The late Anthony Bourdain was many things: fine chef, recovering addict, best-selling author, and world-traveling TV host. Most of all, he was creative. In a recently-popularized discussion on the TV show The Mind of a Chef with equally-multifaceted chefs Gabrielle Hamilton and Mario Batali, Bourdain doles out some of the best advice you'll ever hear on successful creativity.
"I write in the morning. I wake up, and before I have any time to think about the million and one reasons to not write, I start writing. And I write as much as I can, and I go, go, go, go, go, and then I shove it in the drawer. And I don't look at it for a long time."
Bourdain's philosophy reveals how he stayed so prolific up until his recent death. Here's what you should take from it.
Know when to put down your work
You're not going to have a creative breakthrough staring at a page or fumbling at a blank PowerPoint. It will happen in the shower. It will happen when you're taking a walk. It will happen when you aren't thinking about it.
In the Mind of a Chef clip, Hamilton talks about finding creative solutions while she's preparing green beans. Bourdain shares insights found over a good Negroni. Batali agrees. Note that the three chefs weren't doing 80 hour weeks, Elon Musk style, or categorizing anything less-than-nonstop productivity as a failure.
You have to eventually sit your butt in your seat. But giving space to process is equally important. One cannot make creativity without the other.
Accept when you've done good enough
As I wrote recently, we tend to push and keep pushing until we break. It is a natural part of being an entrepreneur or a creative or an independent. We want to change the status quo, otherwise we wouldn't do what we do.
The problem is that the fight is nonstop. Bourdain knew that getting a great, say, hour of writing may very well be the peak of the day. Hurting yourself doesn't equate to better impact. In fact, it is often the opposite.
Drop the comparisons
By just getting to work, you also avoid the dreaded comparison game. Entrepreneur coach Marie Forleo has a great take on it:
"One of the ways people really screw themselves up is going on social media and comparing themselves to others, or comparing themselves to others in general. You're going to be off your game for at least three or four days, you're going to feel like s**t, you're going to get obsessed with their Instagram and their Facebook. You're going to think, 'I'm never going to get there! They've been there before! There's no room for me!'"
By sitting down and focusing on the work, Bourdain said he was able to start writing before he overanalyzed every sentence, thought about how much better he'd like to create, or, worse, began comparing his work to that of others.
As I say in Bring Your Worth, your frustrating moment probably isn't much different than what was experienced by people before you on a similar path. You should take comfort in that. You are no better, but you are no worse, either.
You'll go much further by respecting the work you have done and honoring the impact it already has made. That energy, that focus, gives you the momentum to be creative one more day.