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David Squires

The Only Alternative is Nothingness



You know already that to add a new habit to your daily routine, you’ve got to schedule it.

But what if your habit requires creativity (e.g. writing a blog post) and you’re not feeling creatively inspired at the scheduled time?

The correct answer is: do nothing.

And by nothing we mean absolutely, positively nothing. Or at least, absolutely nothing positive.

In their book Willpower, author Roy Baumeister and John Tierney reference the work process of famed author Raymond Chandler, who scheduled four hours of writing time every day. That did not mean that he actually wrote four hours a day. His writing output, as you might expect, depended on the comings and goings of his creative muse.


The key to Chandler’s productivity was that, even on days that his muse was not in attendance, he would not allow himself to do anything else. Said Chandler: “(A writer) doesn’t have to write, and if he doesn’t feel like it, he shouldn’t try. He can look out of the window or stand on his head or writhe on the floor, but he is not to do any other positive thing, not read, write letters, glance at magazines, or write checks.”

Our bet? If the only option to not engaging in a desired behavior is an hour of thumb-twiddling or ceiling-staring, you might find yourself suddenly feeling a lot more creative.

* Because I’ve written about it a billion times, most notably here.

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