How to Build a Spark Writing Practice That Will Ignite Your Creativity

Ev Chapman
June 23, 2023

I've been building what I now call my Spark Writing habit for the past 3 years.

I'm not sure I've explained this before, but It's actually what set me on the path of becoming a creator and writing online. The more I built knowledge privately, the more I wanted to share publicly.

It all started when I read the book How To Take Smart Notes by Sonke Ahrens. I immediately knew there was something about the essence of the Zettelkasten process that was appealing.

But it was confusing AF

And the more I went down the rabbit hole of Zettelkasten videos and articles online, the more confused I got. The whole process was (in my humble opinion) over-complicated - and it was the 'Zettelkasten' Experts' that were making it more complicated than it needed to be.

I even wrote an article back in September 2021 called: Stop Overthinking Your Zettelkasten System: How To Get Started Writing Your First Notes

So I stopped consuming content from 'Experts' and became my own expert.

I started throwing out all the rules & expectations that weren't working for me and started building something that did. And I'm convinced that if more people would let go of these self-imposed rules we place on ourselves and our PKM - we would finally build a system that not only sticks - but that we love.

So over the next few weeks, I'm going to unravel some PKM 'Rules' I've thrown out the window & instead show you how I built one of the most rich & soul-nourishing writing habits that I couldn't imagine living without now.

Let's do it 💪

Rule: I must process every single note I save or capture

I’ve found this is one of the biggest things that gets people stuck in their PKM journey. I know it did for me:

  • I felt bad when I couldn’t get to the end of my inbox during each session.
  • I felt bad when I would highlight even more notes even though I knew there was a bunch that were still unprocessed.
  • I felt bad as my notes inbox just kept growing instead of getting emptied.

Our first instinct when we feel bad like this is to give up, judge ourselves or seek out another ‘template’ or system that will finally help us be better.

But there is another option: Tell yourself it’s OK and declare bankruptcy on ever getting to the end of your notes inbox.

It’s unconventional. And I certainly get a few eyebrow raises and ‘Wait, but what about this?’ Questions.

But none of that matters. Because I fell in love with the process of being present in my notes every day and I’ve built a much deeper habit in the process.

It takes a mindset shift to go against the grain of conventional thinking like this.

So before we get into the mechanics of how this can possibly work (and we will get there in this newsletter) let’s talk about three mindset shifts we can make that will make the shift in the process more comfortable.

The Idea That We Can Manage Information Is Dead

We do not live in our parent’s world of information. There is FAR more information coming at us than ever before and trying to control and manage it is like trying to contain and out of control fire hose - you're going to get hurt in the process.

As computers get smarter there is actually less of a need for us as humans to process & file every piece of information coming at us. If I can search across all my notes for a keyword, why should I have to ‘file’ it in a certain category?

So, release yourself from the thinking that you can (or need) manage all the information coming at you. And instead, treat information like a stream you jump in and out of.

Knowledge Building Over Knowledge Management

I’ve stopped calling my system a Knowledge Management system and started calling it a Knowledge-Building system. Because I’m not trying to manage the knowledge coming in anymore I’m much more focused on building my knowledge.

And just this slight shift in wording has changed how I approach my writing sessions. I’m an explorer rather than a secretary. And the whole process is much more exciting.

Optimise Your Actions For Your Outcome

If our outcome is knowledge building rather than management our actions naturally shift.

  • When our outcome was knowledge management we feel the pressure to blast through our inbox and process & file everything.
  • But when our outcome is knowledge building, we can take our time with each note or idea. And getting to the end of our inbox doesn’t matter as much as it used to.

And this subtle shift in thinking leads to a much richer practice of following our spark, building knowledge & exploring ideas and eventually, you build a richly dense ecosystem of your ideas & knowledge.

So now we’re shifting our mindsets away from processing. What does a Spark Writing session actually look like?

How A Spark Writing Session Works (The Mechanics)

Step 1: Make your favourite drink (mine is coffee), sit in a quiet spot, stop & take a deep breath. Forget about everything else and just be present now.

Step 2: Grab the last few notes or highlights you've taken from something you've consumed (a book, article, podcast or video), open them up on one side of your screen and open up a blank note on the other.

Step 3: Find one that sparks you and sit with it. Ask yourself: Why did this spark me? And start writing. Explore every aspect of the idea. What questions does it bring up? Try to answer them. How does it fit in with what you already know & believe? What can you take away from it?

Step 4: Don’t worry too much about format, structure or even if it will be something you can share publicly. This is your time to just let the idea form. This is your idea playground.

Step 5: Be open during the process as new content ideas emerge and note them down too. That is all part of the process.

Step 6: Sit a little longer with the idea than you are comfortable with. It’s often at the edges when we ‘think’ we are done that we have our best insights.

Step 7: Once you're done. Give the note a name & save it.

Congratulations! You've just done your first session of spark writing.

How amazing did that feel? After three years of doing this consistently, I still never tire of that feeling that I BUILT KNOWLEDGE today.

I hope you’ll try Spark Writing & feel the richness of this practice like I have.

Whenever you're ready to turn your unique personal knowledge into powerful ideas - here are three ways I can help:

  1. Want to get Sparked like this each week? Sign up to my weekly newsletter - The Spark Newsletter where I deliver one actionable tip every Sunday to help you bring your ideas to life & share them with the world.
  2. If you want to build a complete system to help you build ideas you can share with the world then check out my ​Atomic Ideas Masterclass​.
  3. If you're coming up blank when it comes to exploring ideas you might want to grab my ​Spark Toolbox​. It's filled with over 130+ prompts & frameworks that are guaranteed to get you sparked!

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