How to produce your best creative work without even trying

The art of effortless and egoless creativity
How to produce your best creative work without even trying
Jake McNeill
May 27, 2021
5 min read
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“Creativity is obscured by the conscious mind.” — Naval Ravikant

Mastering your art is a given. 

After that it’s not about trying harder—it’s about trying less. We are constantly reminded that to achieve great things we must work harder and faster than before. 

This is where creativity plateaus. 

It doesn’t matter if you’re writing music, coming up with creative campaigns, or finding solutions to complex problems. 

The harder you try and come up with great ideas the worse they will become; the more frustrated you will feel and the less creative you will be.

Why? Because we are creating with ego. The key to creating quality is to first create quantity. In order to create quality, we must first disengage our egos. 

“The first draft of anything is shit” — Ernest Hemingway

Quality vs Quantity

The first rule to egoless creation is creating quantity and not focusing on quality. 

Focusing on quality will get you stuck. 

Why? Because you have high expectations. You are trying too hard to create something great. 

You get halfway and bin it.  And then start a new project. 

Rinse and repeat.

Finish everything. Especially if you think it's shit.

Go for quantity. Don’t believe me? 👇

  • Pablo Picasso created an incredible 50,000 paintings and artworks in his lifetime. Only a couple of dozen are famous. 
  • Mark Manson has published hundreds of blog posts. In 2015, a blog post entitled “The subtle art of not giving a fuck” went viral. It got him a book deal. The book of the same name has now sold over 8 million copies. 
  • James Clear has written over 500 articles. His most popular article? It was about atomic habits. His book of the same title has sold over 2million copies. 
  • David Bowie is one of history’s greatest ever music icons. He released 400 songs in 50 years — how many can you remember?

The moral?  Create quantity to find the quality within. 

The most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Do a huge volume of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week or every month you know you’re going to finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that ... the work you’re making will be as good as your ambitions.” — Ira Glass

The Equal Odds Rule

In the late 70’s, Keith Simonton a Harvard educated psychologist developed a theory. 

He called it the equal odds rule. 

“The Equal Odds Rule says that the average publication of any particular scientist does not have any statistically different chance of having more of an impact than any other scientist’s average publication.”

In other words, you can’t predict your own success. 

Scientists, artists, producers, creators are equally likely to create a flop as they are to create content that connects with their audience.

All we can do is keep showing up. Time after time. It’s a numbers game. Even for creativities greatest icons. Or elite entrepreneurs.

Some material resonates, most doesn't. Some ideas work —most don’t. Knowing this sets realistic expectations.  

If you stay on the pitch long enough you will eventually score a goal — Darcus Beese OBE, former President of Island Records

Steps To Creating Without Ego

  • Disconnect our self-worth with results. Enjoy the process and not the results 
  • Embrace failure as a means of creative growth. 
  • Understand that mindfulness, patience, and trust will help you create the work
  • Create in the present, focus on our breathing and get into flow
  • Block off time. Switch off phone and wifi. Set a 60-minute timer, work solidly, and then have a 10-minute break. Then repeat the process.
  • Create. Enjoy it. It’s supposed to be fun.

The most important lesson? Set a schedule. Whatever you love to do; do it every day. Even if it's just for an hour. You will master your craft and create a lot of crap.

But, eventually, you will create work that matters to someone...somewhere. And they will tell their friends, who will tell their friends.

That's how this creativity shit works.

Work that matters...travels.

Go and create a bunch of crap and then make work that matters.

Peace out


A bit about me

I help maverick artists and creators hack into their true creative genius, crush the creative blocks that hold them back, and make work that matters.

Every creative rebel’s worst enemy?

Creative mediocrity: Being bland. Staying in our lane. Creating in our comfort zone and following the crowds.

The Goal? To create authentic work that matters. Take creative risks, avoid creative burnout, and making a racket in saturated markets.

I’m a former multi-platinum artist manager who burnt out and became an artist & creative blogger, coach, and consultant.

I’ve challenged myself to write 50 articles in 50 working days. 10 down, 40 to go.

You can read more in the archives here. Find out more information on my website or connect on my LinkedIn

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