Day 467 – Creative Like Bill Belichick, Pt.2.

So yesterday I suggested that relatives could take inspiration/lessons from sports and hopefully I will convince you today.

Bill Belichick is the most successful NFL coach ever because:

  • He stays focused on the overall goal and works hard to achieve it
  • He never goes through the motions and always trains with purpose
  • He makes sure that he puts the right players on the pitch at the right time
  • He doesn’t panic if things don’t seem to be working early on in the season and understands the importance of late on in the game and the season
  • He doesn’t waste time talking about the game

So how does this translate into being creative?

Be really clear about what you are trying to achieve.

Belichick knows the season is about winning the Super Bowl and so is the pre-season and the post-season. If you want to write a novel then that is the goal, nothing else. Prepare. Execute. Analyse to make next year’s performance better. It is hard work so put in the hours. Be focused and cut out distractions. Commit and achieve.

Practise with purpose and put what you learn into action.

A very underestimated part of what Belichick does is the practice field. The Patriots train with crowd noise. They train with old and scuffed up balls, removing as much of the grip as they can. They try to recreate conditions similar to the ones they will play in. All practice is purposeful.

It can be hard if you are time pressed for your creative pursuit but you need to practice. If you are a writer then try and find an extra couple of hundred words which are based on what you are writing, or will write in the next chapter. It might be character descriptions, or scene setting, or dialogue. If you are an artist you might need to experiment with colour, or sketch certain body parts, or try different techniques for applying the paint.

Use the creativity you need for that particular moment.

Don’t get distracted or show off. Use the skills to produce the elements you need to make that particular chapter, or picture, or composition, exactly as you need it. Be prepared and execute. If the scene is your chapter is heavy on dialogue, then make sure you have been practicing that element. Listen to good movies or tv, listen to or read good scenes from books and plays.

Don’t Panic!

Sometimes, particularly in the early stages, things might not go quite the way you had planned. It happens. Work out why and fix the issue. Sometimes there might not be a specific problem, you just didn’t execute well enough, so make sure you do the next time. Keep pressing on and know everything will come together late on in the season when it really matters. You may have zigged when you wanted to zag but keep the process going and remain focused on the end result.

Don’t waste time and energy.

Monosyllabic answers and repetitive phrases at press conferences are communicating that this isn’t where we win championships and Super Bowls.

As creatives we have platforms which can really boost the audience for our creativity in ways which no other writers/artists have had before, but it can also be a massive distraction. Social Media is the press conference. Learn from Bill. Don’t waste your energy and know it is taking time away from your main job. It is necessary, which why even he does them, but his conduct tells you that he knows what is important. The end result.

So Create Like Bill! And I hope to see you all in the Hall of Fame! (But don’t be surprised if Bill doesn’t speak with us!)

Day 409 – Be A Documentarian.

If you haven’t discovered Austin Kleon yet, do it now!

He describes himself as ‘a writer who draws’ but he also just happens to be a New York Times bestselling author of books about creativity in the digital age.

In a conversation with Chase Jarvis, Kleon gives you three reasons why we must show our work – apart from it being in the title of the video.

I want to just focus on the first reason.

Be a documentarian.

In the digital age we are in control of our work and how our audiences can access it.

If you are a writer then you used to write a book, it would get published by a company, someone from a newspaper/publication would review it, and then readers would go to a book shop and buy a copy. Now you can publish it yourself on your blog, on Kindle, via email, or what ever platform they invented this week.

The cool thing, which most authors don’t seem to realise yet, is that you can now have the equivalent of the DVD extras with your work. You know the short interviews with the actors and directors, the locations details, the ‘making of’ features.

Any modern creative can now do this for themselves.

Document your creativity.

Open up your blog, for example, and type away ‘here’s p.73 of my latest book – it only took me 7 hours and 23 cups of coffee to write’, then stick in a screenshot of p.73, or the coffee, or both.

Share that quick scribble in your notebook, ‘I think the person at the next to me just killed someone’ . . . At the very least we can tweet it into the police if you don’t post for a while.

