In my last post, I wrote about how boring the daily practice of success can be.

That’s what’s strange about being a songwriter and writer. Most people truly don’t realize how ho-hum it is sometimes!

That’s because the finished product looks so effortless!  As if it just “whoosh!” landed on your doorstep, and you ran out and started selling it.

People romanticize results.

I know this because I am a hopeless romantic. I see someone’s work, and I think, “Ah! This is brilliant! How lofty is the soul that doth create!” I forget that this product is the result of many hours of work. Sometimes tedious work.

And here’s the difference between people who accomplish something and people who just dream:

The ones who do it sit down and do it. That’s all.

But I’m here to tell you:

Even the most incurable romantic can accomplish anything. I’m living proof of that!

Here’s how you do it:

Part 1 – Break it down.

Every big idea can be broken down into small steps.

If it’s a book, there’s an outline. If it’s a CD, it’s the daily act of writing songs. If it’s a website, then it’s a navigation Mind Map.

My favorite Break-it-Down Tool is the common Sticky-Note. I buy the obnoxious neon colors. Then I put a self-stick wall poster (best invention ever) on my wall with the project name on it. Any idea or task in the project becomes a sticky note. In time, the notes get moved around to become an orderly list.

Part 2 – Create a System.

Let’s face it. “System” is not a sexy word.

Think about the last time you sat next to someone on a plane who told you, “I’m a Systems Analyst.” How quickly did you wonder if you could change seats?

The truth is: Systems are uber-cool. A business without systems is chaos.

So is a human.

A System tells you: “Here’s how it’s going to get done – whether anyone’s ‘in the mood’ or not.”

Why is this so important?

Because systems make a strategy out of our intentions. Systems can lead us.

Otherwise, it’s too easy to be led by our emotions or our busy-ness. “I don’t feel like it today.” “My dad never liked me so there’s no point.” “I’ve got 184 emails to answer!” When our emotions take the leadership role – years slip by and we wonder why we never get anything done!

It’s tempting to think that a system would stifle your emotions. But actually, a system provides boundaries. It’s like taking your emotions to the dog park. They have a fenced in area where they can run around.

Part 3 – Cherish your Attention

My new CD will be released this Spring. One song is called, “How to Be Real.” I wrote it for a woman who won my “Write Me a Song, Girlfriend!” raffle. Tickets were $150 each, and the winner got her very own song on the CD written by me.

I’d never been paid so much in advance to write a song. It was daunting!

But I did what I always do when the pressure is on:

Every morning at 10am, I picked up my guitar and greeted that song like an old friend. I spent one hour giving my Full Creative Attention to it.

Very little happened at first. I just sat with the idea of the song. But soon, a lyric showed up. Then a melody. Eventually, I finished the song. It’s the second song on my upcoming CD.

Write this down and memorize it: Your attention is the most powerful creative tool you have. Cherish it and use it well.

Part 4 – Practice Faith

Here’s what’ll happen when you start sitting down day after day working on these little steps.

A voice will run through your head, much like the CNN news ticker running across the bottom of your television screen. It will say things like, “How can I know this is even worth it?” “I’ll feel like an idiot if this doesn’t work.” “What if this never goes anywhere?”

Well, this is where we romantics have all the leverage. Everyone who has ever created anything – from a stage production to a business to a quilt – has done it with one mindset to guide them.

Faith.

Not only in what you’re creating – but in yourself as a Creator.

When you have faith in yourself, then you trust that you’ll keep creating no matter the outcome of this particular venture. Being “worth it” is an ego construct designed to keep you stuck in your comfort zone!

Remember this: People who require guarantees don’t accomplish much. Faith is a part of accomplishing anything.

——-

Your Assignment: Pick one project or idea you’ve been putting off. Apply these four steps starting today.

23 COMMENTS ADD A COMMENT
  • Tonya

    Christine,

    This is such a great, practical post. Personally, I have had so many brilliant ideas in my lifetime, that I would have had a line of cashmere clothes, a lunchbox franchise, developed Spanx before “she” did, and had a chain of wellness centers all over the world, but it simply came down to one thing: overwhelm.

