Last year I decided to try to do a drawing every day for 30 days. That 30-day challenge ended up lasting 179 days and I learned so much from it! This year I gave myself a challenge to do something creative every day in 2016. It could be painting, drawing, photography, or even writing a poem – the important thing is that I want to make sure that I get in the habit of making time for creativity every single day. Many of us want to have a creative life and continue creative habits that last a lifetime, but how do you start them? How do you sustain them as time passes and life gets busy? Here are five things you can do to start and maintain creative habits in your life:
1. Start Small
Setting a small, manageable goal is key when starting a new habit. It takes the pressure off and allows you to enjoy creating a new habit. When I first started, my only goal was to draw for thirty days. Whenever I finished a month I could easily decide to “sign on” for another. It’s those small commitments that add up to a long-term routine.
Can you see yourself writing for 15 minutes every morning or playing your guitar every night before bed? Think of a small thing that you can do every day to get yourself closer to a creative goal and commit to sticking with it for a month. Then after that month re-evaluate and decide if you are willing to do a little more each day for the next month. (If you feel that the amount of time you’ve committed to is sufficient, that’s fine too.)
The important part is committing to a manageable span of time so you aren’t overwhelmed by a one-year plan or an indefinite time frame. After a few months you may find that you either want to change things up to make it more challenging, or you may decide to make a larger goal.
2. Keep Your Creative Habit Simple
Try to keep your goal as simple as possible when you start out. For instance, starting a general habit of sketching every day is much easier than setting a goal to make drawings of a specific size or with a specific medium or theme. That limits your options and can make it more difficult to stick to.
As you progress you can add parameters to challenge yourself, but I believe that it’s best to first establish the habit before doing so. I’ve heard of authors who won’t leave their house until they have written 2,000 words, but I highly doubt that they started with that rule on the first day.
3. Follow the Joy
There may come a point in your creative journey where you might feel boredom creeping in. If that happens, it usually means that you’ve hit a plateau and it’s time to challenge yourself in a new way. For me, I felt like all the sketches I had been drawing looked the same, so I started giving myself little mini-challenges to keep things interesting.
One of the challenges I gave myself was to start making sketches based on themes from Illustration Friday. Working on drawings based on those themes forced me to be more purposeful with my drawings. Adding that extra challenge to my creative habit helped me to enjoy the process more and pushed me to explore new ideas in my work.
Remember, creating something new every day should be fun! If you feel like you’ve lost the joy of creating, do whatever you can to get that joy back. Continuing to create may be the catalyst for rediscovering joy, or you may find that you need to take a break to deal with other sources of stress or trauma in your life that have stolen your joy. A whole heart can more easily find joy in creation, so self-care is extremely important. Don’t let the “doing” overtake the “being.”
4. Find Your Tribe
Starting a creative habit is great, but what’s even better is sharing it with others that are on the same path. Being around other people that are working towards similar goals helps keep you motivated and inspired. It’s exciting to see what others are working on as well as helping you stay accountable to your own creative goals.
These days, it’s easier than ever to find other people with similar creative goals. Instagram can be a great resource for finding some really amazing artists and illustrators to follow.
I have a writer friend who uses Twitter to connect with other writers. She’s always posting about what projects she’s in the middle of and what challenges she’s facing in the process. She also encourages other writers and shares things that she has learned from her creative journey so far.
For artists, there are online forums, local Meetups and regional arts associations. If you’re a musician, find an open mic night to meet other musicians or use a website like Bandcamp to share your music with the world.
5. Keep Going!
So you got sick and missed a day or your son’s play date went longer than expected and you ran out of time to paint – don’t beat yourself up about it! The important thing is that you start fresh the next day and keep at it.
At the same time though, remember that every day you miss is one less day of growth. If you find that you’re running out of time because you spent four hours watching Netflix instead of practicing, you may want to evaluate your priorities.
Though, I must say: the longer you continue with a creative habit, the harder it will be to skip!
Bonus Tip: Celebrate your progress!
Whenever I feel like I’m losing steam, I make myself look back over the work I’ve previously produced. It is amazing to me to see how quickly my work started improving when I practiced every day. I promise you that you will see the same in your own work. And when you do, don’t forget to take a moment and congratulate yourself. Celebrate milestones in your progress. Did you finish that first month? Celebrate! Have you made it to the 6 month mark? Awesome! And then KEEP GOING, because the more time and passion you invest, the more progress you’ll see.
What’s your story? What creative habits do you want to form in 2016? What is the first step you’re going to take today to make that happen? Leave a comment below – I’d love to hear from you!