Josh Waitzkin Shares Hemingway’s Secrets to Maintaining “Creative Power Momentum”

Josh Waitzkin Tells Hemingway’s Secret to Maintaining “Creative Power Momentum”

Welcome to part 2 of my Josh Waitzkin interview notes.

Complete series:
Part 1: The Art of Self-Mastery
Part 2: [You are here]
Part 3: How to Become a Better Thinker
Part 4: The 4 Key Habits for Mastery Josh Waitzkin Recommends Everyone Internalize

Hemingway needs no introduction but I’ve been implementing these two tips of his for the last 3 weeks and for me, they are golden. They are a simple way to condition yourself for success and courage.

#1: End the work day on a good note. End with very high quality.

“It’s a way of systematically training yourself to generate the crystallization experience, the ‘Aha moment’ that can happen once a month or once a year.”
–J. Waitzkin

JW leverages this tip such that he can potentially generate those Aha moments daily, instead of less often. See why he’s a blackbelt under Marcelo Garcia now?

Imagine if we did the same.

Conditioning not only works on Pavlov’s dogs, humans respond to it also. You can train and condition yourself in a variety of ways. Why not condition yourself to enjoy your work, enjoy your obstacles?

If you dread a task (any recurring task) apply this tip and tell me how it works for you.

I’m pissed I didn’t think of this before, but Hemingway did…

Always end your work or your task on a positive note. When you have reached a peak in quality and you are feeling good, end work right there. Let that positive feeling gain momentum and you can start again tomorrow with the same ferocity. The you end with high quality, the more “creative power momentum” you gain in the future.

#2: Release your mind from it, then wake up and re-apply your mind to it the next day

“It” being your work, your hobby, or any obstacle/problem you might have. Let the subconscious chew on it for a while overnight so the conscious mind can digest it, making it easier to solve later.

“The large variation of it is overnight and then you can do micro-bursts of it throughout the day before workouts. Pose a question, do a workout, release your mind after workout, then return to it and do a creative burst. Before you go to the bathroom, before you go to lunch, before anything.”
–J. Waitzkin

When you get stuck, turn your mind to relaxing tasks or behaviors. The best synthesis of ideas and solutions come not when I’m grinding away, but when I’m doing something unrelated to the problem like showering, eating, walking, etc. That’s why I carry a small notebook and pen nearly everywhere I go.


Play us out. Hit it and quit it.

When I am working on a book or story I write every morning as soon after first light as possible. There is no one to disturb you and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write. You read what you have written and, as you always stop when you know what is going to happen next, you go on from there. You write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and you know what will happen next and you stop and try to live through until the next day when you hit it again. You have started at six in the morning, say, and may go on until noon or be through before that. When you stop you are as empty, and at the same time never empty but filling, as when you have made love to someone you love. Nothing can hurt you, nothing can happen, nothing means anything until the next day when you do it again. It is the wait until the next day that is hard to get through.
–Ernest Hemingway (The Paris Review, Issue 18, 1958)

Over and out,

I leave you with this quote from Hemingway, a reminder that right action is more important than just action:

“Never confuse movement with action.”

Next up:

  • How asking the right questions lead to success
  • How to ask questions that dissolve shitty beliefs, paving the way for more powerful ones
  • Ways of thinking better

It’s all there in Part 3: How to Become a Better Thinker