Six things to avoid if you want to think creatively

Chase Jarvis writing on his laptop, smiling
Image from Chase Jarvis
Chase Jarvis
by Chase Jarvis
25 September 2019

CreativeLive founder, Chase Jarvis, has worn many hats during his career: artist, photographer, host, author, entrepreneur. But the one constant is creative. Now Chase, a long-time friend of and collaborator with the Virgin brand, has written a book about why creativity has been given a backseat in our culture – and how to change that. Here is the first of two exclusive excerpt from Creative Calling, in which Chase expands on his concepts of Creativity Zappers.

Are you busy? Busy isn’t cool. Being busy shows a lack of priority. Instead of finding ways to cram more five-minute meetings into a day or accelerate the hamster wheel of emails flowing into your in-box, start thinking about how you can cultivate the state of mind and actions that will unleash your creative power. Creativity – the power to make your ideas manifest – is never a waste of time. It’s the lever that matters the most.

Creativity Boosters are habits that feed and nurture our creative capacity. Creativity Zappers are habits that drain us and put our goals further out of reach. With habits, a little change goes a long way. Adopting even a handful of Boosters and letting go of a couple of Zappers could help move you from where you are now to where you want to be. As you experience some success with behaviour change, you can return to this list and continue to improve your tool kit.

Creativity Zappers

1. Bad Medicine

Take an honest, no-BS look at the things you put into your body to “help you cope with the day-to-day.” Ask yourself: Do they really? This can be anything you consume to get some sort of effect, from excess food, sugar, or caffeine to hardcore drugs. We know when we’re our peak creative selves – showing up the best that we can for ourselves and those around us. It’s when we’re taking care of our bodies and minds. Stay honest with yourself about what works for you and what doesn’t.

2. Social Media

Yes, social media plays an important role in how we connect with our community and cultivate an audience for our work. That said, we all know by now that the companies behind those services purposefully use behavioural psychology to trap and funnel our attention for their own purposes. As artists, our attention is a vital resource. Treat social media like junk food and be deliberate about setting limits. Try to be aware of how much you use the stuff, how it makes you feel, and how it affects your creative productivity. You’ll be surprised.

Chase Jarvis standing in front of a white board, a laptop is on a table in the foreground
Image from Chase Jarvis

3. News

I recommend you fast from news as much as possible. [Gasp.] The reality is that you will receive the news you need to. We live in a culture where the news is ubiquitous. So try this as an experiment. Stop seeking the news, aka the list of what went wrong today somewhere else. Try it for a week. I guarantee that by the end of seven days, you will still have been made aware of every major news story you would have learned about online, but without the constant sense of dread and despair that reading the news daily instills. That sludge of unending negativity takes a vicious toll on our creativity and overall well-being. Protect your mindset by governing the volume and quality of news you consume.

4. Email

Even the Luddites who angrily quit social media are stuck with email. Again, all you can do is become deliberate about how you use this tool so that it doesn’t leech your energy. Do not check your email at the start of your day if you can help it. This is one of the biggest killers of critical morning energy and momentum. Email is a petition for your time; it’s not a demand that you must respond to immediately. Rarely are there mission-critical obligations to address between 6 and 8am, and, most importantly, it’s up to you to train those in your life when you’ll be available to respond and when you will not.

Chase Jarvis walking on stage with bright pink signs announcing his name and title
Image from Chase Jarvis

5. Overwork

Whether on your day job or your creative project, it’s easy to overdo it and burn out. Pushing yourself to your limit can work here and there when absolutely necessary, but a creative life is built through consistency, not by lurching from one outsized explosion of effort to the next. It’s better to learn to rest more often and keep going than outright quit. Many creators struggle with both overwork and underwork. I fall into the overwork trap when I’m not careful. “Sprints” are fine, but only now and then, and you have to double down on self-care to compensate. There comes a time in every day when you will begin to achieve diminishing returns. When you’re truly sunk for the day – simply walk away. Rest can work wonders when we’re stuck.

6. The Wrong Work

A common destructive element in the life of any creative person is doing the wrong work – in other words, spending too much of your time on things that don’t matter or don’t come naturally. We flourish by leaning into our strengths more than by “fixing” our weaknesses. Delegate, outsource, or avoid the tasks that call on your weakest areas. There is no benefit in being so stubborn that you do it all. Every client wants to work with the very best she can get at X, Y, or Z, not someone who is pretty decent at all three. When you’re playing to your strengths at work, you’ll be much more likely to have the bandwidth to embrace your creativity the rest of the time.

Creative Calling is available now, head over to to get the book and go to CreativeLive to enjoy creative classes taught by the world’s top experts.