As a TV producer/director and writer, most of my days are spent working against the clock with production schedules, story lines, and constant deadlines. While some might believe creativity strikes like a flash of lightening, the truth is that creativity is a learned discipline especially when you’re up against the clock.

Creativity is a learned discipline.

When I’m in the editing room cutting a TV episode, on location filming, or alone writing in my office, this remains true. If I waited for creativity to strike, then I’d spend most of my time standing around, or staring at a blank screen. The key is learning the discipline of being prepared, so that your creativity can be unlocked. Do the work ahead of time to know the story you are telling. Know the shots that need to be filmed before you’re on location. Spend the time developing characters that resonate before you write the next chapter.

Being prepared is key to creativity.

There are steps you can take to fuel your creativity before you write a single word. Spend time researching the areas of your story that you need to understand better. Whether it is a location, elements of a certain story line, or the unique characteristics of your characters, or the key pieces of your plot. Now, that doesn’t mean you get so bogged down in research that you never find the time to write. Just enough research to get you started, to fill in the holes, and allow you to keep the tension alive in your story.

Creativity forces you to ask yourself, “What is at stake?”

Asking yourself this question is a good way to keep your creative juices flowing. And it will help keep your ideas fresh. Writing. Producing. Directing. All of these avenues require you to keep the tension, to get to the core of the story, and to capture what you want others to see.

If you wait for inspiration, you’ll never write a word.

One way to be inspired is to find a place to write that allows you to be creative. Sometimes that location will change depending on where you are in your story. When I wrote The Disillusioned, most of it was written late at night on an iPad and in coffee shops around L.A. As I started to write my latest novel, Waking Lazarus, I switched it up and wrote most of it on my laptop in my office. About ten chapters from the end, I found myself in a rut. So I spent a few days at a friends home near the beach and wrote the final chapters in a notebook. I learned that the discipline of writing didn’t mean I had to do it the same way every time. What I needed to do was find the right place so that the time I blocked out to write could be creative and productive.

Creativity is fueled by productivity.

The more productive you are, the more the creative process flows. You get into a rhythm. You find the right angle. You see your characters jump off the page and you’re inspired to keep going. The more productive you are during your writing sessions, the more creative you’ll become in the days, months, and years ahead. Creativity fuels inspiration. Inspiration fuels productivity. And the result is more creativity.

How can you be more prepared? What do you need to know before you start? What is at stake? What inspires your creativity? What place allows you to be creative and productive?

Everyone has their own creative process, and the key is to find the one that works for you.

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When I began writing The Disillusioned, the first novel in the Guardian series, there was a clear message that inspired me to believe it was worth the time and effort. I wanted to capture the reality of human trafficking, but also pull back the curtain on professional religion, all within a suspense-filled action adventure mystery. I felt that both worlds were equally as troubling. To bring it to life, I needed to create characters that established a vivid contrast between two worlds and challenged readers to choose which was worth fighting to protect and save.

Tweet: Purpose is driven by your characters.

While I’ve had many opportunities to share about the fight against human trafficking, I’ve also allowed other pieces of the story to remain within its pages for readers to discover for themselves. What I’ve discovered is that when I’m writing with a purpose, I don’t need to stand on a street corner with a bullhorn. I’m grateful that the message within its pages has reached readers around the world.

Tweet: Purpose allows your story to speak for itself.

After my experience writing The Disillusioned, I felt the pressure to find more ways to turn my purpose into profit. I began to think about stories that would reach a larger audience. I thought about stories that would fit a certain genre. I thought about marketing hooks that might work with a specific story. And then I realized that the more I thought about monetizing my purpose, the further I was from writing a story that resonated after the last page.

Tweet: Purpose is more valuable than profit.

Turning your writing hobby into a career means knowing how to make your dream profitable. But if you focus too much on profit, you’ll find that it will mess with your creativity. You begin thinking about what stories are more popular, instead of thinking about originality. I faced this when I thought about writing my next novel. I thought about writing a detective, dystopian, or fantasy story. But the more I weighed my options the more I realized the story that began with The Disillusioned wasn’t finished yet. That was when I made a choice to pursue originality over popularity and go deeper into a world I had already created. Keeping the purpose of my writing at the forefront allowed me to dive back in and finish Waking Lazarus.

Tweet: Purpose pursues originality over popularity.

Knowing why I write has determined what I write. With the release of Waking Lazarus still a few months away, I’ve already begun writing the next novel in the Guardian Series because my purpose is clear.

Let me ask you, what purpose drives you to write?