Is there one thing that makes the difference between a happy, prolific creative life and a frustrating one filled with fits and starts? In this post, I answer this and how it can change your whole life, not just your creativity.
About a week ago, I went to a wonderful literary event in my town.
One of my goals for myself as a writer is to attend at least one literary event every month.
Writing is an introverted art form, so this goal helps to get me out of the house and involved in the literary community. It also provides inspiration.
Hint: Make a simple goal to support yourself in having creative community and regular doses of inspiration.
Every two months YubaLit hosts a reading that features a mix of local and non-local authors, reading from works that range from fiction to poetry to memoir. In addition, anyone who attends the reading may put their name in a hat for a chance to read a single page or poem. Five writers get this opportunity at each event.
The quality is exceptionally high, the format engaging, the evenings always lively. I have been to most of the readings since the series got its start a couple of years ago.
The event I recently attended was a book launch for Sands Hall’s remarkable memoir, Flunk. Start.: Reclaiming My Decade Lost to Scientology. Her book is absolutely riveting, warm, compassionate, both painful and uplifting. I am devouring it. You can get it at your local bookstore or at Powells.com (which is an independent bookstore and therefore way better than Amazon.)
Something happened at the reading that I had to share with you.
Is There Just One Thing?
At the event I met Don Rogers, the publisher of The Union, our local newspaper. As I told him about my work as a teacher and creativity coach, he asked me if there was one thing that it all boils down to in terms of fostering the creative process and reaching our creative aspirations.
I replied, “There isn’t just one thing, but if there were, it would be routines.”
There is nothing more central to a vibrant, fulfilling creative life than having a regular creative practice.
If you read about the lives of prolific artists in all disciplines, you will be amazed at how they almost all talk about their creative routines. Sometimes these involve elaborate and arcane rituals, sometimes simple and prosaic. But, all of these artists adhere to their routines with a combination of religious devotion and the ferocity of a mother bear protecting her cub.
I do the same.
Four days a week from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. I am in my studio, writing, reading, revising, researching, sending out work. When I have more time, I spend more time, but those hours are sacrosanct. I don’t schedule meetings, doctor’s appointments or phone calls during that time.
If You Show Up, Your Muse Will Too
Artists who are consistently creative almost all adhere to a regular schedule of times during which they create. They don’t wait for inspiration to show up. They show up and inspiration comes. Not every time, but they learn to work when they are not feeling inspired also.
They don’t wait for their lives to settle down, or to have the perfect space, or for the to do list to be completed (it never will be), or even for the most urgent items on that list to be crossed off.
Prolific artists—artists who are actually making art—make their art their priority and show up unfailingly.
Most of all, they don’t wait until they feel like making art, because we will always put things in the way of making art. We will always want to stall and make excuses.
Our Art Brings Up Resistance
Art demands that we show up fully, that we are vulnerable and real, that we risk and challenge ourselves in ways that much of our daily lives don’t require. Making art is one of the hardest—as well as the most fun and rewarding—things we can do. Because it’s hard and it’s risky, we resist it.
If there is one thing that makes the difference in feeling fulfilled in your creativity, and therefore in your life, it is having a regular creative practice.
The students I work with who resist routines are also the ones that struggle with bursts of inspiration followed by dry spells and doubts. They are the ones who feel they can’t get control of their time or their lives. They can’t stay focused or bring things to completion.
The ones who have a regular creative practice generally come to our sessions excited, glowing, feeling on purpose in their lives. And they get to see things come to fruition.
When We Make Time for Art, Life Feels Better
The reason they are glowing is they are making time for what they love, what lights them up. Doing that radically changes how we feel about our whole lives. It changes how we move through our day.
You need to find a routine that works for you, your way of creating, your schedule, your energy.
If you are struggling with that, please know: There is nothing wrong with you! This is incredibly common among artists.
You may need some wise suggestions around how to find and stick to a creative habit that works for you. You probably need to learn tools to move through resistance, fears and blocks to creating. Both of these can require some skilled facilitation.
But most of all you need to commit with your whole heart to a plan of when you will create each week, not allowing anything to come in the way.
Then, the magic begins!
To your prolific creativity,
P.S. If you would love to develop a creative habit that feels wonderfully exciting, if you would love to see your creative aspirations come to life, contact me for a free Discovery Session to explore how my Creativity Mentoring can change your life.
You may also want to read my posts on The Power of Creative Routines and The Power of Ritual.