The Dangerous Five-Letter Word That Kills Your Creativity

Woman With a Gun - Kills Your CreativityWhile some have no problem turning their creativity on whenever they want, we other mortals have to find our own groove to make things happen.

In the last few weeks, I’ve come to realize that there’s something silently killing my creativity. It makes me want to crawl up into a ball and whimper.

The problem?

Rules.

Have-to’s, obligations and musts are a burden to my mind. They’re there reminding me of what you I have to do that I really don’t want to.

When you eliminate the obligation to do something, you’re more likely to do it.

And if not, then you’re not supposed to be doing it anyway, because you don’t want to.

The real reason I wrote this post is to make an official announcement. My schedule here on the Cloud has been three times a week: Monday, Wednesday and Friday. That’s going to end right now.

I’m getting rid of yet another shackle. This allows me to go with the flow. Some weeks I feel like writing, and others I feel like learning and absorbing.

It also allows me to write longer, and more mind-blowing posts. Does that mean I will? No promises ;).

Why Rules Are Bad

Rules force you to work within a confined space. When you really look at what rules are in your life, you’ll see that most of them are unnecessary and easily eliminated. Some are good, of course, but most aren’t.

When I published my first post in December 2009, I felt good about my schedule. It worked for several months, but something changed.

I’ve gone from enjoying writing to thinking “okay, I have to get another post out there.” I’m publishing posts because my schedule says so. If I were to keep doing this, I would grow sick and tired of it.

This happened to me when I was playing poker. The last few years I forced myself to play. I wanted more money. I ended up hating the game of poker. It’s been over a year since I’ve played a hand, and I still have absolutely no interest in it.

Shifting Gears

I’m at the point where I want to sit down and work on a post for hours, or even days to make it right. I also want to work more on my newsletter and on my own products.

I see no point in having a posting schedule. Experimentation is what I desire, and if this doesn’t work, I can always go back to my old ways, but I doubt I will.

Sure, many bloggers say that consistency matters, but does it really? If I go from three posts a week to one, is that enough for you to stop reading what I write? I’m pretty sure the answer is no. If it isn’t, then we probably weren’t a good match to begin with.

And does it really matter if I have more readers if I am doing something I don’t enjoy? I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have less readers and love what I do, than the opposite.

Just thinking about the idea of eliminating another unnecessary obligation from my life gets my creativity flowing.

There is no one way to succeed. When it comes to blog post frequency, you have bloggers across the whole spectrum. The only factor they have in common is that they are doing what works for them.

If the rules in your life aren’t working for you, get rid of them.

Be Your Own Master

Rules in and of themselves are not bad. It is only when they limit my potential that I start thinking about removing them from my life.

My blog is my playground. It’s a place for me to share my thoughts and experiences. In order to protect that, I will have to adjust and adapt.

It’s easy to get stuck in a rut, where you think about how you should write, what you should write about and how you can please people. It quickly becomes stale and void of fun.

It doesn’t matter if you post once a week or once a month, if you’re putting your passion out there and work hard, the right people will find you.

Be aware of the rules that silently rule your life. What do you think you have to do? What rules could you eliminate for more mental freedom?

Breathe, relax and stay awesome!

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Comments

  1. I have never followed rules well, I guess that is what makes me a better entrepreneur than an employee!

    I also have never followed a schedule, I refuse to do that and make my blog seem like a robot. I write when I am creative, or when I have something on my mind. Period.

    • A robot is a pretty rocking analogy. Some people can pull off the consistent schedule thing. I think one secret is to write in batches.

      Whenever you feel inspired, harness it and write 3-4-5 posts at a time. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Keith!

  2. There was a reason I didn’t post this last Monday. My next post is about this. You took the words right… out… of … my … brain :O

    Nice to know that we’re all evolving. It’ll make for a better blog.

  3. Henri,

    Love this idea. I’ve been kind of experimenting with this more and more lately. I’ll write 3-4 posts and then think “well, this is crap and I don’t have to publish anything.” I figure hell, I’m working on two big projects, 3 interviews a week so I could probably get away with publishing one decent article a week. Rules are basically meant to be broken. Nobody who achieved anything noteworthy ever really followed a set of rules. They created their own rules and followed those. Awesome Stuff.

