Do you want to be a Creative Genius?
To create works of art that will make your friends envious of your skills?
To leave an imprint on this world that you, and only you, can leave?
To create a portfolio of projects that you can be proud of?
Maybe you aren’t sure you have it in you to become a creative genius. Or even much of a creative anything.
Maybe you think you’re too ordinary, even if, deep inside, you’re secretly longing to tell stories like JRR Tolkein, or paint pictures like Norman Rockwell.
Maybe you’re afraid that making creative works of stories, articles, art is frivolously self-centered, and you’ll only be wasting your time.
And even if you did admit your creative dreams, maybe you’re secretly afraid that the Mountain of Creative Genius is not for the likes of little ole’ you.
Well, I’m happy to inform you:
You CAN do it:
You are the only being in the history of the world to have your particular set of perspectives, history, experiences, feelings, and ideas. If you don’t create something with that, it would be a massive pity.
And even if you’re not good at your craft, you can get better. MUCH better.
You can level up on your creativity.
Yes, even to genius levels.
(At least, it will LOOK like genius to your friends on the outside)
All it takes is three simple rules…
Rule #1: Make 100 Crappy Videos
In a 2019 video, Youtube influencer Roberto Blake shares the first Rule for Creative Geniuses:
Because all of the most popular and successful Youtubers made (at least) 100 videos each before they started seeing external results:
- PewDiePie made 100 videos to get his first 2,500 subscribers.
- Mr. Beast made 100 videos to get his first 1,000 subscribers.
- And Marques Brownlee/MKBHD made 100 videos to get his first 74 subscribers.
Of course, we creative types always want to produce quality products. We want to make videos that astound viewers, articles that impress readers, songs that stay with listeners.
But in Blake’s own words:
Here’s the reality: It takes quantity to make quality. Ask any animator. Ask any photographer how many crappy sketches, how many crappy photos it took to get to gold.
Instead, Blake advises aspiring video creators to make 100 crappy videos and not even think about results.
And don’t worry about subscribers, about quality, about anything besides getting your videos DONE.
“What you need to do is…respect the process.”
Now, obviously, if you’re not a video creator, then switch the word “video” out for whatever it is that you do:
Make 100 crappy…
- Short stories
WHAT you create is not the main point. So what IS Blake’s main point?
The principle of this lesson, aka “Quantity over quality,” has been repeated over and over and over in various ways by various creative geniuses:
“Write a hell of a lot of short stories…write one short story a week…I defy you to write 52 bad ones. Can’t be done.”
“By the time I was fourteen, the nail in my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it. I replaced the nail with a spike and went on writing.”
“Write a page every day…Nothing will happen until you are producing at least one page per day.”
“[J.S.] Bach [one of the greatest composers of all time]…composed so prolifically that it would take decades of work merely to hand-copy his scores”
…and so on and so forth.
Unless you’re as famous as George RR Martin / JK Rowling, or as skilled as Harper Lee / Victor Hugo, you can’t spend decades procrastinating on a project and expect it to be any good.
Even these creative titans created thousands of scribbles and sketches that have never seen the light of day, moldering in their long-forgotten past.
If they went through that, then what makes you think you can reach the mountaintop of Creative Genius without taking those first 100 steps?
“You are not entitled to an audience for a dress rehearsal.”
The truth is, you have to go through many rehearsals before you’re ready for the stage.
And your audience won’t show up until you are stage-ready. Why should they?
As Blake says, “you are not entitled to an audience for a dress rehearsal.”
Besides, the truth is, you don’t WANT an audience, anyway.
Because you’re not that good yet.
You need space to focus on improving yourself.
You need anonymity to experiment and grow into your craft.
You need room to fail, without having your failures plastered in front of a thousand eyeballs.
So instead of wondering why no one is watching, reading, listening to your content, be grateful there is no peanut gallery watching your every move.
In the words of Allen Ginsberg:
To gain your own voice, you have to forget about having it heard.
Focus on finding your voice, not on getting applause.
“Everything Stinks Till It’s Finished. “— Dr. Seuss
Now, the key to the 100 Crappy Videos rule is to FINISH making 100 crappy videos.
As Philip Roth said:
The road to hell is paved with works-in-progress.
You don’t get the full benefit unless you have 100 more-or-less complete projects.
Because finishing something requires a different kind of skill and mindset than just tinkering endlessly or abandoning hundreds of projects halfway.
