Let’s face it… we’re about half way through 2020 and so far, so terrible. The world is a tough place right now, and we are coping in a myriad of ways. Some of us are regressing to the worst parts of ourselves, or putting insane amounts of pressure on ourselves to be better. Either way, it can be difficult to find the time, the head space, and the motivation to be creative. But a daily creative practice doesn’t have to be difficult. It can be easy… and more importantly, it can be incredibly beneficial emotionally and mentally.
“Being more creative” is a classic new year’s resolution, right up there with “eating right” and “exercising more”. (Okay, to be fair I’m counting creativity in the same category as “self care” and “learning a new hobby”… my point is still valid.) It’s a vague goal that is destined for failure… UNLESS you have a plan. With a solid set of tools, starting a daily (or weekly, or monthly) creative practice is totally doable.
Look… creativity is an act of self care and self love. It should never feel like a chore. Whatever your motivations for the “be more creative” resolution, forcing yourself into an unsustainable practice is not going to work. You have to check your priorities and do what’s right for you, your life, and your family. Forming a sustainable habit is key to success.
Just like exercise and eating healthy, you need to start where you’re at. “Creativity” has a broad definition, and it can be totally overwhelming… so start small. Do something each day, like a zentangle or a doodle in a planner, that makes you feel creative. Remember, anything counts! Creativity isn’t about the product, so even craft fails can be creative successes!
30 day challenges are a great place to start forming a habit. You can find them on all the social media platforms, but I find mine on Instagram. Daily prompts mean you don’t worry about the “what”, just the “how”. Remember, it doesn’t matter what your medium is! These generalized prompts can be applied to lettering, painting, photography… whatever strikes your fancy. Just because the challenge says “doodle” doesn’t mean you can’t use it for inspiration. (If a daily prompt is too much, you can always combine days or look for a challenge with weekly prompts. Currently, I’m following #ohsocutedoodles weekly prompts for the year, hosted by ohsocutedesigns.)
The key to maintaining these small steps forward is tracking. Whether you’re posting your progress on Instagram (which I highly recommend) or simply marking an X on your calendar, make sure you give yourself credit for every creative endeavor, no matter how small.
Where 30 day challenges help you tackle “what” to do, it can be just as difficult to tackle “when” and “where”. Being intentional with your creative practice will help you be consistent. Carve out a time and space for it each day.
Creative spaces can be static. If you’re lucky enough to have a dedicated desk or office with access to all your supplies, awesome. Set aside 5 minutes in the evening, sit down at that desk and do a little something. If you don’t have that much space, think about keeping a small sketchbook and a handful of pens under the couch or in your bedside table. Choose a spot where your supplies can be handy and you know you’ll make it over there each day.
Creative spaces can absolutely be flexible, too. Paper and pencil might be all you need to start a daily practice, and you can fit those things in a bag! The key isn’t having a ton of supplies at your fingertips, or even having the perfect space… it’s all about intention. Make sure you consider a “when” and “where” that will support daily practice.
Don’t tell my boss, but I set aside five minutes each morning when I first get to work. While the coffee brews, before my brain really focuses on the tasks of the day, I like to stretch my creativity. The lighting is great at my desk, and I’m surrounded by pens, so it’s really easy to sketch a quick thing each morning. In the past, I’ve had luck with evenings on the couch being creative time, or even lunch breaks (which led to many a mustard stained sketch). Whatever works, do it.
Finding time for creativity doesn’t have to mean giving up other things in your life! You can be creative in so many ways, and each of those ways helps you build your skills! Consider some multitasking (that you may already be doing) to start a daily creative practice.
If you take notes in meetings or in class, sketchnotes might be a perfect way to add creativity to your day. Plus, sketchnotes can actually help your brain process the information you’re recording. Instead of copying each PowerPoint slide verbatim in scrawling handwriting, try drawing images that illustrate the main points and concepts being discussed. Obviously this practice takes a while to learn, and it can take longer than traditional note taking, but it has been shown in studies to help people retain information in the long term! Here is a great tutorial from sketchnote-love.com.
Similarly, visual planning may help you remember tasks and stick to long term goals. Planning is a passion of mine, obviously, but writing out simply bullet points isn’t always enough. Sometimes, I need a literal roadmap to my goal. Mind maps, webcharts, and Venn diagrams may make you nostalgic for elementary school… but they may also help you streamline your schedule and your to-do list.
There are a thousand little ways to add creativity into your daily routines. Try deleting that match three game off your phone and replacing it with an adult coloring app. Skip the picture book and make up a story with your kids! Let them help figure out the characters and plot… they’ll love it. Take some arthouse portraits of your dog on your daily potty walks. You already devote time to these things so make those habits work for you. You might actually make some of these chores more enjoyable with a little creativity.
If you take one thing away from this post, I hope it’s this. If you aren’t doing it, then it isn’t good practice (and that’s okay). 30 day challenges aren’t for everyone. Improvising bedtime stories isn’t for everyone. Taking candid shots of coworkers eating their tuna sandwiches… could get you in a lot of trouble if you don’t have permission. A daily creative practice isn’t easy, but it also shouldn’t be too hard. Don’t fight your daily practice. Reflect on your practice and grow with it.
If your daily practice falls short, take a good look at what you were doing. What worked and what didn’t? Try something new. Switch from visual art to song writing. Try doodling in the morning instead of the afternoon. Ditch the five minutes daily and try 30 minutes weekly instead. (Sometimes more is more.) Switch it up every once in a while! Just like an exercise routine, you might need a little variety to get yourself motivated.
Recognize your Creativity
More than anything, give yourself credit for how creative you already are. You may be practicing creativity daily, and you don’t even notice it! Do you write 10 carefully crafted emails to clients a day? Or 100 emails a day? That can be creative. Do you plan weekly meals that use leftovers in exciting ways so that your kids will eat the same thing two days in a row without complaining. Super creative. Are you constantly changing the lyrics to pop songs to reflect what’s happening in your life at the moment? So creative. You are already rocking your creative life! Give yourself some credit for everything you do!
Creative types are always striving to do more and do better. A daily creative practice can help improve your skills in all kinds of ways, but only if you maintain it. Don’t think of your daily practice as a final product, but rather as the constant journey toward something greater. Start where you are, be intentional, and celebrate everything you are doing to meet your goal. Creativity isn’t a perfect product, it is a beautifully imperfect process.