[This post in the first in a two-part series on Tending Your Creative Fire and getting started creating.]
Getting started with creative activity is the very hardest part.
We say we want to write, paint, sculpt, make films, sing, but when it comes to actually doing it, we procrastinate and distract ourselves endlessly, never seeming to get around to it.
And thus, another day goes by when we aren’t living our dreams. We beat ourselves up about it, but that doesn’t do any good.
So how do you get yourself to actually sit down at the piano or your desk, enter your studio, stand at your easel, pick up the pen, or doing anything else you love to do?
Two Extremely Helpful Practices To Get You Creating
Two things will help you most to get started creating each time:
1) A regular creative practice at the same day/same time each week, so that it becomes an unquestioned habit (nothing helps more than this). See my post on The Power of Creative Routines for more about this.
2) A way into the creative activity itself, a way to begin.
In this essay and the next one, I address the second step above. I talk about ways to help yourself get started once you are in the studio. However, these tools will also reduce resistance to getting yourself there in the first place. (To find out more about getting yourself into the studio, read my essay on Resistance to Creating.)
Create a Simple Ritual to Invoke Your Muse
Create a regular way to enter into your creative practice. A simple ritual is helpful. Simple is, most often, best, so that your ritual doesn’t become yet another hindrance to doing creative work.
The ritual serves to alert you that you are entering a different state of being, one set apart from the workaday world, you are opening yourself to the creative flow, making yourself available to greater powers to flow through.
The ritual is like a gateway you pass through to enter the creative state. It announces your availability to your muse.
I like to light a candle, ring a small bell, and say a short prayer. Sometimes I also fill a bowl with water and a few drops of essential oils and wash my hands in a symbolic act. In this way, I evoke my physical senses and engage my whole being in the creative act to come.
Take a Moment to Connect
In whatever ritual you choose, take a moment to connect to the following three things:
- Your reason for creating—what it gives you, why you love it, why it matters. This is what I call your Deep Why.
- A promise and commitment to yourself to not judge what happens during your creative time that day—not the work itself, nor how much you did or did not do, nor your abilities or talent.
- A sense of offering up your work in service to something larger than yourself. This may be the world, others who will benefit from it, the Divine, or art and beauty itself. In other words, detach from your ego’s ambitions and attachments to the work and reconnect to a deeper purpose.
It only takes a minute or two to connect to these three things, and they will help you be motivated and free to create from a place of love and giving, and keep your ego mind more quiet, so that you can do the work/play.
At the end of my creative time, I have a little ritual of closure to mark my transition back to the so-called ordinary world. I ring the bell again, blow out the candle, and pour the water in the bowl onto the earth outside.
Ritual Helps Us Enter the Creative State
Full disclosure: I don’t always do my ritual. Sometimes I resist the ritual itself. Often I simplify it to just lighting a candle and ringing a bell.
But I find the ritual helps me in small, subtle ways to cross a threshold into creativity and to sanctify the time and activity, making me less apt to get distracted or off-course or to postpone starting.
The ritual also reminds me that I do the work not for my sake alone, but for a greater purpose, that my art is meant to serve others and the Divine. It gives me a moment to reconnect to this larger purpose and helps me put my ego aside and dive into connection with something larger than me and more meaningful, and that, at the same time, is motivating and inspiring to me.
Your Ritual Needs to be Right for You
Bottom line: Your ritual needs to work for you and suit your nature. It could be going for a walk or doing yoga before your creative time. Coming into the body and getting the energy flowing is very helpful because our creative energy is our life force energy, or chi, and it helps to have that flowing.
Your ritual might be as simple as clearing off your desk before sitting down to write, removing distractions. Some artists put on a special piece of clothing each time or their favorite music. Some simply begin by making a strong cup of tea or coffee. Many have superstitious and strange habits that work to signal their muse to show up.
Your ritual need not be elaborate, and it is essential that it works for you. By “works for you” I mean it suits your nature, and it does not become another obstacle to creativity. Your ritual should help you to enter the creative state, to invoke your creativity and inspiration and set aside your self-judgments, doubts and preoccupations with the rest of life for the time being. You may need to experiment a bit to find a ritual you like.
In our next issue of Creative Sparks, I give you some bright ideas to help you overcome the blank page/blank canvas syndrome and get creating. Click here to read Part 2 of this series on Tending Your Creative Fire.
To your creative fire,