    Now, I am a weight coach, and I am no different than anyone else out there, except I now have tools. I can take an idea to completion; something I never thought I could do. I use many different methods, but my favorite is one by my Coach mentor, Martha Beck, which she calls turtle steps. Basiclally, you take a task and break it down. Then look at each pieces, and break one down even more. You keep breaking steps down until, as she says, it’s so ridiculously easy, you could do it in your sleep. The goal is to keep moving forward and to enjoy every step of the way.

  • Leigh

    Awesome advice. Question though – what kind of systems have you created? I understand the idea. Is it just about putting the time in every day? THat’s the step where I stumble most.

  • Wendy Maynard

    First just a little shout out to Stacey – I hear you, sister! I have a 6 month old and am just starting to feel like I am getting my productivity back. And as a biz owner and a mom, wowsers do systems help. Not sexy, by effective.

    Thanks so much for this post. I, too, romanticize results. I often look at people who are doing things that inspire me and sometimes feel jealous because I see their results. And I forget about all of the sweat that goes into producing it.

    I wrote a blog post a couple of months ago that is similar and deals with how to work with Getting Stuck. And it has a similar answer – break it down into tiny chunks and make your self move, even tiny movements. http://wendy.kinesisinc.com/2009/02/24/what-to-do-when-youre-feeling-stuck/

    Thanks again for your post.

    Best, Wendy

  • stacey

    Christine, it has been quite a while since i read and posted on your blog. i have been spending the last9 months giving birth and getting used to my now 4 month old. But I came back to your blog and have found true inspiration as always. Working full time and having a new baby has certainly put a damper on my creativity… the four steps will surely help me get some of it back! thanks again, your wisdom is priceless!

  • Giulietta

    Hey Christine,

    This post is chockfull of helpful info. System part speaks to me the most. I’ve got the creativity. I’ve got the attention. I’ve got the faith. I just need to get the uber-cool system! A seminar on that? Come in with no system. Leave with a system.

    thx,

    Giulietta
    Rebel with a cause

  • Lynne

    Hi Christine…

    Great post — loved the comment about systems “a business without systems is chaos”. So true.

    It is so helpful to me when you share what some of your own systems are — a la the giant post it note boards — and would love to learn more about the various ways that you’ve found or created systems that have worked for you. Having that spark of realizing, “Oh … what a great idea… I could try that!” has prompted me to either use an idea that I had never thought of, or to be able to modify it to fit my own needs.

    Would love to see a “Systems for Creatives” blog post… (no pressure… just putting it out there 🙂 )

    BTW — I am LOVING your Uplevel Your Life program! What a treasure it is! I’m probably doing it a little differently than you had intended, but I have been listening to those CD’s over and over and over again in the car… each time I take something different away from them. I am still going at the daily pace with the activities in the workbook, but find that the ongoing audio input has been extremely helpful at allowing me to become more centered and conscious about what I who I want to become, and how I want to live each day. Kudos to you for an extraordinary program that is presented SO beautifully!

  • Slices of Beauty

    Subscribing to your newsletter was one of the best decisions I made this year, very happy!

    Thank you Christine.

  • leslie

    First of all, I *AM* a Systems Analyst. I analyze computer systems, trying to figure out what they do, or when something stops working, why it is doing what it is doing instead of what we want it to do. Then I come up with a plan to fix it.

    So anyway, I actually utilized your approach last month in a self-imposed project. I make greeting cards as a hobby. This is not a neat process, and it generates a lot of scraps. Every time I cut into a piece of card stock or pretty paper and don’t use the whole thing, it goes into a scrap pile. Once a month I need to clear off all the surfaces in my condo becuase I have 15 ladies who come over (in shifts) to take classes I give. All those scraps get swept into The Scrap Heap, and it was taking over my Living Room. FINALLY, after my March classes, I took that heap, sorted it into color groups, and limited myself to use ONLY items from The Heap for the full month of March. And you know what? I did! I was so focussed on making that Heap disappear, I made over 150 cards for sale in my store and at my upcoming Farmers Markets, and The Heap has been reduced to a single box of remaining scraps. I had never focussed on it before, so it kept growing. But now IT IS GONE! Yay, me!

