How to Start a Daily Creative Practice
One of my most fulfilling self-care-related activities is my daily creative practice. What I do as part of this practice varies; sometimes it’s writing, sometimes it’s hand-lettering, sometimes it’s experimenting with a new hobby. Having a daily creative practice has also been useful professionally. It’s good for my skills, good for my mindset and the more I show up, the more inspired I feel. Creativity is like a muscle and daily workouts are one of the most effective ways to strengthen it.
At the same time, I know it’s not easy maintaining a daily creative practice. So in this post I want to share nine general rules/principles that have helped me and I hope will help you too:
1. Keep it simple.
The number one reason most people struggle to get started and stay started with a daily creative practice is they overcomplicate it. Make it as easy as possible for yourself. Start with the minimum amount or minimum goal and work your way up from there.
2. Remember 99% of this is about showing up.
The second biggest reason people struggle? Expectations of what a daily creative practice “should” look like. Check those now and stay open to the idea this will evolve and change as you go.
3. Choose one thing at a time.
Writing, painting, drawing; this can change further down the line but start by choosing one thing to focus on. A word of caution: don’t go overboard. Remember, simple is best. You don’t need a full set of professional tools to get started. If you’re drawing, start with a single pencil and paper. If you’re writing, open a new text file or (my personal favourite) a new document in Scrivener. And, if you find yourself waiting to start until you have all the right kit? That’s what author Steven Pressfield would describe as the resistance.
4. Designate a time and place you’ll do this each day
I find if I truly want to get something done, the best time to do it is the morning. Since I became a mother, this has changed to “whenever I can,” but earlier is still better! By evening, we’re tired, our willpower is depleted, and it’s all too easy to shelve our creative practice to make room for other things that spill over from the day. Getting up earlier might feel like a drag (especially if, like me, you’re not exactly a morning person). Again, choosing a specific time and place in advance is about reducing the number of decisions you need to make each day so you can focus on what’s really important: your creative practice.
5. Build a container around your practice
How will you know when you’ve done “enough” on any given day? Perhaps you’ll have a time limit, perhaps a word count, perhaps an agreement to do one drawing. The parameters are up to you, but deciding this in advance and setting a container around your practice will make it feel more doable on a daily basis.
6. Make it enjoyable
When it comes to “work,” fun is something that often gets lost, or even feels forbidden. I’ve explored this with a number of coaching clients in the past: when we’ve dug down into resistance or procrastination around their craft, there usually lurks some kind of hidden belief about how it’s supposed to be very serious, hard, and not enjoyable. Because that’s how work should be.A daily creative practice isn’t likely to be enjoyable every day. There will be days when it feels like the last thing you want to do. I’m a big advocate for using those days as a growth opportunity and a chance to recommit to why you’re doing this in the first place. But fun is an important element we overlook at our own peril. When we believe something should be a struggle, a graft, a drudge, we hamstring ourselves.Follow your curiosity and see where it leads you.
7. Commit and gamify…
Try setting yourself a 30-day, 90-day, 100-day or year-long challenge to do a little every day. I love challenges because it feels like I’m aiming for some kind of milestone or tangible goal. If you’re just starting out, think carefully before setting a huge challenge as you’re more likely to become discouraged if you fall off the wagon early. Start with a 10-day or 30-day challenge and build up from there.Use your creative practice as an opportunity for connection, accountability, and commitment. You might share a blog post each day for 30 days (like Sarah Kathleen Peck). Alternatively, join a community, like My 500 Words by Jeff Goins, for peer support and meeting fellow writers. Use social media: share one image of your creative practice each day, as Caroline Kelso encourages her hand-lettering cohorts to do. However you choose to commit and stay accountable is up to you, but embrace any stirring you feeling inside to be visible.
8. …But don’t get hung up on being “perfect”
You’re human, which means you will skip days, drop the ball, and even just plain forget. This doesn’t matter, it’s what you do next that counts.Not every day has to be a masterpiece. Remember, it’s the showing up that counts. Last month, I managed to write every day. This month, there are several gaps in my streak due to moving, a bad winter cold, and life. But once I realise I’ve broken the streak? The most important thing is to minimise the amount of time between realising and restarting.Having a regular creative practice is a constant balance between facing resistance head-on and being a fallible human. Grapple with the things within your control and don’t feel too bad about the things that aren’t.
9. Support your practice in other areas of your life
Go on artist dates to stoke your curiosity and inspiration. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep. Connect with fellow creatives and build your support network. Find and follow a couple of creative mentors. These don’t have to be people you know on a personal basis, they don’t even have to be people you’ve exchanged words with (although I’m sure they’d love it if you reached out to say hi).If something feels like it’s missing from your creative life, that’s a sign it’s time to reach out and do something about it.What is the number one thing you’ve found helpful for starting and maintaining a creative practice? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.Further reading: How do you nourish your creativity? 16 creatives share their tips & Rediscovering your creativityPhoto by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash