors — and still is. Every time I pick up a book written by him, the words flow like water. It seems effortless.
I often asked myself why this is true. And the answer stands in front of me as clear as day, yet I shrug it off as if there’s something more. Andy Crouch simply writes how he speaks. He doesn’t have to make words more than what they are because it isn’t forced out of him.
Part of why we find our words cringe-worthy comes down to second-guessing ourselves. We think so hard about a topic or sentence that each remark carries a disconnect from the last. That’s when you know a flow is absent.
To break that habit, I recommend replacing it with a better one:
On not breaking the chain
Now, I didn’t say you needed to publish what you create the day it’s created. But you should definitely act on your ideas without getting in the way. And the best way to gain skill in anything is to come back to it again and again.
“For each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day. After a few days, you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day…Your only job next is to not break the chain.”
What we find is that our imaginative muscle becomes stronger. We begin to trust it more than we do someone else’s. Then we reinforce that action until we feel our work is both honest and complete enough to release into the world.
The “chain” here is defined by you.
It’s important to remember not to subscribe to one person’s definition of consistency. Their pace doesn’t equate to yours. So set (and break) the rules that work well for you.
I’ll give you an example. I used to believe that publishing every day was the only way to succeed as a writer. But I fell for a lie. You need to create as often as you are compelled to. You should also be willing to show up and throw your ideas onto an empty canvas.
Have you ever assumed an event or place would be the worst experience ever, then it turned out to be a life-changing celebration you can’t forget? Now imagine if you hadn’t gone inside. That’s what keeping the chain active and alive is all about — showing up for the creative experience of a lifetime.
Have an idea
This brings me to my next point: have an idea. While it is true that we all have something of value to share, it doesn’t automatically mean your words will magically fall into place. There must a source of “why” each time to sit down to construct your thoughts on paper or on screen.
But while many of us bring our ideas to the table, we often downplay them the moment we catch wind of someone else’s. This is especially true of a well-known, notorious person. We then believe our concepts won’t measure up to theirs.
How is little old me going to compete with them?
Thoughts like that usually come to mind. But therein lies the problem. It’s not about competing with anyone. It’s about sharing your ideas — in all of their uniqueness — with people who perhaps relate to a similar train of thought. And even if they don’t, it enlightens their perspectives. There’s beauty in that alone.
“The only thing to do with good advice is to pass it on. It is never of any use to oneself.” — Oscar Wilde
Set aside time to hash out what’s on your mind. Whether it’s five minutes or an hour, get your ideas out of your head and onto barren soil. Only then can you explore the mysteries that lie inside.
Dishonest production is self-deception
If you want to tell a story, don’t leave your true self on the curb. Sometimes we protect the version of ourselves that will change the course of humanity, or at least the people who come in contact with us. I know that sounds drastic, but it’s real.
For a long time, I second-guessed everything I wrote down. From the first word to the last one, I spent the majority of my time pressing backspace. I only kept what I thought would sit well with others. But it almost never sat well with me.
That’s the problem with relinquishing the flow of creativity. If we don’t let it run free, we will inevitably trade our unique imagination for synthetic bundles of letters.
So no, maybe you shouldn’t practice doing what you love the most.
Perhaps you should instead practice creating freely. Say that stupid-sounding sentence. Write that monotonous story. Sing that boring tune again. But this time, do it honestly without overthinking.
The art we pass on to others will blossom only when we take time to nourish it. Give your workflow the love it deserves, and don’t forget to do the same for yourself. You want to pave your path with so much grace that you cherish the mistakes along the way.
Those cloudy days are just as inspirational as the sunny ones when we see patterns in the tiniest of life’s nooks.
No one has to “inspire” you to create from this place. Your creative muscle will grow because you showed up with your idea, and you weren’t afraid to use it.
Kevin Horton is a 24-year-old photographer, student, modest bookworm, and wanna-be web developer with a new-found love for writing. He writes helpful words about creativity, productivity, and the enjoyably simple life.
Image courtesy of Anthony Shkraba.