I am here with best-selling author, fitness expert, motivational speaker, coach, musician and all around talented guy, entrepreneur Derek Doepker, to find out how he creates his books and courses, keeps up his writing, fitness regime, music, and coaching. From personal experience I know Derek has the ability to simplify things and help a client get focused and stay motivated. I want to know how he keeps all his pie plates spinning and keeps coming up with new ideas.
Q. Derek, we met through your book, Kindle Bestseller Secrets: 10 Tricks Bestselling Non-Fiction Authors Use To Dominate Kindle. You have published 10 books, are involved in fitness training and coaching, are a professional musician, a writing and publishing coach and probably other things. How do you manage all this?
A. Most of my attention is focused on one major project at a time. For instance, when writing a book, that becomes the biggest project for me for a few months on end where I’ll invest a few hours, typically early in the morning, on my writing. Then other projects are managed later in the day.
The biggest key for me is developing habits. Maintaining my fitness doesn’t take much thought because I’ve been doing it for over ten years. It’s just a part of my daily routine.
Once you create a habit and systems that take the conscious thought out of something, it frees up your mental energy to expand and grow into new areas.
Q. Do you have any special technique to get your creative thinking in gear and come up with imaginative ideas?
A. Abe Lincoln said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
The “axe sharpening” process for unleashing creativity for me takes the form of getting myself into a great emotional state. I’ll spend a few minutes listening to uplifting music, dancing, and possibly pacing around my apartment. I’ve heard of studies that show walking enhances creativity. Some people find being out in nature helps as well. By managing my physical state and environment, this helps me enter into a more creative state.
Q. How do you deal with writer’s block, or doesn’t that happen to you?
A. As most creatives would say, the creative process requires separating editing from creating. If I start deciding which ideas are good or bad right off the bat, this shuts down creativity.
My brainstorming process allows for any and all ideas to flow freely, and if anything my “problem” is having too many ideas from which I have to distill down the best ideas.
Q. Do you have any techniques for getting ideas flowing again on those days when the well seems to have run dry?
A. When I do run out of things to talk about, the simplest fix is to look for inspiration. Reading something will almost always inspire something I can write about. Listening to music will almost always inspire some type of music I can create.
Q. What did you learn from your first career choice, when you wanted to become a rock star, that helped you with creating a path to success?
A. A big lesson I learned with music is that learning is practicing. It’s not a matter of reading books or taking courses alone, but rather studying just enough to sit down and start implementing what I’ve learned into my practice routine.
I’ve seen many people try to create a career in writing for instance, and they start studying all these writing and marketing techniques, but they don’t do anything with it because they don’t have it “all figured out.”
More information actually leads to overwhelm and stops them from taking action. This is especially true with fitness as well when people are searching for the perfect diet or workout routine instead of applying what they already know.
Q. What did you learn about problem solving and creative thinking when you were growing up?
A. I don’t believe most people need to be taught creative thinking as we’re hard-wired to be creative as kids. What happens is we get taught to stay within a box and shut down our creativity. My learning came from unlearning the things taught in school, such as there’s always a “right” and “wrong” and rediscover more of the childlike creativity that exists in almost all of us.
It was through music that I had to overcome the fear that what I created wasn’t going to be good. I resisted songwriting for a long time because I was a great guitar player, and I feared my songwriting wouldn’t match my performance abilities.
Once I lowered my standards and allowed myself to create without an attachment to the outcome, that’s when my ideas started getting better and better. I had to be willing to write a lot of crappy music and improve it before I started creating great music.
I learned anything one creates can be improved upon. I don’t have to wait for the perfect inspiration to get started. Some of my worst initial ideas can evolve into or inspire something amazing.
Q. If you were giving a workshop on thinking creatively, where would you begin?
A. I would take participants through a dance exercise. I would have them follow the leader, and then gradually branch out to do their own thing.
While there are several deep lessons that would be self-discovered through this (I’m not going to give away all of what this exercise entails), a big piece is that creativity is actually enhanced when you have limitations.
If I say, “Go do whatever you want” the endless options can be paralyzing. But if I say, “Do whatever you want within these clearly defined boundaries” it can actually enhance your creativity. Both too much freedom and too much restriction can stifle creativity.
Q. How do you store all the ideas you come up with?
A. I have many notepads on my computer and papers. However I’m not the most organized with my ideas. Despite that fact, what I find is that the ideas worth saving and acting upon often stick with me and come up again and again. I’ve learned to trust that I don’t have to even refer back to all my notes. However, the act of writing things down will typically help me remember my ideas even if I don’t refer back to them.
Q. What advice do you have for other young people who are considering the creative life instead of the usual 40-hour a week job?
As a young kid about to go into high school, there was some type of career day where we could talk to different people about what we wanted to do when we grow up. I was told by someone, I believe a retired principal, not to be an artist because of the old “starving artist” idea. He had a point, but his perspective was only a partial truth.
While there are many starving artists and my music didn’t make me a lot of money, my creative work and abilities are great assets as an entrepreneur. Creativity is required for success in all areas of life.
To me, we’re all living “the creative life” without exception, even within a 40-hour a week job. So my first piece of advice is ask how you can be more creative wherever you’re at. When I worked as a valet parker, I still exercised creativity by working on my people skills, rapport techniques, and trying to come up with more efficient ways of doing things.
With regards to quitting a job and pursuing a career as a creative artist, first understand it’s not an escape from work. It’s possible you’ll be doing just as much if not more work, at least initially, to make it happen. The difference of course being it’s typically more enjoyable work.
The big fear I had to overcome when moving to LA to pursue music was that it might not work out, but then I thought I’d be a lot more disappointed if I looked back at my life in 10-20 years and realized I didn’t even try.
If you’re called to do creative work, first consider the cost of not doing the work. This will inspire you to take action. Then find mentors and coaches who have succeeded in your area. Even if you can’t find someone who’s done exactly what you want to do, there are still plenty of mentors who understand principles of success that you can apply to be successful in any field.
Download a free copy of Derek’s book Why Authors Fail at http://ebookbestsellersecrets.com/freebook
Derek Doepker on the creative thinking process: The “axe sharpening” process for unleashing creativity for me takes the form of getting myself into a great emotional state. By managing my physical state and environment, this helps me enter into a more creative state. As most creatives would say, the creative process requires separating editing from creating. Both too much freedom and too much restriction can stifle creativity.