I have to be creative for all these other people, but what about writing for me?

Productive Selfishness


The Context

One trait you’ll notice in all prolific people is, they have a tool for every phase of their creative process. Whether it’s the creative season of input, or inhaling inspiration; the creative season of throughput, or pausing for organization; or the creative season of exhaling output, or expressing, they are equipped to handle whatever form of artistic resistance rears its ugly head. And the secret is, while each tool in isolation may not be revolutionary in isolation, the magnitude of having hundreds of mindsets, approaches, behaviors and assets in their toolkit and at their fingertips gives that creator an unprecedented advantage as a creator.

The Tool

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Productive Selfishness

PRODUCTIVE SELFISHNESS — Saving some creativity for yourself to optimize the very process for which you are renowned

Nakamatsu, one of the world’s most prolific inventors, has launched products like a creative thinking recliner, a custom pushup bra, a brain enhancing cigarette, a pillow that prevents drivers from falling asleep behind the wheel, even a wig that functions as a self defense tool for women. More importantly, he also creates inventions to help him come up with other inventions. He has the privilege of having himself as a client. It’s a solid example productive selfishness, since he’s scratching his own itches, making the art he wants to see in the world and using creativity to optimize the very creative process for which he is renowned. Nakamatsu actually dives under the surface in his pool each day so he can create a hypoxic condition as he jots down notes on his patented waterproof notepad. It’s not insane, it’s ingenious. Do you have a tool for every phase of your creative process? If not, think of it as a form of generosity in your relationship with your artist self. Productive selfishness helps you scratch your own itches, make the things you want to see in the world. Perhaps this is the ultimate artistic challenge for the creator.

Everyday, I try to use my powers of imagination to solve my own problems. I use productive selfishness like a scalpel to carve away at nonessential matter blocking my finest expression. It’s harder than it sounds. Art is inherently a people pleasing enterprise. And so, saving some creativity for ourselves means having compassion for our own needs. Believing that we’re worthy of paying ourselves first. Treating our own creative work the same way we do with clients, coworkers and audience members. Easier said than done, but worth more than you can imagine.

The Rest

As you build your body of work, make sure you’re also accumulating a robust arsenal of solutions custom fit for your unique creative practice. You don’t have to swim underwater with a notepad, but your toolkit should have a solution every phase of the process. What asset would give you an unprecedented advantage as a creator?

The Benefits

Give yourself an unprecedented advantage as a creator
Scratch your own itch and make things you want to use in the world
Deepen compassion for your own artistic needs and meet them consistently
Sustain your career over the long term with a solution for every phase of the process

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