Creativity is the wellspring that most success comes from. Of course, it takes much more than creativity to be successful in any endeavor, but creativity seems like the trait that is most difficult to come by. No matter how much money a business or organization throws at a problem, it cannot be solved without some form of creativity.
While creativity is often considered the domain of artists, everyone can utilize more creativity in his or her professional life. Achieving something that is truly fulfilling will come with difficulties and challenges. The only way around these challenges is to face them with the help of creativity.
The question then becomes how we incorporate more creativity into our lives and how we create the space for the "muse" to flow through us. Here are a few habits from the most creative people I know.
1. Deep work - It seems more often than not, creative people keep odd hours. Whether it is in the form of staying up into the wee hours of the night or waking up early in the morning, having a period to work diligently without distraction is key. In his seminal publication "Deep Work", author Cal Newport discusses how people can get more from their time.
Deep work, as he calls it, is time to focus on work that is completely free from distractions. This might mean freeing oneself from the distraction of answering emails etc. or it might mean creating a space to work free from internal distractions (putting the phone on airplane mode). However this "deep work" is created, it is one of the key characteristics that seems to bind many of the highest performers in creativity.
2. Play - Mark Twain was one of the most prolific writers of all time and is largely considered one of the American bests. Twain famously said "When we talk about the great workers of the world, we really mean the great players of the world." To him, creating new things that were meaningful could only come from play.
Even though some people use the phrase "work hard, play hard", most are using it incorrectly. You don't need to drink alcohol and use illicit drugs in order to be able to work diligently and produce creative works. Rather, Twain (and many others) believe play is the way we create. This could be in the form of playing with a frisbee, playing fight (jiu-jitsu anyone?), or any other type of play you can think of. Play is the mammal's way of learning. It's therefore the main ingredient in creative success.
3. Consistency - Doing the same thing over and over again might seem boring and the opposite of creativity, but according to many great creatives this is the key. Steven Pressfield wrote "The War of Art" and famously described going to battle against "resistance" every single day. This consistency in the face of his work has allowed him to come a long way.
It isn't only Pressfield who uses consistency on a daily basis. Chris Stoy, a personal injury lawyer, has made a career around focusing on his cases early in the morning before any distractions. This is how his firm successfully won a $27 million jury verdict for age discrimination. Without his consistent practice, he says: "I'd never be able to come up with creative angles on the cases. There have been numerous "aha!" moments in my career and they all seem to show up at the same point in the day so long as I'm consistent."
4. Patience - The other three habits that creative people exhibit can be incredibly draining if you don't have the right mindset. Consider waking up early or staying up late to do deep work, practicing your craft consistently with discipline and determination, only to find little or no success. This is where some people quit, but if they were to continue, it would be to their advantage.
Patience is one of the main qualities of a successful creative because there is no telling when success will strike. With patience, it is easy to continue the previously mentioned habits and be successful with them.