    So to all of you out there, this works! (But I’d like to think I am a methodical person by trade, so the Systems Analyst in me made me do it. :-))

  • laura

    this is another fantastic and timely post. thank you for sharing your insight.

  • Sherrie

    Wow, this could not have come at a better time for me. I just love the idea of creating our own special “GTD” system for the right-brained among us. I’ve just come out of a two-year period of time spent grieving my late mother and brother (and marriage), and feeling completely incapable of taking ANY action. Now, I’m in the midst of growing two blogs, working on three books (in various stages, of course because even I am not THAT insane), and generally taking action in the context of a system that works for ME.

  • Mindful Mimi

    Attention, perseverance, routine, and just plain doing it in baby steps. I am currently a bit discouraged in my charity project because a friend and said she’d be helper just told me she did not have much time. That’s a setback and I felt emotionally drained and saw the project suddenly as a big tower before me. Then I thought, oh well, I will find someone else. The project doesn’t disappear because she does 🙂

  • Positively Present

    Very interesting post! There are some great ideas in here that a lot of people could benefit from. Thanks!

    http://positivelypresent.typepad.com

  • Christine Kane

    Thanks everyone! As always, i love reading the additional remarks!

  • Catherine Cantieri, Sorted

    “The truth is: Systems are uber-cool. A business without systems is chaos.”

    Boo-yah!

    Ahem, I agree completely.

    I love the ideas in this post: the big poster with little neon notes all over it, greeting your task like an old friend and shutting off that dang ticker. Great post!

  • Chookooloonks

    Oh thank CHRIST. I just wrote on my own site about how I’ve been spinning in circles, trying to get a major project done. I’m printing this post out and tacking it up where I can read it.

    Thank you!

    K.

  • JOY (yours)

    ONLY YOU would compare using systems to “taking your emotions to a dog park.”

  • Connie

    Oh, Christine. Thank you. This appears on the exact right day. I’ve struggled for so long with squeezing my art side into the time left over from a full-time job. Beginning next week I am scheduled to begin scaling back my structured work hours — and I’m scared to death that I won’t accomplish anything in these new “off” hours. Voila! I am starting TODAY!

  • Karen

    Great tips! Thanks.

  • amy

    Christine-

    Thanks for your inspiring note. I have for 3 years struggled to finish a project which will culminate in just a few hours. I learned the hard way about the system needed to accomplish this, and the faith to see it through.

    Today, I have no reservations.

    Your other posts have also advocated getting help where help is needed. I reached out to family and got that, without it, I would still be lost. Plus, their investment of time in my project made me all the more motivated to complete it.

    Thanks,
    Amy

  • Sarah

    Dear Christine!

    Thanks so much for your wise and wacky wisdom! Yes, excellent timing for me too. I see so many places in my life where I can apply this sexy system and you, once again, help to supply the faith to make it so. Woo hoo – happy Spring!

  • Rhiannon

    As usual the timing is perfect – I have just been through this cycle with a project and am now writing a blog post to review “how I got something done”. ( Its not posted yet, because I’m realising it is one that needs a little more time to pull together.)

    I decided mid January to host a joint exhibition myself, rather than wait for someone to invite me to show my “Polaroid paintings”. And the one week show finished on Sunday. Reading this post I can see that all four ideas played a part – keeping the faith is the hardest one sometimes, because not only your own inner voice ,but also many other voices will ask “Is it worth it ? “. In no small part it is thanks to posts like these that I was able to pull it off, so thank you very much Christine.

  • Martina

    I got it!!! Finally I understand !!!!
    Attention is the most powerful creative tool I have !!!!
    It is the attention itself.

    It feels like a thick dusty curtain has been lifted.

    Thank you, Christine.

Leave a Reply to Karen
Cancel Reply