3 ways to elevate your creative practice
I’ve got a confession to make. I sometimes struggle to make my creative practice a fixed part of my day-to-day. I have the best intentions to carve out some hours in the day to be creative, but then I:
- Use way more time than expected for client work
- Get last-minute jobs from clients
- End up procrastinating for too long
- Can’t fight the resistance and give up
- Feel overwhelmed with everything I want to do and don’t even start
If you’re in the same boat, you know the struggle. It’s real but it’s also not something to lose precious sleep over. As we grow, learn and progress on our journeys, we find some practices that work for us (and a whole lot that don’t).
It should be so easy, right? Just sit down and write, paint, design, whatever your creative expression is. But it’s not that straightforward. There are lots of things that work against us when it comes to creating regularly and consistently.
Like I mentioned before, procrastination and resistance are daily battles for me when it comes to creating. I have a million and one ideas swimming around in my head but when it comes down to executing them, I often falter.
I used to beat myself up about it, but I learned that many creatives, if not all, struggle with this to some degree. I also learned that there are ways to make this easier for myself if I want to take my creative practice to the next level.
Set goals and make them attainable yet ambitious
I realised that working on something without any goals is like signing up for a life-long marathon. If I don’t know where the end/goal is, how can I ever find the motivation to get started? If there’s nothing that tells me, this is what you want to reach, then I’ll be running out of steam fairly quickly, thinking that I have to be on this run for the rest of my life/career.
Having goals is good. They give you direction. They provide you with the ‘why’ when you’re struggling.
Take some time to figure out your creative goal or goals and then try and break them down into smaller, bite-sized mini-goals. You could imagine them like people standing on the sideline high-fiving you once you pass them during your run.
If you’re not into running marathons (which I’m not, I just like that metaphor) then ticking off your mini-goal from your list and seeing that you’re a step closer to your overall goal is also very satisfying.
I’ll talk more about goal setting in general in a later issue of this newsletter, but I found this article really helpful, especially as it’s geared towards creative goals.
Plan your week ahead and pencil in some non-negotiable creative time
I know what you’re thinking. Planning and creativity seem like two opposite concepts that can’t be combined. Like taking a bowl with water and trying to mix a bunch of rocks into it hoping they will somehow merge, which they don’t.
You can’t force your muse to show up at a specific time every day, but you can make sure that you show up to your creative practice at a specific time every day.
I sit down with my planner on Sunday evening, and I try to map out my week, even if it’s just a rough plan. I pencil in my client work, any phone calls/zoom calls I have, personal errands I need to run and shouldn’t forget, AND time to spend on creative projects.
This is where tip no. 1 comes in handy. Ideally, I have my bigger goal in mind and have it divided into mini-goals, which means that when I plan my week, I know what I’m working on to inch myself closer to my goal.
Once it’s penciled in, I’m able to give it the same importance as other work I need to do, and then it’s just a matter of sticking to my schedule.
Try journaling, spending time in nature, or meditating (or all three)
Finally, to keep no. 1 and 2 running smoothly, it’s important to fill up your creative tank regularly. This way you can keep the ideas flowing, let them ripen, and potentially become part of your creative goals.
I like to do all three of these options. I love spending time in nature, and I often get my best ideas during my morning run that takes me from the village on a path through sand dunes out to the cliffs overlooking the ocean. I also love going for hikes in the hills around our house or walks on the beach.
Journaling is another tool often used to harness ideas, let them flow onto the paper, and make sense of something that often feels crazy or not possible. Sometimes it’s just good to scribble a lot of nonsense down before you get to the interesting part. In any case, there’s no right or wrong. Just find some empty pages and fill them with whatever comes to your mind. I like to do this in the morning, but some people prefer to journal at night before bedtime.
Meditating is another tool to cut through the business of daily life and create a bit of space for yourself for some potential ideas to pop into your head. It just takes a few minutes of your time and you can do it anywhere you feel comfortable. I typically sit down for about ten-fifteen minutes after my morning shower and before I start work. There are several apps that can guide you like calm, headspace, or waking up, but if you prefer to sit in silence that’s just as good.
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