Most of us already know what creativity is and many of us are obsessed with productivity. But what exactly is “productive creativity”? It’s something I’ve been grappling with as a “Creative Entrepreneur” for many years, and have read countless articles and books to help me reach a peak state of equal parts creative and productive.
To turn the term “productive creativity” into a sort of mental model that we can use to be more effective in our creative pursuits, let's first define what both productivity and creativity are.
Productivity is the effectiveness of productive effort, as measured in terms of the rate of output per unit of input. Creativity on the other hand, is the use of the imagination or original ideas.
So productive creativity can be thought of as a way to take all of the ideas that enter your mind (input), then effectively output those ideas onto a given medium. at a consistent rate.I don't want to get too meta here about ideas of transcendence and the human mind being a vessel to outpt ethereal artifacts from other dimensions into our own. I will leave that for another post.
Instead, we can think of productive creativity as a systems-driven approach to the creative process where you create guidelines and processes for yourself to consistently output creative work.
What this really translates to is the idea from Chris Williamson, the host of Modern Wisdom, that the #1 factor for achieving success online, in any field, is consistency.
In Chris' video, he explains that "consistency is even rarer than talent or enthusiasm". You simply need to consistently create a large body of work longer than your competitors in order to stand out and achieve success and be at the top of your field.
A few notable examples of this is the prolific digital artist Beeple who has been putting out incredible digital art every single day for over 14 years before he sold a piece of art for over $69 Million, becoming the third most valuable living artist. Casey Neistat vlogged his life and published a video every single day for years before he reached 12 Million YouTube subscribers. The prolific rapper Russ released 11 albums and 87 singles consecutively; all free of charge. Despite this, his music had not gained the attention that he wanted, so he released a song every week on SoundCloud for almost three years. He now has over 13 million monthly listeners on Spotify.
You simply need to create content for long enough to get noticed.
This doesn’t have to be a daily practice. Personally, I publish one episode of Mind Meld every Monday. It forces me to be consistent and hit my Monday morning deadline every week. That deadline means that I have a finite amount of time to find new guests, record an episode, edit and create show notes. Since I also work on other things, it would be tough for me to consistently publish more than that.
A big part of this comes down to avoiding burnout. In order to do this for a long period of time without experiencing major burnout, you need to adopt a systems approach to creativity where you give yourself constraints and create a system for yourself where you can productively output creative work consistently, rather than simply having good ideas and never doing anything with them.
I'm not going to get into specifics about what medium you are outputting to, because I don't know if you're a painter, writer, musician, vlogger, virtual reality designer, blockchain developer, or TikTok magician.
Creativity comes in all shapes and sizes, and the essence of creativity is to continually push the boundaries of our shared reality and create new things that no mere mortal has experienced here on Earth. Productivity, however, has some established frameworks that have proven to work across multiple domains.
So I believe there is an opportunity to steal some of the tools and strategies from the productivity nerds and distribute them to the creative class.
I think it's more important than ever before as a creative to create systems for yourself so that you can take the loose creative ideas swimming around your mind and productively output them into something that other people can experience.
Because in the abundant world of the internet, it's not enough to have a one hit wonder. Especially when you're starting out, there is no way to even know what will hit and what will get lost in the ether. You need to pump out content consistently (and sustainably) for a long time in order to break through this noisy digital world.
So If you haven’t already, I encourage you to find a single medium that comes naturally to you (writing, audio, video, web design, etc.) and a single platform (YouTube, Twitter, TikTok, your own blog, etc.) then build a system to consistently ship creative work at a rate that works for you. It could be daily, weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, or even once per year. You can even switch it up after a period of 30 or 90 days. You could start weekly, then if you have the capacity and desire, ship something three times per week, or eventually do it daily. There is no right or wrong answer.
I think there is still much to be explored when it comes to the intersection of creativity and productivity, but there are already some people who are starting to think about this. Pioneers like Tiago Forte have written extensively about “building a second brain”, David Perrell talks about productively writing online, Ali Abdaal teaches a framework for YouTubers, Nat Eliason put out a course on Effortless Output with Roam Research, and Ness Labs provides content, coaching, courses and community to help makers put their minds at work. So there's already a lot of content out there if you want to dive deep down the rabbit hole.
But I also have lots of ideas on specific strategies, tools and philosophies on this topic. I mean, I did just coin the term didn't I? ;) So be sure to subscribe to my mailing list so these ideas can be injected directly into your email inbox.
In the meantime, I invite you to listen to some of the brightest people in the known universe share their tools, strategies and philosophies on productive creativity and entrepreneurship on my podcast, Mind Meld.
I'd also love to hear from you. What do you think about this idea of productive creativity? Do you have any resources, articles or books about the topic? Tweet or DM me on Twitter or send me a message with your thoughts and feedback! I’d love to explore this topic further.
Until next time — keep creative.