In this Creativity Exercises That Work series, which will run right through to the end of the year, creativity coaches share creativity exercises that they use with clients to help clients effectively handle their creative process issues, creative personality issues, and creative career issues. This week’s exercise is provided by Stephanie Christie. Enjoy!
Four Steps to Regular Creativity
By Stephanie Christie
Regular creativity is a necessity for many of us, but life can get in the way. After a change or during a busy time, it’s common for creatives to stop creating, and then find it hard to get back into it. If this is your situation, these four steps will help you create consistently again, even without a project or a deadline looming.
We often blame a lack of time for not creating, but this usually isn’t the main problem: it’s a subconscious sense that creativity’s too demanding. When we’re stuck, we may be nostalgic for a remembered space of feeling inspired. However, this can set unrealistic expectations that only feed our avoidance of creativity. To counteract this, you can make getting to your creativity as easy as possible.
I experienced this when I started my creative coaching business. It took so much creative energy! But I still needed to write poetry to be happy and functional. So, I carved out a regular creative time, taking action first, and trusting inspiration to return later.
1. Make a regular time
When you’re creating regularly, you can snap into creative work mode. But for now, you may benefit from setting a regular time. You can think about whether it will be daily or weekly, and what time of day suits your creativity best. You may want to have a back-up time in case you miss the first one.
It helps to resist the urge to plan for a big chunk of time. Small chunks are easier to actually commit to on the day (they can always be extended out). Looking at your calendar will help you to identify gaps, and what you might want to let go of. To protect this time, you may need to set some boundaries, or use the magic word – No.
2. Choose what to make
After a creative gap, it can feel like you’re back at the beginning, so it helps to start with a playful part of your creative practice. For example, if you have a graphic novel you want to write, you can start with sketching your cat! Lowering the stakes makes it much more likely that you’ll actually do it.
It helps to list ‘off-day options,’ low-key activities that support your creative practice to do when you feel out of sorts. This lets you turn up and keep the habit going, whatever your mood. You might want to consider your choice of materials too, and pick things that are easy to set up.
3. Decide how to start
To actively shift into the creative zone, you can get your subconscious on board. An easy way to do this is by starting with a ritual, trigger or lead-in activity you use every time. It could be lighting a candle, making a cup of tea, setting an alarm, laying out your materials, meditating, or a place you go to … whatever resonates with you.
As the time to create nears, it often helps to focus on getting ready, instead of on any desires or fears around creating. You just go to your workspace, get out your materials, and do your starting activity. Then – BAM! Before you’ve had time to invent an excuse, you’ve started. This is a simple way to side-step resistance.
4. Manage your mindset
Many of the biggest challenges in our creative lives are right here in our heads. Luckily, there are lots of skills you can develop that will help. I highly recommend learning ways to work with your inner critic (I love helping clients with practical strategies for this). Journaling is a simple way to work with what comes up as you get creative again, if you experience off-putting thoughts or feelings.
To build your motivation, you might like to pay attention to the joy and meaningfulness that creating consistently brings, in the moment and in the rest of your day and week. You could even write an encouraging mantra for your wall in your best felt tips!
Possible issues that may arise: You may find that a sudden change in circumstances can knock you out of your new creative habits. If this happens, it’s okay. You can start over again whenever you’re ready. You could visualize this routine as something solid you’re stepping back into, however long it’s been.
Variations: If you have more than one creative activity, you can follow these steps for each one. They may work best at different times of day, for example.
Additions: To make sure this process sticks, you can write out a good copy of what you’ve come up with, put your chosen times in your calendar systems, and make an action list if needed.
Clients: One of my clients was struggling to create because she couldn’t choose what to work on. Photography, her big love, seemed overwhelming. So, she started with macrame. Soon she sent me a photo of her workspace, developing negatives hanging off every surface. Once she allowed her creative self to get into action, inspiration was able to get a word in.
Having regular creative time is an easy way to nurture your creative life, without having to wait for a deadline or project. I often work through these steps with people in an introductory creative coaching session, with great results. If you want to help getting back into the creative zone, get in touch!
Stephanie Christie is a poet, artist and creative coach living in New Zealand. Her mission is to help creative people lead awesome lives, a journey that began with experiments, research and conversations designed to make her own creative life more functional and fulfilling. She believes creativity can be easy – or at least only as hard as the creative challenges you choose for yourself. You can reach her or find out more at www.stephaniechristiecreative.com and www.facebook.com/stephaniechristiecreative/.
My husband of 59 years died this past January and I was prepared to cancel a one person show of which I was invited to do 2 years ago. Instead, I followed through and it was the best decision. Had the reception last night and all went very well. I think your suggestions are right on target and I hope they help other artists as well.