If our favourite author, painter, musician, posted this kind of content on their websites, we would probably pay for it.

Anyway, I have a few more ideas about this which I will share over the next few weeks, but until then check out Austin Kleon on the links above.

Day 404 – Understand This.

Books and Vinyl Records.

The covers, the textures, the background noise.

E-books and digital downloads – somehow books seemed to have managed to miss out the equivalent stages of the CD and MiniDisc.

The future is . . .

. . . Books and Vinyl are making a comeback.

But there is a difference now.

The audiences are expecting something different.

They don’t consume in the way they did before.

Perhaps what is drawing music listeners back to vinyl is the art work of the album covers, the liner notes, the lyrics, the thank yous from the band. The things you don’t get is the same way when you stream or download.

For writers the landscape is somewhat different.

In his article on Medium, ‘The 3 Biggest Trends in Publishing Right Now‘ (June ’18), Steven Spatz writes:

What authors need to understand is this: you’re no longer just competing against other authors and books in the digital space. You’re also competing with TV, social media, games, movies, and more.

Writers are competing for the attention of readers who consume stories in different ways to before.

TV tends to be a character driven narrative over a number of episodes with discernible cliffhangers at the end of each one.

Film provides for 90-120 minutes of attention in one sitting – if there is popcorn.

Games focus on first-person action where you become the main character.

Social Media allows you to comment and influence your friends in bite-size chunks.

When your novel reaches 12 hours on audio-book and your 3rd Person narrative weaves an intricate web of symbolism throughout multiple chapters, you might not get many comments.

There is a market for the above, as I’m sure some people still proudly listen to their minidiscs, but to carve out a career as a writer you might need to pay closer attention to how and what your potential readers consume.

1st Person, quick-paced, climax to every chapter, in a story which keeps you guessing and motivated to chase the story to the end, might be one place to start. I’m sure this will work in every genre.

One hundred-ish page books, where a story is told over several volumes, might be another good place.

After all, Charles Dickens published some of his novels as chapters in his weekly magazine Household Words.

And we are back to vinyl again . . .

I Can Do That!

Aviva Premiership 2018 Final – Exeter Chiefs vs. Saracens.

Exeter have been finalists for the last three years in a row, winning in 2017, and finishing eight points clear of Saracens this year in the league.

Exeter is where I was born and my heart was completely with them to retain the title this year.

My head (ruled by my experience as a Rugby Union and Rugby League coach) gave this year’s final to Saracens by 10 points. The reality was they won by 17 points. But I know why it was a win by 17 rather than 10 points.

I also know how Exeter could have turned the result around.

Since the match, last Saturday, I have contemplated several times dropping an email to Rob Baxter, Director of Rugby at Exeter Chiefs, and putting on my best Yosser Hughes accent, stating ‘Gis a job – I could do that!’.

Early in the second half, the Chiefs pushed the ball wide from the left side out to the right – a common enough set play, getting the ball out to the far 15m channel and working against slow middle field defenders, and then going the opposite direction trying to catch slower defenders out of position.

However, Saracens were already moving three defenders out into that 15m channel, even before the  ball got there. This slowed down the recycling of the ball and allowed the now midfield defenders to get organised. It sounds simple, but the exhaustion on the Saracens pack showed how hard they were working to accomplish this.

The solution for Exeter? As the ball travelled left to right (or vice-a-versa) the attacking line needed to stand a little flatter and attack through the mid-defenders, who were spread wide and racing to fill gaps for the next phase of play. Whilst the Saracens three defenders charged to the 15m zone, a flatter attacking line would have allowed the Chiefs to exploit the gaps between centre field and the 15m line.

As soon as Exeter pulled another try back, I’m sure the fatigue Saracens were suffering would have turned the tide.

Have I said anything which the post game review hasn’t spotted? Probably not. But what I do know is I can spot these kind of things during the games.

So where does that leave me?

Hey Rob! Gis a job – I could do that!

But in the even that Rob Baxter doesn’t read my blog, I guess I will have to find another way of sharing my expertise.

How about you? What skills do you have that are going underused? And how can you change that?

Identify the skills and find your platform!