Creativity and Grit

Photo Credit: Unsplash/Eugen Aschenbrenner

By Kate Maria Pennell

Five steps to create momentum in your creative projects.

Take flight — write, paint, shout “ACTION,” light your blowtorch. Step forward in faith, and create!

It sounds very grand.

The reality is more Steven Pressfield style, “Sit down and do your work” (from The War of Art).

There is very rarely a fanfare. Just the sound of the creative mental motor and the quiet tapping of the keyboard or the scratching of tools.

If it’s so simple, why don’t we do it? What is stopping us?

“Genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration”—Thomas Edison

Edison got it. He understood that creating is synonymous with working on something.

We can tell ourselves that we just need to be more disciplined, more determined, have more willpower, and stop procrastinating!


(Note to self: This kind of pep talk leaves me feeling lacking, useless, and demoralized. I think I’ll just go game instead.)

A more productive and self-empowering way to move forward is to face the core of the issues:

No. 1: If we don’t understand the creative process, we cannot move ourselves and our work through it. Overlook the process, and we can become blocked or stuck in a loop. Our creative production may be in fits and spurts, leaving us feeling burnt out, frustrated, and longing to be like those “more talented than us.”

No. 2: Feelings of fear and being overwhelmed act as creative brakes. Therefore, I suggest clearing out the thinking that is producing the fear and setting up some practical frameworks that facilitates creativity.

Here are five steps to help you in this process:

  1. Get Fear in Perspective

It seems so powerful, but what if fear wasn’t what it appears to be? What if fear was just an echo with a loud hailer?

Our grit—our applied determination to do what it takes—can be ground to sand by fear and then run through our fingers—if we let it grind us down. But only if we let it.

We experience genuine fear when facing danger. The rest of the time, fear shows up under the guises of procrastination, worry, overthinking. It has a whole wardrobe of disguises. But underneath, is fear. But not the real deal. These fears are echoes from the past that we project into our present or our future, via our beliefs and our thinking, which then affect our behavior. The good news is that they’re not real.

Turn on the light and these nightmares disappear. Like Harry Potter’s dementor that was just a bogeyman. The power lay in the power he gave it. Face it to see it for what it really is.

Fear of failure, fear of success (my personal nemesis), fear of being alone, exposed, of seeming better than others…they all disappear with light and warmth and truth.

Chocolate is optional.

  1. Create Space to Create

“Eighty-one percent of Americans feel that they have a book in them,” according to writer Joseph Epstein. Eighty-one percent of Americans don’t write and publish books though.

The difference between those who want to create something and those who do is work. Decide and do—willpower doesn’t come into it. Create space, show up, and start to work. Give yourself the gift of time and space to work in—uncluttered physical and mental space.

Dreaming never made it so—so get practical! Look in your schedule and mark off time to work on your projects. If you don’t manage your time, someone else will. Do you need to get up early to write 500 words before work? How about a fresh hour on Saturday mornings just for you—before shopping and kids and football tumbles upon you?

Set aside sacred time to work, but also sacred space—free from distractions—so you can work smoothly and easily and, therefore, more productively. Remove physical, digital, and environmental clutter from your work environment. Can you work offline (no notifications)? Would a “Do Not Disturb, Creative Genius At Work” sign help to remind the family to respect your space? Could a work date with yourself help: a coffee shop, library, even sitting in the park or the car?

We set aside time to work and respect that time because it is productive for us. Doing this with our creative projects will also increase their value and productivity.

  1. Dream Big, Plan Small

Part of what I do as a coach is to help people to have clarity on their visions. We dream big, and then we need to plan the smallest steps possible to create for ourselves the path to get there.

The feeling of overwhelm can engulf us when we look at what we think we need to do. We see E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G. and whoosh! Our get up and go has got up and gone.

By moving forward in small steps, we build our confidence and keep our focus. And we don’t burn out like a frantic firework either. Visualize your overall goal for the week/month and then break it down into small, actionable steps.

“Write a page every day. That’s about 200 words, or 1,000 words a week. Do that for two years and you’ll have a novel that’s long enough. Nothing will happen until you are producing at least one page per day.”—John Grisham.

What’s your equivalent to his “page a day?”

  1. Get Tracking

Track your time working. What is tracked can be improved. We are very adept at askew perception (i.e.: kidding ourselves), so tracking the time you are actually applying yourself and working (and not on social media or just fiddling about with the materials) can be very useful. I’ve used a spreadsheet or a small notebook. Nothing fancy. The numbers don’t lie to me, and I can clearly see whether I am doing the work or not.

  1. Show Up.

Show up—whether you feel like it or not. Be a hero for yourself and just show up and do something. Can’t write as you have a bad cold? Then edit. Sketch out some ideas. Do some research on materials/products/influencers/market demand. Do something and keep the agreement that you made with yourself. Keeping faith with yourself builds confidence. That’s something we all need to invest in.

“Thankfully, perseverance is a good substitute for talent.” — Steve Martin

We can fret over whether our stuff is “good enough.” By showing up and doing our creative work, we start to produce quantity. This, in turn, begins to create quality. “Practice in public,” as Jeff Goins says.

Quantity is the key to quality. Be consistent in showing up and working, review your work, and then go to work again.

Creative work can be fun. It can be exciting and exhausting and exhilarating all in the same day! We take our day job seriously and we work with the intention to produce. The same attitude benefits us with creativity, whether for profit or for pleasure.

Get practical, get real, get cracking, get tracking, and get on with it.

And don’t forget to enjoy it.

Wouldn’t it be nice to end your day reveling in each days’ creative accomplishments, providing fuel for the next?

Kate Pennell, English and slightly geekish, is a coach and dream catalyst who lives in Spain with three kids, various furry creatures and a patient husband. She loves nature, creativity and seeing people discover what truly makes them come alive. Kate provides the people she works with permission to launch and helps them begin to fly as they were made to. She teaches, encourages and connects with fellow travelers across our global village. Find out more at

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