If you want to write a novel, undoubtedly the best (and arguably only) way to do it is to write a few words every day.
This notion, of focusing on one small aspect of the work at a time, is powerful for motivating us, psychologists have shown. When we tackle any endeavor piece-by-piece, the benefits of doing so are tremendous.
A few small steps at a time allows us to invest just enough into the work that we don’t feel overwhelmed. Additionally, this approach allows us to see slow and steady progress, which keeps our momentum going enough to write the next few words or take the next few steps.
I believe tackling the pursuit of thinking creatively itself with a “brick-by-brick” mentality is just as important.
The best ideas do not happen suddenly, and we should not expect them to. Instead, we should expect to let ideas naturally evolve into their best form. In doing so, we not only increase the chances of stumbling on a creative idea, but we also allow ourselves to warm up to the idea that maybe, just maybe, we are as creative as we need to be.
So start small, with one step. Then another.
Ask a small question (“where does this come from?”) or take an incremental step (“what if we tried adding this instead of this?”) and work the evolution of your ideas/work to see where it leads you.
Some steps will seem like you took a wrong direction, or as though they lead to a dead end, but there are no dead ends in ideas, only opportunities to learn what doesn’t work and keep moving.
It’s nice just to be reminded of this approach once in a while I think.
Photo by Tim Green.