    • Those are almost exactly the thoughts I had. I don’t have to burn myself out. What good am I then? It’s better to post one great post a week than post three and burn out.

      Thanks for stopping by, Srini! I’m loving the blogger interviews at BlogCastFM so far!

  4. Archan Mehta says:

    Henri,

    I am happy for you that you finally sorted out this issue in your life.

    I have been meaning to tell you–maybe to persuade or cajole you to see reason–but I trusted your judgment. It was a wise decision on your part: more power to you. And thanks for writing this post: it was illuminating to read.

    Just like Srini said, rules are meant to be broken. Every creative creates his/her own rules. And you keep on breaking old rules and create new ones as you forge ahead.

    Too often we trust “experts” just because they have fancy degrees from ivy league universities and have earned fame and fortune.

    Instead, we must learn to question, have a curious mind, and trust in our own judgment.

    Sticking to a plan is a bunch of baloney. You don’t really have to stick to any schedule or time-table. That’s just a self-imposed idea and then we are trapped within that paradigm. That can limit our potential. This has happened to me so many times in my life as well. I have never been the wisest person on earth!

    I could never sit down and write a poem/article just because somebody told me to or I had to stick to a plan. I have written my best stuff in moments of inspiration.

    We need to be guided by our feelings. We need to follow our intuition. We need to trust in our imagination. Go with the flow. Don’t write a certain number of posts just because you have promised your readers. I will read your posts whether you write one or ten per week…it really doesn’t matter to me, because I know your potential.

    That’s why scientists, artists and entrepreneurs always complain about the “moody blues.” On the other hand, those mood swings have often led to the most creative ideas and actions as well. Flow like the water which eludes your grasp. Cheers!

    • It can definitely be hard to even notice some of the rules you impose on yourself. A perfect example is my posting schedule. Keeping a consistent posting frequency can be important, so it probably scares people to let it free.

  5. Matt Cheuvront says:

    Rules? Important in their own right…but too many rules do nothing but hold you back from your true potential. If you’re not stepping outside the box and experimenting with new ideas from time to time, you’re really holding yourself back. Great reminder here my friend…

    • Couldn’t agree more. It can be hard to notice when unnecessary rules creep into your life, too. Thanks for stopping by, Matt!

  6. Great post Henri…I am in a similar space…the last few months I only write If I feel inspired…I am just too busy experiencing my life to the fullest…I only started blogging as a means to express my ideas from my own experiences….it’s easy to become attached to our blogs…but to me I write for myself, because I am sincerely trying to understand myself and the world…only If I understand myself can I assist others…but If all my time is spent online, how will I write from experience?…you see it all over the self improvement blogosphere… because of all the rules on what makes a successful blog everyone is just imitating others and getting burned out….everyone is just trying to please others and write on topics that everyone can relate to but that are not really adding any value or giving a fresh new perspective….I am interested to see where this whole self improvement niche is heading in the future…if it keeps growing at the rate it is we will have 10,000,000 Tony Robbins running around lol :)…sorry If I sound pessimistic :)…I just feel like everyone needs to quit watching others and just watch themselves…we are creativity so If we just watch ourselves things will be revealed on their own…

    P.S. What are your thoughts on the future of online business and everyone trying to live the online lifestyle?….I am interested to see what happens amidst the real possibility of a total collapse in the real offline economy… because without a real tangible economy how can the online world survive?….

    • I try not to speculate, because it’s impossible to know what will happen. There are so many variables. I’m feeling optimistic about the future though. I don’t know why, but I am. Will be interesting to see what the future holds, flying cars perhaps? ;)

    • Wow! What can I say?! Amazing how the Universe works and how funny we are to doubt. I was brought here through a recommendation from Jennifer Hart http://jenniferhartholistics.com/. Thank you Henri and Ivan for having the courage to speak the Voice and the awareness to know more of the Self. Keep on Pioneering the Only Wave. ;)

  7. Hi Henri – go you!
    Topi

  8. First of all, that is a friggin’ scary picture you have over there :D.

    Second, isn’t the whole idea of making living online about freedom? What good is a “freedom” for if you set yourself even more strict rules about what to do than a normal company would? That’s the problem that probably everyone faces sooner or later when working only for oneself. You can always achieve more by working more, but at some point that kind of life is not fun anymore, and the amount of money that comes with the additional effort is not worth it anymore if it sucks out all the fun parts of the life.

