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How Do You Woo the Muse?

How Do You Woo the Muse?
Inspiration

    I would especially like to recourt the Muse of poetry, who ran off with the mailman four years ago, and drops me only a scribbled postcard from time to time.” – John Updike

    Do you wait for inspiration, or do you go after the muse? Some argue that inspiration can’t be coaxed – that it comes when it’s damn good and ready. If you’re a writer, software developer, designer, artist, or other professional whose work relies on your creative inspirations, waiting may not be an option. You can’t passively eye the beautiful muse sitting at the bar, waiting and hoping for her to approach you. You have to go to her, promise her greatness, and hope that she accepts your pitch – and maybe, just maybe, stays on for the long haul.

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    Woo the muse of the odd.” – Lafcadio Hearn, via Bruce Sterling

    We all have our favorite methods to cajole inspiration – tips, hacks, and techniques that create a fertile ground for ideas. Some of mine include:

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    1 – Music. Something about music just makes the brain want to create. The style can sometimes even affect the final outcome. Do you need high energy, or calm and peaceful? Some music, like Dr. Jeffrey Thompson’s Creative Mind System, may even alter brainwaves to induce a creative state of mind. If nothing else, it establishes a mood, and sometimes a mood is all you need.

    2 – Go for a walk. One of the most effective ways for me to woo the muse is to go for a stroll. I call it mediation in motion. Letting the mind wander while walking can really spark ideas, and it’s a great way to get some exercise and stretch after sitting at the computer all day.

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    3 – Watch TV. Now, this one may seem counterintuitive, but it works for me sometimes. Especially watching something completely unrelated to what I’m working on, like cooking shows. I’m fairly sure it works on the same principle of remembering something, when you stop trying to remember it – like a song or someone’s name. Taking the brain off the problem sometimes lets it do its thing in the background. If nothing else, it’s a good excuse to watch a bunch of DVR’d episodes of MythBusters.

    Are you one of the fortunate ones who have the muse as a constant companion, or like Updike, do you just a get scribbled postcard on occasion? When being creative is a key part of your life, and your livelihood, knowing how to persuade the fickle muse can be crucial. What are your strategies? How do you woo the muse?

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    Tony D. Clark writes, draws cartoons, designs software and websites, and spends a lot of time talking others into working from home, being creative, and doing what they love. His blog Success from the Nest focuses on helping parents who want to do meaningful work from home and have more time for their families. His weekly podcast The Creative Venture is designed to bridge the gap between creativity and practical business knowledge, helping creative people turn their talents into a thriving business.

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    Last Updated on April 8, 2019

    22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

    22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

    Unless you’re infinitely rich or prepared to rack up major debt, you need to budget your income. Setting limits on how much you are willing to spend helps control expenses. But what about your time? Do you budget your time or spend it carelessly?

    Deadlines are the chronological equivalent of a budget. By setting aside a portion of time to complete a task, goal or project in advance you avoid over-spending. Deadlines can be helpful but they can also be a source of frustration if set improperly. Here are some tips for making deadlines work:

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    1. Use Parkinson’s Law – Parkinson’s Law states that tasks expand to fill the time given to them. By setting a strict deadline in advance you can cut off this expansion and focus on what is most important.
    2. Timebox – Set small deadlines of 60-90 minutes to work on a specific task. After the time is up you finish. This cuts procrastinating and forces you to use your time wisely.
    3. 80/20 – The Pareto Principle suggests that 80% of the value is contained in 20% of the input. Apply this rule to projects to focus on that critical 20% first and fill out the other 80% if you still have time.
    4. Project VS Deadline – The more flexible your project, the stricter your deadline. If a task has relatively little flexibility in completion a softer deadline will keep you sane. If the task can grow easily, keep a tight deadline to prevent waste.
    5. Break it Down – Any deadline over one day should be broken down into smaller units. Long deadlines fail to motivate if they aren’t applied to manageable units.
    6. Hofstadter’s Law – Basically this law states that it always takes longer than you think. A rule I’ve heard in software development is to double the time you think you need. Then add six months. Be patient and give yourself ample time for complex projects.
    7. Backwards Planning – Set the deadline first and then decide how you will achieve it. This approach is great when choices are abundant and projects could go on indefinitely.
    8. Prototype – If you are attempting something new, test out smaller versions of a project to help you decide on a final deadline. Write a 10 page e-book before your 300 page novel or try to increase your income by 10% before aiming to double it.
    9. Find the Weak Link – Figure out what could ruin your plans and accomplish it first. Knowing the unknown can help you format your deadlines.
    10. No Robot Deadlines – Robots can work without sleep, relaxation or distractions. You aren’t a robot. Don’t schedule your deadline with the expectation you can work sixteen hour days to complete it. Deathmarches aren’t healthy.
    11. Get Feedback – Get a realistic picture from people working with you. Giving impossible deadlines to contractors or employees will only build resentment.
    12. Continuous Planning – If you use a backwards planning model, you need to constantly be updating plans to fit your deadline. This means making cuts, additions or refinements so the project will fit into the expected timeframe.
    13. Mark Excess Baggage – Identify areas of a task or project that will be ignored if time grows short. What e-mails will you have to delete if it takes too long to empty your inbox? What features will your product lack if you need a rapid finish?
    14. Review – For deadlines over a month long take a weekly review to track your progress. This will help you identify methods you can use to speed up work and help you plan more efficiently for the future.
    15. Find Shortcuts – Almost any task or project has shortcuts you can use to save time. Is there a premade library you can use instead of building your own functions? An autoresponder to answer similar e-mails? An expert you can call to help solve a problem?
    16. Churn then Polish – Set a strict deadline for basic completion and then set a more comfortable deadline to enhance and polish afterwards. Often churning out the basics of a task quickly will require no more polishing afterwards than doing it slowly.
    17. Reminders – Post reminders of your deadlines everywhere. Creating a sense of urgency with your deadlines is necessary to keep them from getting pushed aside by distractions.
    18. Forward Planning – Not mutually exclusive with backwards planning, this involves planning the details of a project out before setting a deadline. Great for achieving clarity about what you are trying to accomplish before making arbitrary time limits.
    19. Set a Timer – Get one that beeps. Somehow the countdown of a timer appears more realistic for a ninety minute timebox than just glancing at your clock.
    20. Write them Down – Any deadline over a few hours needs to be written down. Otherwise it is an inclination not a goal. Having written deadlines makes them more tangible than internal decisions alone.
    21. Cheap/Fast/Good – Ben Casnocha in My Start Up Life mentions that you can have only have two of the three. Pick two of the cheap/fast/good dimensions before starting a project to help you prioritize.
    22. Be Patient – Using a deadline may seem to be the complete opposite of patience. But being patient with inflexible tasks is necessary to focus on their completion. The paradox is that the more patient you are, the more you can focus. The more you can focus the quicker the results will come!

    Featured photo credit: Estée Janssens via unsplash.com

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