Step 9

The Dreamer’s Manual:
16 Steps to Achieve Your Creative Goals

Step 9: Untether Your Mind

Our lives are a series of habits: the foods we eat, the clothes we wear, the routes we take to work, etc. Habits allow for efficiency and security, but are also constraining. If your routine is to eat a power bar and drink a glass of orange juice every morning, it’s unlikely you will take the time to experiment with different breakfast foods.

Our creative endeavors are also the result of habits. We draw with our favorite pencils. We compose music on familiar instruments. We write stories about common topics. We create comfort zones and inhabit them.

However, the patterns we form to increase efficiency can imprison us creatively. In order to expand beyond our self-imposed boundaries, we must learn how, and when, to deviate from our routines.

The jazz bassist, Jaco Pastorius, said that musicians should “listen to everything.” He absorbed influences from across the entire spectrum of music and natural sounds, and incorporated them into his playing. He didn’t feel the need to restrict his input or output to a few genres of music, and as a result, was able to stretch himself as an artist, and expand the vocabulary of music.

Habits are at the core of the creative work process – you must learn how to form chords and play scales on an instrument before you can use it to write a song – but after you become proficient in your chosen medium, breaking habits can be as important as forming them.

John Lennon, who sang and played rhythm guitar in the Beatles, said if you gave him a tuba, he’d be able to create an interesting piece of music with it. The artistry exists in the artist, not the instrument.

To grow as artists, we must take risks. We must break our habits. We must experiment and challenge ourselves to move beyond what is familiar and safe.

In order to expand your capabilities, allow your mind to wander beyond your perceived boundaries.

Step 9: Untether your mind