I think about debt quite a bit.
Mostly, that I try to avoid it.
These days, we have a team over at Nerd Fitness that is approaching 50 employees and contractors.
As the company has grown and evolved, I’ve found my attention and time pulled in many direction: meetings, projects, a new app, mentorship of team members, and so on.
My fiancée and I also just purchased an 80-year house in Nashville, and we adopted a second dog, Olive (pictured here with our other rescue pup, Pepper):
Oh, and there’s no shortage of amazing TV shows and video games to play, especially when trapped inside during the apocalypse.
Over the past two years, I’ve slipped more and more into the most unfulfilling and insidious type of debt:
I’ve been spending a lot of time consuming other people’s creative works.
From playing through the Dark Souls series on Playstation, to reading Ken Follett’s Fall of Giants, to watching Queen’s Gambit on Netflix twice, I’ve been absorbing a LOT of other people’s amazing creative content, and not producing very much of my own.
Simply put, it hasn’t been a priority, because I’ve left the rest of life happen to me rather than making time for it.
Which is a shame, because I LOVE making stuff.
My youth was spent building LEGO sets, tree forts, pillow forts, cardboard box forts, and everything other type of fort imaginable.
I started playing piano when I was 9, I picked up the guitar in college, and started playing the fiddle at age 30.
I’ve publish 700 2000+ word articles over on NerdFitness.com, which is how that site now receives a million+ monthly readers.
I even wrote an actual book, Level Up Your Life, which has helped people all over the world live better.
I’m sharing all of this to paint the picture of who I am: somebody who creates. I’m not particularly good at music, nor do I think I’m a particularly great writer.
I do know that creating stuff makes me happy and fulfilled.
And because I had spent too much time consuming other people’s creative work and not shipping any of my own, I found myself unhappy and unfulfilled.
Once I came to this realization, how do you think I tried getting out of creative debt?
I did exactly what we all THINK we should do.
I read articles and devoured books and listed to podcasts to get motived and inspired to create again.
Here are some of my favorites:
- Stephen King’s On Writing
- Anne LaMotte’s Bird by Bird
- Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art
- My friend Mark’s 5 Boring Ways to Become More Creative
- Tim Ferris interviewing Jerry Seinfeld
- Seth Godin’s The Practice: Ship Creative Work:
I kept reading more and more works from other, more creative people than myself about being creative, trying to find the motivation to write another book or begin another big project.
These incredible resources were wasted on me – I used them as a crutch rather than a springboard.
I kept psyching myself out:
I told myself I needed a BIG idea that was worthy of my time; an idea that I could dedicate weeks and months of my life to. The bigger I tried to think, the more pressure I put on myself, and the more I scared myself out of starting.
Even worse, the more creative work I read from other people, the more I told myself “your work has to be at least as good as this – otherwise, don’t bother.”
I accumulated more and more creative debt, waiting for inspiration to strike.
(In South Park terms, I was collecting creative underpants).
All of this came to a head in 2020 when I declared a creative debt emergency.
I faced the cold hard truth: I couldn’t inspire myself out of debt. I couldn’t motivate myself out of debt.
The only way out was to just f***ing START creating.
My Plan to Get out of Creative Debt
I have a very specific plan to get out of creative debt:
Not with micro-dosing LSD or going on a vision quest or cutting my ear off, but with boring consistency.
Boring consistency got me in the best shape of my life.
Boring consistency is the only reason I was able to write Level Up Your Life and grow Nerd Fitness.
Boring consistency is going to get me out of creative debt too.
Every morning, whether or not I’m inspired, I create.
I’ve blocked off the 30 minutes of every day in my calendar. I use Focus to block time-distracting websites. I can’t check my email or do anything else until my 30 minutes of creating are up.
I have a Spotify focus playlist of a few songs that help get me in flow.
And I’m creating crappy work. Some days are easy, while other days it feels like playing basketball in quicksand.
(Terrible idea, I might add)
Most of the stuff I’m creating is hot garbage. Almost all of it will never see the light of day. But every once and a while, I stumble across a thought or idea that becomes eventually becomes pretty cool.
And my only goal, each day, is to not break the streak.
I no longer write when I have a good idea.
I’m write until I find one.