When we find creative flow, the outlook and outcome of our work changes completely.
“If we all did the things we are really capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.”
~ Thomas A. Edison
“I think I have the equivalent of writer’s block for entrepreneurs,” my client, Carrie, said. “Nothing is coming to me. The ideas I am getting feel tired, overused, common. I know my ideal clients are sick of the endless barrage of crap being thrown at them from online marketers, and I absolutely do not want to add to the heap of unremarkable content out there.”
“How would you characterize your energy levels and clarity when you sit down to create?” I asked her.
“Uh, a notch above nonexistent,” Carrie said. “Well, maybe not that bad, but, pretty low. I start out having a mix of energy and apprehension. Like I am feeling fairly good, but worried the great ideas won’t come. I can get going, but it is really slow going. And then my fears are realized when what I make is just more blah, blah, blah.”
“And what time is it generally when you sit down to do this work?” I asked.
“Maybe ten or so in the morning,” Carrie replied.
“What do you generally do first?” I asked.
“You know, the regular morning stuff. Get up at 6:30 or so. Clear my email, check-in with my team, coffee and a bagel, read some news. Peek at social. Handle a few client matters. Why?”
“Are you up for trying an experiment?” I asked.
“Sure,” Carrie said. “Just nothing too weird, right?”
“It’s probably going to feel pretty weird at first,” I said. “But you are going to love the results.”
Surprising Holes in Our Creative Buckets
You may have already spotted where Carrie is unknowingly poking holes in the bottom of her creative energy bucket: her morning routine. She was getting up relatively late (stay with me), and then proceeding to do an entire series of tasks and activities that numbed, distracted, and depleted her, all the way from checking email to eating a bunch of carbs first thing each day.
Here is the new morning routine I prescribed for Carrie to find creative flow:
1) Get up at 5 am.
2) Drink a tall glass of water before enjoying coffee.
3) Do ten minutes of journaling.
4) Do ten minutes of meditating.
5) Work on her project in a notebook or legal pad from 5:45 am until 7 am.
6) Shower, get ready for the day.
7) Eat a veggie/light protein-based breakfast without reading or watching anything.
8) At 8:30 am, look at her phone and computer for the first time.
After two weeks of her following a new morning schedule, we checked in with each other.
“I really hate getting up at 5 am,” Carrie said. “I really hate it. But I’ll give you this…so many things have shifted for the better for me already. My brain is different at that hour. The ideas are better, and I’m much more clear. I know the other parts of the routine are important, too, especially staying off my phone and not touching my computer until after my creating work is done. It’s like I’m fully settled into myself after having been away from who I truly am for ages. It’s hard to explain.”
“I know exactly what you mean,” I said. “I’m thrilled these few changes are working on you as I’d expected. Are you ready to dial it up even more?”
“Oh, no. You mean get up even earlier?”
“Let’s just try something and see what happens,” I said.
Your Creative Circadian Rhythm
Carrie was a great sport and did experiment with getting up even earlier. She agreed to wake up at 4:30 am for one week and then at, gasp, 4 am the following week. She found that when she got up at 4:30 am, she was able to access a new part of her creativity that had previously seemed to be locked away, hidden from her. She more easily slid into a state of flow and ease while working on paper and playing around with mind mapping, blocking out ad copy, writing content, and creating sales funnels.
When she pushed herself further and rose at 4 am, she didn’t find her results were any better or different. Getting up that early simply made her cranky and exhausted. When we shifted to experimenting with waking later and beginning her creative routine later in the day, her results fell off a cliff. Carrie was, much to her dismay, a morning creator.
Carrie’s optimal, Creative Circadian Rhythm (CCR) turned out to be a window between 4:30 am and 9 am. After a few months of practice and the positive reinforcement of the incredible results she was enjoying, Carrie was able to incorporate her new CCR into each workday about 80% of the time—a solid performance.
“I just feel better,” Carrie said six months into her new routine. “I love this new brain of mine. And, I’ll say this…we are knocking ’em dead out there with the new program we launched. The best signup rate we’ve ever had, and everyone is loving the content and the community. When I learned how to connect with myself at a deep level, I got so much better at connecting with our people.”
Find Creative Flow
Are you struggling to find creative flow or access your window of possibility…your deep connection to your creativity? If so, see if you can run a few experiments to determine when your optimal Creative Circadian Rhythm is. Remember, just because Carrie’s was early in the morning, does not mean that is true for you. You might find that a really late window of time is when you hit your stride.
I’m a very different person and writer at 4 am than I am at 1:30 pm. Oddly, it feels as if I’m not even the same person when I attempt creative work outside of my magic hours. When I am in my zone before dawn, I can access a part of my creative brain that is not online to that degree at any other time during the day.
Further, my discipline to do deep and challenging work wanes as the day progresses. I begin each early morning with a topped-off tank of willingness, courage, and determination which propels me forward through times of uncertainty.
If we are willing to tolerate some initial discomfort in finding out where that zone of optimal creating is for us, we can ride the ethereal edges of access to a different world and enjoy a profoundly joyful state of flow.