I struggled with my creativity for a very long time. I had a hard time getting into creating regularly, especially after becoming a mother. So I put it on the side. But that made me crankier than the kids just before dinner-time. You see, I have a degree in illustration, so the option of not pursuing any creative activity until ‘someday’ stung hard. Extremely hard.
I’m going to put it out there: I’m not the type of illustrator who sits down and just draws the whole day, every day. Not at this period in my life anyway. I was drawing and writing a lot as a child, but I was also going to dancing classes and took piano lessons, had long hours of swimming practice and did a lot of exploring with friends. I was never the type who would just do the art, no matter what and you haven’t seen me all the time with a sketchbook glued under my arm either. I’ve had my fair share of creative dry spells. I had them while I was getting my Illustration degree and even after that.
Sometimes it took weeks, months, even years before I would create something new. Until I realised a very simple, but profound thing. To be able to tap into your creativity on demand, you need to create a habit of creating. Habits are patterns, repeated over time until they become effortless. I know it seems heretic to even mention repetition on the same page with creativity, but it works. It helped me to avoid ruts and false promises of someday. Sounds great, right? Then let’s get into the how-to of creating habits.
To make something a habit, you need 3 things to line up for you: a trigger (time of day, an action, even an alarm) then the habit itself (in our case our creative activity) and a reward. Now the reward is a very important part and it takes some time to figure out. Because we are different, different things work for each of us. Some of us will feel rewarded after making something tangible, something you can use, hang up and look at afterwards. But for some of us it’s a little more complicated. I suggest that you sit with yourself a little bit to figure out why you’re creating in the first place. Really dig deep, don’t stop by the very first thing that comes into mind. Keep asking why until you feel very energised and confident with what you’ve unearthed.
When you find your reason to create, you can plan your reward accordingly. Is it relaxing for you? Then a cup of relaxing thee or a face mask could do the job. Is it exciting or energising for you? Then a peppermint or piece of dark chocolate could work. Is it just that you can share it and experience the joy of compliments? (I’ll talk about why this is probably not your actual reason to create, but it’s okay for now) Then cheer yourself on very hard afterwards.
The point is that you try out some different things according to what you reflect on and see how they work for you. Take your time and try it 5-6 times. Then check-in on your progress.
You also don’t need to overthink it. It can be very simple, like always sitting down in the same chair after dinner, with a cup of thee next to you. A good example of a simple reward is my meditation practice. I’ve wanted to meditate for a long time, but never got to it. But then I learned more about it and the mysteries were kind of solved. I started to meditate and dedicated the inside cover of my journal to mark the consecutive days that I’ve been meditating. And I wouldn’t miss even one day, because for me, the reward of being able to mark the end of my journal every day I meditate is just priceless! I love watching the page get filled with those lines. That’s my reward. It’s not big, but worth it for me totally (yeah, I’m that kind of gal ;)). And even if I’m dead tired and do only a 5 minute session, I get to draw that little line! I made the reward about showing up and it keeps me coming back for more. So the same routine -however short or simple- will help your brain to automatically recognise the situation and know “it’s time to be creative”.
Making habits takes time and for most of us it takes some trial and error. Just like everything that is worth pursuing. I’m still afraid of failing. But I realised that even trying just one day and then fail is already worth so much more than never trying at all. Especially if you look at failing as just another great opportunity to learn. What went wrong? What do I need to adjust? Maybe it’s the time of day, or my reward? Maybe I just need a reminder to pop up in my phone. Experiment and you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful habit of creating regularly! BOOM! Creativity on demand.