6 Habits of Highly Productive Creators


Habit 1: They give themselves permission to fail

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Creativity is not something innate.

There are common traits of highly productive online creators. Behaviors that anyone can replicate and apply.

Contrary to general opinion, these behaviors aren’t something only a few selected people have.

Or, there is no genetic coding for creative thinking or for breakthrough ideas.

Creating something is not a talent. Rather, it’s an emergent quality of the mind, a trait that anyone can develop. It’s a skill that anyone can learn. It just requires practice, practice, and more practice.

Whether you’re a podcaster, photographer, writer, painter, or filmmaker, anyone can apply this creative power to their content creation journey.

The best part of it is that each one of us has the potential for this kind of creative expression in our lives but often aren’t aware of it. The only way to discover is by practicing.

Content creation is a process — a process of practicing making new connections between pre-existing ideas in a non-existing way.

There are certain behaviors of successful online content creators regardless of what type of content they’re creating. Here are the six traits of highly productive online creators that anyone can apply in their life to become a more prolific creator:

1. They Give Themselves Permission to Create Junk

After 51 failed games, Rovio created Angry Birds.

Before the Angry Birds, the company was close to bankruptcy. They needed to fire most of their employees.

If there was one thing they didn’t do, it was to keep creating new games.

After 51 failed games, Angry Birds became their thing to worldwide success. After 51 failed attempts, according to Rovio, their games received over 3.7 billion downloads!

On the other hand, there are many people give up making a video for YouTube, writing pieces for Medium, creating short-form videos for TikTok after a couple of failed attempts.

But when you ask them how many videos they have created, how many articles they have written, the answer is a couple of.

These people give up because they don’t make more than

→ $100/month,

→ 1.000 subscribers, or

→ 10.000 views per month

without failing 51 times.

These people give up because they don’t give themselves permission to fail.

According to Ali Abdaal, a YouTuber with 1.5m subscribers, you need to create (on average):

  • 152 videos to reach 1k subscribers
  • 418 videos to reach 10k subscribers
  • 1.171 videos to reach 100k subscribers
  • 3.873 videos to reach 1m subscribers

Are you willing to create 51 failed games or 3.873 videos?

Will you give yourself permission to create junk?

Of course, your first attempts would be garbage. No one wants to read them; no one wants to watch them.

Creating something, no matter how bad it is, is practice for creating a better one. When you keep producing, finally, you’ll become good enough, soon enough.

Just don’t forget, creativity and the ability to innovate are like muscles — the more you use them, the stronger they get.

2. They Make New Connections With Old Ideas

One of the most significant problems with inexperienced content creators is that they’re spending so much time trying to find the next big content idea, or in other words, the next viral content.

They’re spending hours and hours on finding that idea, and they usually end up publishing nothing.

However, in reality, none of the creative endeavors — writing, painting, drawing, singing, etc. — works like this. Every piece of content builds upon the previous ones.

Just check your favorite Medium writer, YouTuber, podcaster, they all create upon what’s already there. None of those pieces are something completely new. But all of them have their own unique touch, perspective, voice…

As Austin Kleon wrote in his book, Steal Like an Artist, “What a good artist understands is that nothing comes from nowhere. All creative work builds on what came before. Nothing is completely original.”

All you need to do is start shipping the ideas.

Once you turn your ideas into content, once you start remixing the old ideas with your own touch, with your own voice, with your own words, you will start creating something unique.

Once you start shipping, you’ll start making connections between the old ideas and find your original content piece.

Creativity is to make new connections with old ideas. Bringing together two pre-existing ideas in a non-existent way.

3. They Force Themselves to Create Consistently

If there is one single habit that differentiates successful creators from non-successful creators, professionals from amateurs, creative geniuses from ordinary people, it is consistency.

If you want to be successful in whatever you’re doing, you need to do it consistently. Period.

No single act will uncover more creative genius than forcing yourself to create consistently. Practicing your craft over and over is the only way to become decent at it.
— James Clear

There is an age-old myth that best works are done when the inspiration sparks.

However, in reality, it doesn’t work like that. Best works are created after countless trials, failed experiments, and consistent production.

Picasso painted over 20,000 works.

Bach composed at least one work a week.

  • If you want to become a better doodler you need to doodle everyday
  • If you want to become a better cook you need to cook every day
  • If you want to be in better shape you shouldn’t miss workouts
  • If you want to become a better writer you need to write every day
  • If you want to become a better … you need to practice every freaking single day.

There is no way around it.