But finishing is up to you. Where do you draw the line?
For video creators, finishing can mean uploading your video to Youtube. For a writer, it can mean publishing your article on Medium.
And if your goal is something slightly larger, say a novel, then break it into smaller sub-projects that you can finish.
After all, it is only when you finish that you can feel that wonderful sense of accomplishment and get the motivation to keep going.
You’ve Gotta Start Somewhere
The “100 Crappy Videos” rule is particularly relevant to beginners and intermediate craftsmen.
(And in a sense, we never get out of beginner/intermediate level. There’s always a higher mountain to climb — that’s what makes life fun and art worth pursuing!)
But whatever you do, don’t quit. Because then you’ll never get to the second step for Creative Genius-hood:
Rule #2: The 1% Rule
The 1% rule is simple. It goes like this:
Get 1% better every time you do your thing/Make your project/Create a new piece of artwork.
Look, 1% isn’t a lot.
- 1% of a dollar is a penny.
- 1% of a pound (one can of beans) is 4.5 grams (about 6 navy beans).
- 1% of a Sheepdog is a common house ant (erm…if we’re talking about body size, I mean)
In other words, it doesn’t take that much effort to get 1% better at anything.
Yet, if you consistently get 1% better — at writing, at drawing, at making videos, whatever — and you COMBINE that with the goal to make 100 things, by the time you’re finished you will be 100% better at whatever you’ve committed to.
That’s like getting a perfect score on your high school math test.
Except no one’s grading you on this.
Instead, your real-world reward could be immeasurably more powerful than any perfect math score, in terms of:
- lives affected,
- self-esteem raised,
- imprint left on the world, etc., etc…
The Magical Math of The 1% Rule
Now, depending on where you start, 100% may not feel like much at first.
If you’ve got a penny, and someone gives you 100% of another penny, then you’d be the lucky owner of two whole cents.
What if someone came by the next day and gave you 100% of two pennies? Now you’d have four pennies.
And then let’s say we repeated this scenario, day after day after day.
How many days would it take for you to get to a million dollars? (Or, in other words, 100,000,000 pennies?)
Check this out:
Now let’s take this mathematical equation and apply it to your Quest to Become a Creative Genius.
Say you want to be one of the top writers in the world. And you’re starting at the One Penny level of writing proficiency.
You write 1 article a day, aiming to get 1% better in each article. At the end of 100 days, (approximately 3.3 months) you have gotten to the Two Penny Level of writing.
Now do this 28 times. 28 x 3.3 = 92.4 months. In other words, in about 7–8 years, you will be a Million-Penny Writer, in terms of experience and skill, as long as you stick with it.
Does that sound like a lot? Well, consider this:
- In the grand scheme of life, when most people can expect to live about 80+ years, 7–8 years is < 1/10th of your time.
- Plus, no matter what happens, those 7–8 years are going to pass anyway. You might as well spend them improving your skills by 1%.
- Also, you don’t have to limit yourself to writing an article a day. You can write two articles a day and take a break on the weekends (see below). In one week, then, you will have produced 10 articles rather than 7, and you’ll hit the Million-Dollar mark much sooner (5 years instead of 7).
- And another thing: Who says you need a million “pennies” anyway??? That’s just an arbitrary number I fished out of the air. I guarantee you, if you follow the 1% Rule, you will start seeing serious results long before you hit that millionaire/7-year mark.
BUT WAIT. You Don’t Need to Work for 7 Years to be a Creative Genius! (You Don’t Even Have to Work for 1/10th of That…)
There’s something I forgot to tell you. It’s this little matter of something called the Compound Effect.
Actually, if you were reading carefully, you’d know that we’ve already applied the compound effect to the penny situation.
But that penny scenario was assuming that you improve 100% for every 100 projects you complete. In actuality, you improve MORE THAN 100% for every 100 projects you complete.
Just as interest compounds, the 1% improvement effort you put in as you work on your 100 projects will compound as well.
So if you start with an expertise level of “1,” then you improve by 1% every day, you will be at 1.01 after completing your first project.
But by day 2, you won’t just be at 1.02, you’ll be at 1.0201.
Big deal, you think.
Right, but enter the Compound Effect:
After 10 days, you’ll be at a bit over 1.1 (10% better than you were before), after 20 days, 1.2 (20% better than you were before). After 42 days, you’ll be at 1.5, 50% better than when you began.
