Do you set aside creative time, to then spend half of it wondering what in the heck you're going to do? You sit down at your piano or in your studio or with your art journal and you don't know where to start? If this is a constant struggle for you, maybe it is time to whip you creative process into shape. It is time to stop flailing around aimlessly in your creative time and start flying!
How can you take control of your creative process? You use a streamlined, customized just-for-you creative routine that maximizes your creativity. Your creative process can go from flailing to flying in just one day, using a Routine Machine. The good news is that building a creative "Routine Machine" is easier than you think!
And how does it work? It is built using creative triggers: A specific workspace? Tea? A walk outside? A quick sketch or sprint of writing? Morning pages? Putting on your smock and stepping into your studio? Pandora? ...Think Pavlov, but for ideas.
An enlightening 99U article gives us the characteristics that make a creative routine work:
1. Uniqueness – it should be something (or a combination of things) you don’t associate with other activities, otherwise the effect will be diluted.
2. Emotional intensity – the kind you experience when you’re really immersed in creative work.
3. Repetition – the more times you experience the unique trigger in association with the emotions, the stronger the association becomes.
Your creative triggers can be anything used exclusively to tell your brain "it's go time" whether it's idea generation or get-it-done mode. Your brain will learn to respond to the triggers. Yes it's slightly animalistic, but use this fact to your benefit. Train your brain, y'all. Train your brain.
Austin Kleon, who is a master at making creativity look easy, explains how his daily routine and creative space work for him: "hopefully get out to the garage by 10AM or so. Then I’m out there until around 5 or so. I try to adhere to John Waters’ routine: make stuff up in the morning and sell it in the afternoon." Why does his creativity look so effortless? Because the man created his own custom built Routine Machine!
And how do I use my own Routine Machine? This is in constant flux, depending on the season and needs. I wake around 5:30. My morning journal/coffee/breakfast time can include meditation, reading, drawing, working on my "Big Three" (more on that soon), ideating, etc. My mornings are creatively focused (in the studio, churning out written content, working on some of my publishing projects). And my afternoons are for admin/marketing stuff. Then it's family time which rolls right into a restful evening. This ends with an evening "wind down." It often includes soft lighting, reading, and my favorite blanket. This wind down is essential, like a Pavlovian lullaby for my brain. Without it, I often have a hard time falling asleep.
My Routine Machine gives me the predictability and security I need in order to channel my "what's next" creative energies towards projects and paintings, instead of responding to disorganization. This routine is SO important that it's included in my creativity manifesto:
To maintain a level of creativity, I rely on new inspirations and old routines. I always find novel ways to create, whether it be through new tools of creating, or new mediums. Predictability and routine provide the best environments for my soul to have the energy to create. If life demands adaptation and change (both being very creative endeavors) then I will be depleted of my inner creativity.
Now, for that thing about the Big Three. One of the smallest and most useful cogs in my Routine Machine comes from Todd Henry, author of Accidental Creative. He says to keep your "BIG THREE" list in a prominent place in your organizational system. I keep in mine on little cards in my LifeBook system. The "Big Three" can come from projects or challenges that you're chewing on and working through, and you want to keep in the forefront of your attention. "You cannot concentrate on everything at once, so you need to regularly refine your list of critical creative priorities so that you train your mind to be on the lookout for solutions. " There's more from Todd in this Forbes Article on Creativity in the workplace.
Now, let's work on your Routine Machine to maximize your creative process and watch your creativity soar. Here are some useful resources that you can dig into to begin to think through your own Routine Machine!
You can scroll through an entire website, turned book, to help us learn from the daily routines of creative people.
Want others' daily routines in an infographic from InfoWeTrust? (Like Darwin's above.)
Want to make your day look like Darwin's? YES THERE'S AN APP FOR THAT, called Owaves (screenshot at the right).
OR, you can start with something less complex. In fact, I use the Lift App to create habits of the things I want to accomplish everyday. It's like a daily checklist, with stats!
So think it through—build a Routine Machine that works for you or adapt the one you already have! What does your creativity need? What would your ideal daily/weekly routine look like? What elements would it have? And what would you want to accomplish with it?
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