Build Momentum for Creative Habits

“Build Momentum for Creative Habits” presentation by Keller Davis as part of the “Skill Taco” speaker series at Createscape Coworking on September 18, 2019.


Thanks for coming to Skill Taco. The name of my presentation is "Build Momentum for Creative Habits." And my background, besides being the owner of Createscape, is that I also have a video production company. I'm usually working on a lot of creative projects at once, like short films, I'm also working on different writing projects. It varies. I've been doing that cause it was kind of things for years. So I was thinking about this presentation idea because I was recently reading a book and I had realized that when I picked the book up sporadically and I read just a couple of pages at a time, one day here, one day there, it takes me months on end to get through it. But that if I finish a book and I block off a chunk of time and I'm just reading hours on end, as soon as I finish that book, I immediately want to jump into the next one, like some other book. There's a kind of high that you get off of finishing something creative, and just that mental energy. And so it can have a little bit of a snowball effect in terms of putting the time in to do something like that. And similarly with writing, I've had the experience where I've been trying to work on a feature screenplay and by working on these web series just one bit by one bit, it's like four pages at a time, but it also allowed me to get the creative energies flowing. And then I want to continue working and just kind of plugging away at it in a way where it's like, it feels a little bit more manageable than if you're just thinking of a huge project and you want that instant gratification of being done with it. So that's how I got in to putting together this presentation on the idea of momentum. So I'm going to explore that idea.

You may accomplish a creative project some piece of art, something you're really proud of, maybe you wrote a book and, or maybe you made a movie or something. And you're proud of it. And maybe it was a whirlwind of passion or luck or just a burst of energy that you had in order to actually get it done because actually finishing something is an incredibly difficult thing. It's it's way easier just to kind of start a project and then have it kind of trail off or you know, just be kind of barely done or just kind of halfway done. But actually finishing something is a huge accomplishment. But then time passes and you're wondering why you haven't had a repeat of it yet. And so a lot of times you get asked the question, "So what's next for you?" And I go to a lot of film festivals and whenever I'm at the film festivals, there's always a Q&A that is there, and one of the most common questions is asked to actors, producers, directors, anyone involved with the film is: "Well, that was great. So what's next for you?" And the reason why that's such a common thing is that people, especially if they like your work, they're always kind of craving something more from you and they want to see what else you have in store it's kind of usually not enough just to kind of rest on the thing that you have just done, even if it was just five minutes ago. Everyone's always kind of thinking about: okay, what is next? But you might feel kind of stuck in that limbo of not finishing another creative project.


Maybe you've done one thing, but you're kind of in that in between period. And that usually would apply to most of us who are creative. So it's, it's kind of difficult. And I'm going to go through a nice, easy workflow of a way to approach that. So first you finish a project. Then you can celebrate that. You can enjoy the moment. And the next day you should get back to work. Rather than taking a vacation, kind of checking out right after you've done something. It can have a more longing effect if you are making a decision in order to make it a habit, and not lose steam on that thing.

So I'm going to define momentum real quick. In physics it's a super basic definition is momentum, is that an object in motion stays in motion. So you are that object, your ideas are that object. You want to keep those in more motion. So why is momentum so important? To compare this to if you're going to the gym: if you go to the gym 10 days in a row going on that 11th today ends up being fairly easy. But if you suddenly skipped five days in a row, getting back into it is basically the equivalent of starting from scratch. And similarly, if you're writing, if you write 10 pages, writing that 11 page is going to be way easier than if you kind of completely cut off for months at a time. Similarly if a car is driving a hundred miles an hour it's going to be much harder for it to slow down than if you are just stopping and starting a lot.

So I'm going to be talking a little bit about a momentum window. Now, it's said that if you do the right things in a momentum window, you'll make a quantum leap forward and you'll never be back down to the same level again. So this is kind of a theory, just that if you're really putting in the work and you're making those kind of right decisions when you have that bolt of lightning that you know, you can really kind of change the game and kind of bring yourself up to the next level. So this is why a published author is usually always working on a second book. An actor is always asked, you know, w you know, what you're working on-- "well, I'm working on this next film and this next film and this next film." A musician is usually always working on the next album. They barely have time to even celebrate the album that they have. Just an example of this: it seems like Ariana Grande puts out a new song and music video every single month. And, you know, to her success, she's putting in the work, she's doing it. Like there's there's just a constant stream of content and art that she's putting out there. Similarly, a founder of a company is usually always kind of working on whatever the next big startup is and like how they're going to be improving that. So it's a delicate balance between living in the moment and also keeping your eyes on the horizon. It's really hard to get it back once you lose it too. So that's why you want to be keeping that momentum going and why it's so important to have those momentum windows.

So momentum is usually not because of doing one big thing, but a bunch of little things. And that's why I'm gonna be talking about habits now. It's something that you want to kind of build into your routine as something that you're doing very consistently. Because if you're not doing it consistently and it's just something sporadic, it is going to be a lot more likely that you're just kind of like having one of those successes as a one off thing. So you want to get in the habit of doing things that can really kind of change the game for you. And this might mean just like writing a few sentences per day. You know, if going to the gym every day or getting the habit of reading for 10 minutes a day... these are all like little things that can make a big difference for that. So habit change enables you to rack up small wins and experience incremental progress because everyone wants that feeling and that high as soon as they finished a project and whenever they've like made some big change in their life. And a lot of times people will try to go from zero to 60. They'll try to have something happen overnight and a lot of times that's really hard. And then you get frustrated and then you want to quit whatever the thing is you're doing. But if you set much smaller goals and these things that you can pat yourself on the back on in terms of having done them on a daily basis, you're going be a lot more likely to make progress in that sense. So you should be thinking about what's something small that you can start with.

Activation energy, this is one idea in terms of how you can really kind of change habits for yourself. If you're wanting to stop the temptation of say, just going home and watching TV when you want to be doing something else. You could for instance, hide the batteries in a drawer in another rooms so rather than just sitting down, you might have to go through the extra energy of putting in the batteries, going into the other room. And then turning on the television and just that extra little step would make a difference in terms of you maybe in deciding instead to read something or write a book or work on some other projects. So by making it a little bit more of a hassle, it kind of like creates that friction there. So activation energy, to define it, it's the amount of effort required to do something. For the activities you want to avoid, which might be you know, distractions on your phone. If you're scrolling through Instagram or Facebook or something and you just know that it's kind of like a mindless activity that you don't want to be doing, you can increase the activation energy. That might mean uninstalling the apps for a week at a time. For the activities you want to do more of, which might be picking up a book first thing in the morning, you might move your phone to another room, you might put a book or a writing tablet right by where your cup of coffee is going to be in the morning. These are just little things that you can do so that you can kind of like build on that habit in very small ways and make it a little bit easier to go forward.

So scheduling the time; you should probably take a look at what your Google calendar looks like or your planner or anything like that and see what takes up the majority of your time. And it might not line up with where your priorities are. If you write down a list of what the most important things to you are in your life, you might see that those things don't exactly align and there's not time that's carved out for the things that you really want to be doing. So making that list helps and then you can reflect on how your calendar is going to reflect that. And just making those little appointments for yourself so that, on these days, 'I'm working on this project no matter what' and really sticking to that.

Presentation by Keller Davis

Transcript Edited for Clarity

Edited by Riki Markowitz & Keller Davis