And so on and so forth until you hit that “100%-better-than-before” mark in 71 days, NOT 100 days.
Check this out:
And as the compound effect keeps playing, it will take less and less time to get to the next 100%. In other words, you’ll be 3 times as good as you were when you started, in only 112 days:
And let me sum the rest up for you:
- It will take 71 days to get 2x as good as you started out.
- Then 41 more days to get 3x as good as you started. Meaning you are 112 days in.
- Then 29 more days to get 4x as good as you were when you began. You are now 141 days in.
- And 22 more days to get 5x as good as you were. You are now 163 days in.
- Then 19 more days to get 6x as good. You are 182 days in.
- 15 more days to 7x. You are 197 days in.
- 13 more days to 8x. You are 210 days in.
- 12 more days to 9x. You are 222 days in.
- 11 more days to 10X YOUR INITIAL LEVEL, for a total of 233 days!
In other words:
In LESS than 8 months, if you stay the course, you will be 10X BETTER at whatever-it-is than you were when you started!
8 months, not 7 years.
And just think about how many 8-month periods you have in the remainder of your life.
If you stay the course, you can not only get 10x better than you are now. You can get 100x, 1,000x, 1,000,000x better than you are now.
Besides time, there are virtually no limits on how far you can go.
So no matter where you start, as long as you stay consistent in two things — producing content/creating projects, and improving by 1% each time — you can feasibly reach the top of your niche in far, far less time than you think.
But here’s the clincher: You have to stick with it.
Which brings us to Rule #3:
Rule #3: Win the RESToration War
Now, after reading about the 1% rule, I bet you’re raring to go.
But hang on. Hold your horses. Before you zoom off to complete your first 100 projects in a day, you need to hear the Third Rule.
It’s one of the most important rules, and it is this:
Schedule rest time.
Schedule it in. Don’t think “I’ll get to it when I think of it.”
Because the #1 reason why people DON’T become Creative Geniuses in their field is because they’re not consistent, and they don’t persist.
And the #1 reason they’re not consistent and they don’t persist, is because they burn out.
And the #1 reason why they burn out is because…
You got it.
They don’t rest.
Why Super Nanny Has a Better Chance of Being a Creative Genius Than You Do
Rest is non-negotiable.
And by rest, I mean both physical and mental rest. You not only need sleep, you need time to play, to turn your brain off, to RESTore yourself.
You see: Inside every grown-up man or woman lives a little boy or girl who never grows up.
And as an aspiring Creative Genius, you need your “inner child’s” help.
S/he is the one with the playful spirit, the endless curiosity, the boundless energy, the creative mojo that you need to make your piece of art, writing, video, etc., unique and valuable.
Without this child, you would be a gray, boring, lifeless drone unable to create anything functional, let alone creative.
But this child can either be your greatest ally or your worst nightmare.
You see, the reason why I call your inner child a “child,” is because that is exactly what she is.
And, like a child, she needs to be well cared for.
Babies get cranky when they don’t get enough sleep, and we humans never grow out of that.
If you want your Inner Creative Child to help you reach Genius levels of Creativity, you better let her rest. And play. And do things besides work to death.
Which is why I don’t advise writing every day:
Rest Increases Your Creativity
Another thing about rest:
Rest not only improves your creativity by keeping you physically and mentally strong enough to create stuff, it also enhances your creative ability directly.
If you’ve ever created an article, song, painting, sculpture, video, whatever, then you’re probably familiar with the concept of “inspiration.”
You know, when an idea hits you out of nowhere and you run to your laptop or journal or canvas to get it down, and end up spending the next 2–8 hours in blissful creativity, working up a storm?
That doesn’t come unless you get enough rest:
- Archimedes discovered the concept of density/displacement while relaxing in the bathtub.
- Mendeleev came up with the periodic table after dreaming about it (literally, in his sleep).
- Suzanne Collins was inspired to write The Hunger Games while drowsily channel surfing on TV.
I think you get the picture.
The point is, the best part of creativity isn’t consciously forced.
Sure, you can FORCE yourself to create 100 crappy videos in a certain amount of time, but they will STAY crappy unless and until you tap into your intuitive/subconscious/creative side.
Which usually won’t happen unless you are well-fed, well-rested, and overall well-cared-for.
I’m not saying to gorge yourself or to become a couch potato. That won’t help.