You can’t become better if you wait for some inspiration. Inspiration will not come to you while you’re waiting. You need to start acting. Once you force yourself to do it consistently, you’ll become better at whatever you’re doing. And, inspiration will visit you more frequently.

The best way to create consistently is by working around a timetable. It’s crucial that you create a schedule that you can rely on.

Because success is a process. Never forget this.

  • Decide what you want to improve
  • Create a schedule for yourself
  • Set realistic goals
  • Keep going even if you make a mistake
  • Stick to your schedule

4. They Don’t See Constraints as an Enemy

There is a common belief that ‘creativity is highest when totally free and unbounded.’ Some people believe that they aren’t able to write their best articles, cook their best foods, or draw their best pictures because they don’t have enough resources.

That’s not true!

The truth is creativity loves constraints.

Because you have to be more creative when you have fewer resources.

  • When you have a word limit, you will write more focused articles. This way, you can learn to say more with fewer words.
  • When you have a deadline, you will push yourself to finish the work. This way, you can find ways to implement faster.

Similarly, an editor challenged Dr. Seuss to write a book with only 50 different words. But, he proved the editor is wrong and wrote a children’s book with only 50 words.

Limitations drive you to figure out solutions. Your constraints inspire your creativity.
— James Clear

Research also supports that level of creativity increases when there are constraints. David Burkus, in his book, The Myths of Creativity, says:

“Many of the most prolific and creative people understand how stifling a blank slate can be. All creatives need some constraints. All artists need structure. Some of the most creative poetry comes in fixed forms such as the Japanese haiku or the English sonnet.”

Next time when you feel stuck, add some constraints to the work you’ll do:

  • Challenge yourself to make 10 different dishes from 3 ingredients.
  • Write essays with less than 250 words under 30 minutes.
  • Take pictures with only one lens.
  • Paint with only 3 colors.

All creatives need some constraints, whether you’re a writer, painter, cook, etc. You have to be more creative when you have fewer resources. Because you have to do more with less.

5. They Ship Their Ideas

How many times have you planned to do something — whether it be writing a book, starting a business or a blog, or just accomplishing some long-term goal and then never done anything?

Quite a lot of time, right?

This happens to many of us.

The solution is: Start shipping your ideas as soon as possible. Don’t get ready to make something. Start making something. Start finishing that thing.

James Clear says, “Finish something. Anything. Stop researching, planning, and preparing to do the work and just do the work. It doesn’t matter how good or how bad it is. You don’t need to set the world on fire with your first try. You just need to prove to yourself that you have what it takes to produce something.”

There is no successful researcher, painter, cook, writer, or musician without shipping their work. Stop arguing about what, when, where, or how to make and just do something.

Thomas Edison has over 1,000 patents.

Picasso painted more than 20,000 canvases.

Bach composed over 1,000 pieces of music.

There is also an age-old misconception that there’s a trade-off between quality and quantity. However, I don’t believe in this. What I believe is quantity increases quality over time. Every piece of content is a practice of creating a better one.

  1. To get better, ship your idea.
  2. Celebrate the outcome.
  3. Move on to the next one on the list. And ship it again.

There’s a quote by Steven Pressfield which says, “Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.” He talks about how important it is to ship the work and not just talk about it or think about it.

“The master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried.”
— Henry Ward Beecher

6. They’re Always Learning New Things to Make New Connections

Have you ever felt you run out of ideas or stuck in the same idea loop as a content creator?

I don’t know about you, but it happens to me from time to time. Especially when I don’t read or learn anything new for a while.

There is no escape from this swamp unless you enter new domains. No matter what you try, you start repeating yourself. The only way to escape from this loop is to learn new things constantly.

Because input determines output. If you want to say something different or make new connections, you need to learn new perspectives. You need to enter new domains. There is no shortcut.

The quality of the content produced by content creators is determined by the information they consume.

Learning new things can be difficult at times, and as a result, many people tend to avoid doing so. Some people enjoy trying and learning new things, while others prevent putting new things into action.

Not learning new things is the end for any type of creator who hopes to do good work. It’s also very similar for companies.

There were about 20 search engines before Google launched, but most of them failed. Because they weren’t providing something users wanted. Google changed the game with a different approach. They ranked the pages based on quality rather than popularity.

Their inspiration was academic articles.

It’s very easy to determine the best articles in academia by looking at the number of citations. What Google did was very similar to this. They also looked at the citations, or in SEO language, they looked at a number of backlinks, when they were ranking pages.

Long story short, the creator constantly looks for new things from all parts of the planet to make new connections to never stuck with the same idea loop. A creator is always entering new domains to make new connections.

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