TGM19: The Habit of Creativity and How to Schedule the Muse with James Clear

James Clear. Where the hell do you begin with a guy like this? He’s an entrepreneur, weightlifter, travel photographer, author and regular writer at

It was my honor to talk to him for an hour. I loved his perceptive on following one’s “passion” and what it really means to do creative work.

According to James, the Muse can be scheduled. I tend to believe him and I think you will too after listen to this episode.

We even geeked out about camera gear for few minutes toward the end.

In his own words, “I’m just a country boy trying to make a difference.”

Here are some of my favorite bits from the show:

On Writing and Inspiration

“The truth is that most of the articles I write get written that day. I don’t write every day. I tried to do that and totally burned. The important thing is to have a schedule you can stick to.”

“This is the difference between professionals and amateurs. Professionals to do things on a schedule. Amateurs do things when it’s easy for them or when they feel motivated or inspired to do it.”

“Having a pace you can sustain is huge.”

“I’ve realized I’m a terrible judge of my work. If you show up enough times to get the average ideas out of the way, genius will reveal itself.”

“The default for me is hitting publish and feeling like the post is lacking. The rare thing feeling good.”

“It is true that sometimes you just have that great moment and it just flows out of you and the creative muse strikes and it just feels right. What I find, tough, is that that moment can often be trigged by doing the work for a little while, rather than sitting around passively and letting it hit you just at random.”

“The only way to increase your odds of creating something that [is] compelling and useful and important in your field is to do more. To produce on a consistent basis.”

“There is some kind of quality bar, but after that, it comes down to consistency.”

On The Importance of Telling Great Stories

“I looked back on the first 18 months of articles that I had created and I found out that pretty much 90 percent of the most popular articles all started with a story.”

“It’s not just entertaining people. The other thing I think is really important about it, is that it provides a mental model for the idea in practice. And that is very useful when it comes to behavior change or helping to improve their lives in some way.”

“It can be really easy to talk about theory or share some type of scientific research and not do the hard work of showing people how to bridge the gap between that and practical every day life. And stories help do that in really great way.”

On Finding Your “Passion”

“It’s more about doing great work than figure out all the things you don’t know.”

“You can start with the thing you really like, but I think the conversation should probably be adjusted. The conversation most people have is something around, is this what I’m passionate about, do I really care bout this, does this project light me on fire, all that type of stuff. And those things are great, but I think what the conversation should be is, what skills do I need to succeed and what am I doing to develop that skill set.”

“No matter what project you’re working on, there’s some skill associated with it and you need to figure out what that skill is and how you can build it.”

“The conversation should be about how do I develop skills, how do I move toward mastery, rather than how do I find something I’m passionate about. You should care about the thing you’re working on, but the funny thing is, I’ve never met anybody who’s become passionate about something by sitting around and thinking about it.”

“Passion is a result of investing myself in something. I comes after. This idea of starting with passion doesn’t make much sense to me.”

Everyone Has Something to Contribute, Even If They Don’t

“If you don’t actually have something to contribute or something more to add to the conversation, then the service you can do that is actually very useful to people, is pointing them to person in that industry that actually is the best. For example, you point them to the best book on Amazon or the best online course. But if you don’t tell them about it, they’re going to do they’re own research and may not end up in the best place. But you can provide a great service to people by just showing them what the best option is, because you already put in the research. So, even though it seems old to you, it’s new to somebody else.”

On Legacy

“In 100 years, nobody’s going to care how readers or subscribers I had. But if you create a piece of work that is art, that is beauty, that is valuable, that stands the test of time, maybe that will still be around for someone to enjoy.”

As always, I had a great time talking to James. Enjoy the show!

Show Notes

  • Min 20:55: The importance of one clear call to action.
  • Min 25:10: The difference between professionals and amateurs.
  • Min 27:31: What writing and going to gym have in common.
  • Min 30:43: The central tension for anyone who tries to create and put it out into the world.
  • Min 32:35: The equal odds rule.
  • Min 37:15: Why it’s important to tell stories.
  • Min 43:06: Why mastery should be your pursuit rather than passion.
  • Min 47:30: How do you know what skills to focus on.
  • Min 52:21: Why finding a unique niche isn’t as important as you think.
  • Min 56:51: What to do if you don’t feel like you have anything to offer yet?
  • Min 59: The best camera lens for traveling.
  • Min 61: Why it’s good to have some that just stay hobbies and don’t turn into a businesses.
  • Min 65:04: The difference between a job and a craft.

Bits & Bytes Mentioned in the Show

More About James


Published by Adam Clark on January 21, 2015

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