Your creative process needs a Routine Machine.

routine machine 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!Darwin info

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.)Owaves

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?

Want more? Sign up for Freebies from Mandyland And get free copy of The Pace Book: Finding and Setting Your Creative Pace, as well as other adventures in creative play and inspiration! [nm-mc-form fid="1"]

Falling into routine, and rising within it.

The start of school is behind us. Fall is here and I am settling back into the rhythm and flow of full-time artistry. IMG_9784-2.JPGMy creative days are dependent on their start, so I am diligent to give myself the time and input they need. If I don't secure this time for myself, I feel the effects all day: behind and sluggish and uninspired.  The mornings are early, blindingly early. The house is dark, save for my corner of the kitchen, and this is the time when I can see most clearly.

My morning routine includes coffee, silence, journaling, reading, breakfasting, and meditating. These pieces run together like a plate of spaghetti: one whole, but many indiscernible parts. All bring delicious sustenance for a creative day.

By the end of my morning quiet, my pages are full, my soul is full, and my hands are itching to wrap themselves around brush and palette knife.

I've been learning about the creative routines of others (here and here are good examples). Their rhythms are so interesting to me, and shed light on what might be useful for me as well.

I know others of you are voraciously creative and are honing your own routines. I'm curious: What helps you? What do you need to jumpstart your creative days?


Chasing Daylight (on morning routines)

My morning routine is fast becoming the most important element of my creative process.  I get my head in gear, my soul in check, and my body in go. It's a slow process, yes. But it is, by nature, the wandering and pondering part of my day. I spend time writing out those things that won't get out of my head. (I call this "brain drain.") I spend some time in a life-giving book (currently: Merton's New Seeds of Contemplation). I am living the questions by writing them down. I am generating ideas. I am asking myself which projects need attention today, listing my three must-do's.


Essentially, I am choosing focus and clarity. I am pushing back hurried-living and simplifying my agenda. I am "getting it together," as we say in the South.

Some might see this is as self-indulgent, but I say it is self-management. There's nothing more paralyzing than this mam-artist in hurry-worry mode. I must take care of myself before I take care of someone or something else.

So do you have a morning routine? If so, what works best for you? I'd LOVE to hear.