The Single Best Hack for Creativity

We can all find ourselves stuck at times when it comes to solving creative problems.

Our instinct is often to put our head down and push at the problem even harder. While this can sometimes be effective, often it only leaves us frustrated.

I’ve found my number one solution is to step away from the problem and take a walk. Any amount of time is helpful, but I like to shoot for at least an hour. I find most of my solutions arrive at about 40 minutes into the walk, and then I have another 20 minutes to really dig into whatever new ideas have arrived.

You may find walking by itself helpful, or you may experiment with listening to music or an intriguing podcast while you walk.

And as you walk, be aware of the problem you are trying to solve, but also let your mind drift as you observe your surroundings.

Keep writing (and walking,)


ps. Would you like to learn more ways to access creativity? Pick up The Net and the Butterfly by Olivia Fox Cabane and Judah Pollack for an entire book full of ideas and exercises.

The #1 Way to Solve Your Plot Problems

As a writer it’s normal to feel stuck, especially when it comes to plot. What does our protagonist do next? How do we a character get from point A to point B? How can we avoid a solution that feels forced?

I know early on I often found myself becoming frustrated with these sticking points and I would settle or force a solution just so it would be done. What I now realize is I was being impatient and not trusting the process.

And my writing suffered.

Now I realize that the right plot solution is worth waiting for, even if it takes a while longer to find. But how can we speed up the process? Certainly not with one more hour looking at the computer screen, or one more cup of coffee. 

By now we all realize that these solutions can’t be forced, rather our best solutions often come when we’re not fixated on the problem.

That’s because our subconscious mind solved the problem, and our subconscious mind is far more powerful when it comes to solving problems than our conscious mind.

Ok, so what’s the trick?

Before we get there I want to point out that it will seem so simple, maybe even a little too hokey, that many of you may be tempted to dismiss it. I urge you to reconsider.

Here it is...

Write down the question or problem you are trying to solve in a notebook right before bed. Pose the problem as a specific question. For instance, How do I make the character Marty Goode seem more empathetic to the reader?

Now close the notebook and forget about it. Set a reminder to check back two weeks later. During this period your subconscious mind will be working hard to solve the problem. And then once it’s time you check back in with the notebook you’ll find is that at least 50% of the time your solution will have already arrived and you may not have even tied the exercise and the solution together.

Sound absurd? I agree, and that's why many writers will never try it, but I promise it works.

And how did learn this trick? I read about it in the book The Net and the Butterfly by Olivia Fox Cabane and Judah Pollack, a book that should be on the shelf of every creative person because of its collection of unorthodox "creativity on demand" exercises.

Keep writing,



ps. This trick also works for any other area of your life. Looking for a solution with finances, relationships, or your career? Ask for a solution and see what you get!

pps. If you want to pick up a copy of The Net and the Butterfly, here you go...

How Music Will Make You a Better Writer

Music has always been essential to my writing process. In fact I’ve found no greater entry into creativity, no easier way to access flow. 

Within minutes of pushing play I’m immersed in the mood of the story, the mind of the character, or the sense of another time or place.

Yes, music is vital to my writing time, those sessions when I’m sitting at my desk working directly on my fiction. But music is also necessary for other aspects of my creative process. Walking is how I solve most of my creative problems, and when I walk I always listen to music.

Sometimes the music is random, but often it is specific.

Years ago I found nearly all my music on iTunes. This got expensive, as I often purchased several albums per month. And frustrating, as sometimes those albums were duds. However, through trial and error I would build specific playlists of ten or twenty songs for individual projects.

More recently I began using some of the streaming services. First Pandora, then Spotify. Eventually I subscribed to Spotify and immediately saw a drop in both my monthly music expenditures and my frustration levels.

Suddenly for about $10/month I could access almost any song I wanted. And now I could create as many playlists as I wanted. And my music was portable, with me always, everywhere. Desktop, laptop, phone.

For Rumors of Marty Goode I had three playlists, and they were curated to provide me with instant access to the characters and the world of that story. These playlists are now public and you can access them by going to Spotify and searching "Marty Goode."

Why multiple playlists instead of just one? Through trial and error I’ve found that once the playlist exceeds about 30 songs the shuffle mode doesn’t seem to work as well, and you get repeats of some songs before other songs have been played.

Another feature of Spotify I find helpful is the way it helps me find new music. Every Monday they update a playlist called Discover Weekly. This playlist is curated for each individual user, and introduces you to artists and songs similar to what you’ve already been listening to. Every Friday Spotify updates a playlist called Release Radar, which is a collection of new releases by your favorite artists. These days I find 90% of my new music through these two playlists. Gone are the days of wasted time and money trying to build my music library. What a time and money saver, and what a great tool for us as writers.

What about you? How does music play into your creativity? How do you access music? Where do you find new songs and artists?


Keep writing,


ps. Want to learn about other habits and techniques of artists of all kinds? Check out Daily Rituals by Mason Currey below.