Creative Ambition


In the past several months, I’ve been stretching my creative muscles, taking on more ambitious projects including the 30-day Deep Abundance Integration video course and the 60-day Submersion audio course. The former was recorded in Aug 2018, and the latter was recorded in Dec 2018 and Jan 2019.

I just published lesson 60 for Submersion yesterday. I still have more bonus material to create for Submersion in February, but all of the core lessons are now complete. Currently there are 550 people enrolled in Submersion, and more are joining every week since we launched in early December.

For their core lessons, Deep Abundance Integration has more than 36 hours of material, and Submersion has about 26 hours. In terms of word count, I’d estimate at least 500,000 words for both combined, not counting the bonus content. By comparison my book Personal Development for Smart People was 83,000 words, and many books published in this field now are around 55,000 words. My entire blog is around 2 million words. So each deep dive is a major work equivalent to multiple books.

If this volume of material seems like it would scare away the timid, indeed it will, and that’s intentional. I’m a depth guy, and I love engaging with people who appreciate serious depth. Real life is varied and complex, and simplistic answers that might have seduced me a couple of decades ago don’t appeal to me these days. I want to dance inside the chaos and do my best to explore and express the hidden order within in. This is really difficult work, and that’s the space in which I thrive.

For years I’ve been wanting to create larger works on rich and complex topics, so these projects have been lighting me up inside. I like that they challenge me to delve into my best thinking, connecting more dots than ever before. I love ending the day with the feeling that I pushed my mind to operate at full capacity and squeezed as much deep work out of it as possible.

I especially like the edginess of tackling a creative project that I don’t actually know how to complete when I begin it. It feels good to commit first. I know I won’t be bored because there will be so much to figure out along the way. I can be fully engaged with this kind of work because it demands that I do my best.

Co-Creation

A key to unlocking this creative flow was to frame these projects as co-creative experiences. I launched them first, sharing the ideas and intentions as honestly as I could. Those who signed up had the ability to share feedback, suggestions, and questions as we went along. Lessons were published shortly after they were recorded. Each batch of lessons generated new feedback which informed the design of future lessons. Those who shared feedback during the development process truly influenced the creative process. If different people had signed up, these courses would have turned out totally differently.

There was a substantial volume of feedback shared along the way. For Deep Abundance Integration, the daily commentary during the live calls added up to about 900 pages, and more was shared via email as well. I spent dozens of hours reading this feedback, taking notes, and considering suggestions. I found this process incredibly valuable; it helped me understand the mindsets and frames that people used. I especially came to see how certain frames cause people to get stuck. Both courses involve adjusting our mental models to unlock more flow. Our frames often impose limits that reality needn’t obey, and better frames that remove these blocks.

Creative Obsession

Over the years I’ve experimented with different ways of working on larger creative projects. What seems most effective for me is to approach them as obsessive deep dives, much like tackling a personal growth challenge like the 40-day water fast I did in 2017. I put almost everything else on hold to clear the space, so I can focus on the creative work as my #1 project for a while. Even when I’m not actively working on it, my mind obsesses in the background. Everything links to the project. Little else exists except that one core project.

Some people can write a page a day and go on with their lives, and after a year they have a book. That doesn’t work for me. I find it way too slow. I work much better in creative bursts, and I mean that in a fractal sort of way. I like having 1-3 month creative bursts spread throughout the year, separated by breaks to resurface and attend to other parts of life. And within those larger bursts are shorter bursts of a few days to delve into specific subtopics. And within those are bursts of some hours to delve into a particular lesson or two.

The space between these bursts is critical to the creative process. It takes time for my mind to chew on ideas, ponder possibilities, and make new connections. Much of this happens subconsciously. A highly effective way to stimulate creative insights is to take in seemingly unrelated input. In these spaces I travel. I see movies. I read books. I play games. I attend events. I talk to people.

I didn’t create a 200,000-word course in 2 months by working for 8 hours a day x 5 days a week. I worked with the flow of inspiration. Sometimes that meant working 12 hours a day, occasionally for a few days in a row. Sometimes that meant working 2 hours, taking a break, and then working a couple more hours in a day. Other times it included traveling (San Diego in December and Mexico in January) or doing something unrelated for a day or two.

Even during the apparent breaks, the obsession still gripped me. While working on Submersion, I couldn’t help but interpret every experience through the lens of Subjective Reality. My mind would dwelling on the project while brushing my teeth, while driving, while watching a movie, or while on an airplane. Everything links to the project’s ideas, partly because the ideas are expansive enough that everything in life can link to them.

Aligning Intentions

I find that creative work is very sensitive to my intentions. If my intention is to create something for the money, I’ve killed the flow before I’ve even begun. That’s a needy and pathetic intention that reality doesn’t respect. The result will be some form of punishment.

Here are some intentions that work:

  • Add something unique to the universe
  • Help people undertake some major personal transformations
  • Pursue a path that hasn’t been fully explored yet
  • Dive into the unknown
  • Create something that I’d appreciate if someone else were to create it
  • Commit to traversing the whole tunnel before the end of the tunnel is visible
  • Co-create the experience with very aligned people
  • Attempt a creative project that requires me to do my best to even have a chance of success
  • Create something that might be useful to future AI, not just for humans
  • Seek answers to the hardest questions I could ask

Reality seems immensely supportive of these types of intentions.

There’s a real sense of satisfaction that comes from adding something unique and different to the world, and the feedback shared by people going through these courses has been tremendously positive. I don’t see how anyone could go through all 30 Deep Abundance Integration lessons or all 60 Submersion lessons and not be significantly changed by these experiences. Each one represents an intense tunnel of transformation. For those who complete both, I doubt their friends and family will recognize them afterwards.

Submersion in particular is one of the most ambitious creative projects I’ve ever attempted, representing some of the best work of my life. The universe seemed to support its creation in the most beautiful and synchronous ways, leading me to the right insights, resources, and connections at just the right times.

Reframing Creativity

I’ve noticed that many creative types tend to frame creativity as a private pursuit whereby one cocoons oneself in a sanctuary of solitude and nudges one’s brain to output something interesting. That framing proved problematic for me and not nearly as productive as alternative frames.

My current framing is that creativity is inherently co-creative. Instead of withdrawing from the world to create in silence, I prefer to lean into more engagement with life, with people, and with experiences throughout the creative process. Creativity flows beautifully from a high level of engagement with people, places, and events. This engagement is best when it happens in waves, and between these waves are stretches of time to record and structure the insights that arise.

I have more ideas for upcoming deep dives, and of course people continue to suggest new ones as well. We’ll get to those in good time. For now I want to allow some space for people to continue going through our last two deep dives, and during this time we’ll also finish filling out the bonus content.

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