Rather, you need to find that window between full/hungry, alert/sleepy, daydreaming/paying attention to get the biggest creativity payouts.
And each person’s window is different, so run a few experiments and find out what works for you.
With regards to rest, though, I have a suggestion:
Take a Page Out of the Book of the Jews
As you will see in the above article, I cite a unique people-group that takes rest VERY seriously: Jews.
Jews — religious Jews, that is — make rest non-negotiable. Every Sabbath (Saturday), they stop working to rest, worship God, and regain their strength.
Now, notice: True rest does not mean vegetating on Netflix for 24 hours.
There is a time and place for that, perhaps (though maybe not for 24 hours!) but Jews use Sabbath time to unplug, stop working, and reconnect — with God, with family and friends, and with their better selves.
And it works, apparently:
Jewish people make up only 0.2% of the world population (give or take — and religious Jews even less than that), yet they make up:
- 52% of nonfiction Pulitzer prize winners,
- 15% of fiction Pulitzer winners,
- more than 22% of Nobel prize winners, etc.
Does that have anything to do with the fact that religious Jews keep the Sabbath strictly by taking 24 hours off every week, from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday?
Is Jewish creative prowess due to the idea that having one day off for rest, rejuvenation, and relationship-building is literally built into the Jewish religion, history, and lifestyle?
Maybe, maybe not. You’ll have to decide.
All I know is that I tend to be more creative and productive when I am well-rested, and I bet if you’re honest with yourself, you’ll find the same is true for you, too 😃
How I Built My Writing Career: A “3-Rules” Case Study
Let’s sum up what we’ve got so far:
- Create 100 (finished) crappy videos (AKA creative projects)
- Aim to improve by ~1% for every project you complete
- Schedule in regular rest so you don’t burn out
If you do all of this steadily, you will accumulate a mountain of creative skills. Enough to make you a veritable Creative Genius.
Now, granted, when you’ve got more and more skills, it will take more effort to get 1% better at those skills.
It will take a better person to keep improving once you’ve hit a certain level of proficiency.
But guess what?
By the time you’re in the millionaire range, you will BE a better person.
What once seemed impossible to little ole’ you, standing at the foot of the monstrous Mountain of Creative Geniosity, will no longer faze you at all.
When I first started writing articles, it took me 2 weeks of slaving to produce a simple 500-word piece on how to be a good student.
But by now, I’ve completed a novel, a musical, a business ebook, hundreds of articles, dozens of short stories, and I even translated a detective novel just for kicks.
Not to mention, I’ve honed my technical skills to the point where I can write 1,000 words in under 15 minutes (on familiar topics or fiction).
And yeah, it took me a little over 2 years to get there. (Because I didn’t actually write an article a day, consistently. Shhh….)
Here’s how I did it:
Rule #1: Create 100 Projects
I began writing seriously on Medium at the end of 2017.
To date, on Medium alone, I’ve published over 400 articles, stories, book notes, and counting.
Here’s a screenshot of the index of all the articles I wrote in 2017–2018:
And in 2020 (so far), even when I took some time off to focus on other projects, I made sure to keep up at least a minimum weekly rhythm of 1-2 articles per week, no matter what.
Rule #2: Get 1% Better Every Time
To be honest, I was not as methodical about practicing and recording my progress as I should have been. (I didn’t learn about the 1% rule until late into the game).
But I did practice a lot, naturally. And you can’t help improving when you create a lot of content and keep your brain turned on.
Here are some ways I practiced, on purpose:
- For several months, I practiced by writing 50 headlines a day
- I practiced by teaching others, as a writing coach
- I practiced by taking detailed book notes on the best books I read
- I practiced by hand-copying some of the best writing I found
- And of course, I practiced every time I wrote an article, short story, or poem.
Did I improve 1% every single time I wrote? Maybe, maybe not.
These things are hard to measure. Most likely I improved by > 1% sometimes, and by < 1% at others. But over time, it averages out.
And the results do speak for themselves:
- Followers: I started with 0 fans on any platform, and now I have thousands of followers on my Medium account as well as on my personal blog.
- Speed: When I started, it took me a full week to get an article finished. Now, if I’m fully focused, I can churn out a full 2- to 3,000-word article in less than a day.