    Life is about enjoying it to the fullest, and if one is self-employed and has such a great opportunity to do whatever he or she wants, I think the spare time should be then valued even more and there should be lots of days to give oneself the opportunity to just relax and do nothing and feel good about it. I had the same problem when I was playing poker… it was fun and I earned easy money by playing it, but at some point I took it too seriously and forced myself to play too much, which made my life worse. Then I found the correct personal balance in life between work and having fun, which is for me pretty heavily weighted towards the “having fun”.

    Everyone goes through the same feelings, but wise people learn from the experience.

  9. Amen. Good for you.

  10. Hi Henri. I just found your website and I love it! I just started blogging and I feel like it might be more important to blog consistently at the beginning to build a relationship with your readers, and then maybe after they get to know you, less frequent posts might work. What do you think? I have been posting everyday, but some days the content flows, and other days it’s more like pulling teeth!

    • You may be right that consistency in the beginning is better. If nothing else, it builds up your archive fast and gives readers something to do.

      My philosophy is always to run on 80%, so if you can do 5 posts a week, why not try 3 times a week. That way you give yourself some breathing room.

  11. This post got me thinking about the difference between “rules” and “constraints.” Though both are limiters, rules stifle creativity and freedom, while contraints illuminate and increase them.

    An example: there’s a “rule” of blogging that says “Thou shalt post every day or else.” There are good reasons behind the rule, but it’s still limiting. You start looking at blogging as a chore, instead of a privilege or a passion. You write just to write, not because you have something to say.

    On the other hand, having a posting schedule can be a blessing. You might, for example, constrain yourself to writing no more than 2 posts a week. But instead of stifling your creativity, such a constraint can actually force you to put more effort into each post and encourage you to really appreciate the act of writing. Constraints give you focus, direction, and purpose.

    What do you think?

    • I’m open for whatever works. I definitely use constraints when I’m working, because I tend to do too much otherwise, but in blogging it feels like another rule to me.

      Again, for me, words, labels and all that comes second to what gives you the results you want.

      Update: I thought of a few things where constraints are awesome, such as limiting your diet to only healthy foods. It forces you to be creative with what you’ve got.

  12. Rich Russell says:

    My big ‘rule’ is, do something every day that moves you forward. If you sit down to do what you ‘should’ do and it’s not working, chances are that youare thinking about something else. Something that you are excited about and can’t wait to get started. So do that!

    If it’s another step towards where you want to go, do it. When it’s complete, you might even feel inspired to go back and do what you should have done.

    Rich

  13. Hi, Henri. I love this article. Your blog is clean and clear, I like it. Thanks!

  14. I disagreed with you until I read the last portion of the article:

    “Rules in and of themselves are not bad. It is only when they limit my potential that I start thinking about removing them from my life.”

    I totally agree with this. Though, the confines of a set of rules often produces the greatest creative work. There is no point in limiting what you want to do, but I find rules sometimes spark the greatest innovations in HOW you do it.

    Thanks for the interesting read.

    • I completely agree with you, Greg.

      Limiting rules = bad. Rules that spark creativity = good.

  15. Neal Martin says:

    Yes, it’s very easy to get caught up in a load of rules. I think that’s why I quit working on my last blog, because it was getting so damn stale and I just felt suffocated by it. I’m in the process of starting a new one after a few months break and I’ll defintedly be approaching it in a much different way. I don’t want to be tied down by it to the point were it feels like you have to attend to a whole load of chores everyday instead of trying to provide some real value to your readers. I think a lot of blogs are lacking in creativity because of all the rules holding them together. Few bloggers actually try anything new to really push the envelope of what’s possible in their niche. People are too busy watching the other blogs to be really original. I intend for the passion and creativity to come first in my new blog, not all the rules. I think it’s the only way I’ll be able to stay at it long term

    Anyway, totally love your blog and love what you have to say. You inspire me and I love people who inspire me, so thanks. I often feel very liberated after reading your blog, the mark of any good writer and teacher, I’d say. Keep up the excellent work, dude.

    • Thank you, Neal!

      I’ve noticed this behavior in myself. The need to conform and read other blogs to see how I’m supposed to be. When I gave it up and just let me be me, it all became so much easier.

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