Agatha Christie preferred to work in a large Victorian bath whilst eating apples. Benjamin Franklin would work naked for an hour every morning. Dame Edith Sitwell would lie down in a coffin finding inspiration in the claustrophobic and restrictive space. Does this mean we should emulate the greats and lie naked in a coffin and eat apples?
Are eating apples really the secret to what made Agatha so productive, creative and successful?
Human beings by their nature are essentially lazy; seeking short-cuts, easy solutions and full instruction manuals. That’s why our facebook feeds are stuffed with articles titled: Ten Ways to Make Money like Warren Buffet, Ten Ways to Be A Success Like Steve Jobs and How To Earn 100k As A Writer and Live The Dream.
Very few people want to be a pioneer. It’s hard work, it’s a risk and it’s very lonely. Having to think for yourself takes energy, and makes us tired. Eugh. Let me turn the TV on instead.
We believe that by eating only fruit like Steve (from Apple), having a 2pm siesta like Mark (from Facebook) or wearing the same clothes every day like Tony (from Zappos) will – by some form of magical osmosis – make us more creative, entrepreneurial and successful.
The danger in emulating other peoples routines and habits, is that it might suppress our own quirks and individualism, which is where creativity comes from. It’s your own unique interpretation. Not everyone is designed to be an early starter, just as (in my belief) not everyone has a natural metabolism suited for vegetarianism (eating lots of beans = having less friends). You should listen to your own body, your own mind and most importantly your own intuition as to what works best for you.
I wholeheartedly recommend studying how others have made a success as a foundation. Once you have the basic knowledge and technique the only way to become great yourself is to get on with it. Experiment, fail, experiment, fail, try, mess it up, fail, work hard, again, again and again until one day, you get it right. (Maybe.)
It doesn’t matter how many rituals, routines or dress codes you follow there is only one way to become more creative and that is to simply do the work. Writing every day will make you infinitely better at the craft rather than worrying about where your desk should be positioned or what colour your flip-flops are. Drawing for several hours every day is the only way to be an accomplished illustrator and not obsessing over which design package and Wacom tablet you are using. (FYI my mouse is about 12 years old and belongs in a museum.)
I’ve always had a natural talent for drawing and spent most of my life doing so. I thought I was pretty good. Then I had a stint as a shadow artist (I must have been good to get the job). I was drawing a popular cute stuffed bear and bunny for literally nine hours every day. Up to this point I had been sketching for over 25 years and even I was amazed as to how much impact this had on my ability in such a short amount of time. Ultimately though, the saccharine nature meant it wasn’t sustainable employment for my temperament.
It’s easy to become trapped in ‘analysis paralysis’ or to over-plan and forget to execute. We are so in love with how easy thinking is that we fail to do the required minimum of effort. It’s seductive to read a listicle that claims easy steps to be an entrepreneur and believe we are now half-way there.
Don’t waste your time trying to be like Steve, Mark or Elon. Do your own thing, find your own way and celebrate your own quirks and patterns.
You don’t become a thought leader by thinking. You become an expert by doing.
I’m off to buy some apples.