- Earnings: I started out making $0 with my writing. Now, I am making a living as a blogger and professional content marketer/writer. I even earned over $2,000 on ONE article (see below)
- Confidence level: I used to restrict myself to the ivory tower world of academic writing/coaching, but since I started taking this writing thing seriously, I’ve written a novel, musical, dozens of songs and short stories, personal essays, an ebook, and more. I no longer think: “I can’t do that.” Now, it’s: “I have done that!”
Rule #3: Rest!
Admittedly, this is the rule that I suck at the most. Hands down.
Sleep and play have never been my strong suits. And no doubt that has held me back from achieving more than I could have.
But it helps that some of the activities I find most restful and rejuvenating also end up being helpful to my main task of writing (namely, reading books and watching educational Youtube).
And, to “take a page out of the book of the Jews,” I take Saturdays off.
That means no work, no writing (unless I really, really want to, for fun only), and as much sleep, reading, chatting with family, and general all-around rest as I want!
At least, that’s the theory.
It’s a bit tricky to schedule all my work on the other days so that I can take a guilt-free day off, and I’m still working on this one.
But I’m sure that as I get closer to the ideal, you will see my work improve 😃
So What’s Your Plan For Becoming a Creative Genius?
First, ask yourself: What kind of creative genius do I want to be?
My focus is writing.
In the past, I’ve focused primarily on nonfiction article writing, while dabbling in fiction on the side just for fun and to keep things interesting.
What about you?
If you also want to be a creative genius in the writing field, figure out what kind of writing, exactly, you want to do:
- If you want to be a novelist, it may not be feasible to write 100 novels in eight months, or seven years, but you can definitely create 100 short stories or story summaries. Or 100 chapters. Or 100 scenes.
- If you want to be a blogger, you CAN write 100 articles in 8 months (give or take), but if that sounds like too much to start with, no problem. Try brainstorming 100 article ideas. Then practice writing 100 headlines. Then move on to 100 article outlines, and work your way up.
- And for other kinds of writing, whether it’s poems or plays or ads, there are always ways for you to divide and subdivide the task until you feel that it’s doable. Then start doing whatever it is, and your abilities will increase as you go.
And if you don’t know exactly what kind of writing you want to enrich your life with, that’s fine. Explore.
Take a set period of time and try every form of writing — articles, blog posts, short stories, poetry, songs, plays, advertising, research papers, novels, whatever.
Instead of doing one complete project, try doing one complete hour of writing exploration (writing something for an hour), and when you fully focus, consider that 1 complete project, done.
After all, another benefit of using the 3 Rules above is that you can more quickly sift through the creative forms that are NOT suitable for you, and find the ones that are.
So get started, and adjust as you go along — you have nothing to lose, and everything to gain.
Your Future Audience is Waiting…
There’s no reason not to try the Three Rules. Pick your craft, choose your project size, and get goin’!
Don’t lie to yourself and say you can’t do it.
Sure you can.
All you need to do is choose a skill that you really want to improve, and then design 100 projects, big or small, that will help you get there.
And don’t make excuses. Don’t think no one‘s interested, or that no one can benefit from your work.
This world has 7 billion people living on it. The vast majority of them are connected to the internet, and more than half of them understand English.
(And if you’re a visual artist or musician, it doesn’t even matter what language they understand, you can impact them anyway).
Your fans will find you. I promise. You just have to keep putting things out there.
The key to being a successful creative genius is to just keep going.
So go on, do it.
Do the thing you were made to do.
Do it for the love of it. For the joy that creativity brings you.
Forget the money, fame, and potential secondary results — those come after.
Forget comparing yourself to others — your lane is different from theirs.
Just keep creating.
Keep your eye on your prize, because:
Success is Closer Than You Dreamed
It really is.
If you doubt that, just remind yourself of the Compound Effect graphs above.
I’ve been implementing the 3 Rules before I even knew what they were.
And they’ve helped me get farther than I thought possible.
They got me to write millions of words, earn thousands of fans, and support myself doing what I love.
As a beginner, would I have dreamed that I’d be capable of accomplishing such feats?
And perhaps you are in the same position right now. You are staring at the elusive cloud-covered peak of Mt. Creative Genius, and thinking that you’ll never make it up there.
But that’s not true.
Just take that first step. Improve 1% today. Then do it tomorrow. And the next day, and the next, and so on and so forth.
You’ll be standing on the top of that mountain before you know it.
Ready to be a Brilliant Writer?
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