My Thoughts + Approach to Designing Habits that Fulfill You Creatively
In a fairytale land of creative people, everyone would be maxed out of their jazz levels all day every day. That means that everyone is always feeling good, making masterpieces by the hour, and there are no uninspiring or frustrating things. (Deadlines, creative blocks and calendars: I’m looking at you!) But, this is the real world and we as creatives have struggles that we face. Creative block, being mentally stuck, having to fit to a schedule or having to call up inspiration: I feel ya. One of the ways in which you can help yourself get a little closer to fairytale creative life is by designing creative routines for yourself.
And guys, I’m going to give it to you straight. This is not an article with one of those neat lists that will promise to make you a creative and productive unicorn overnight. I’m not about that overnight lifestyle. One of the reasons for that is that those types of lists are faulty for a huge reason: they are not universally applicable. We are all so different. That is to say, I definitely see that from those lists, one could pick and choose what fits them, and experiment. By doing that, gradually discover what works and what doesn’t. I am all about that pick and mix, but not without a strategy. This article is aimed to help you pick and mix what works for you. In that way, you can pick activities that help you live a creative life that fit your personality, life and priorities.
Start with reflection
Chances are that if you are reading this, you are like me: someone who prefers to look inside before trying just anything. Otherwise an paragraph with the word “reflection” in the title would have sent you running for the hills already. I hinted at this in the previous part, but I’m a huge believer in getting to know yourself. This helps me personally in deciding on habits and setting goals, because I don’t set myself up for failure. And that is not because I’m feeble or can’t finish anything: that is because I am a human with personality-centric pitfalls and aptitudes. Bear with me.
How I do this
Because I learn about myself and my personality continuously, I can adapt the way I set incentives, goals and habits for myself. This applies to my personal life, sports, but mostly my creative career. The way I do this is by doing these things:
2.I read books about personal development take personality tests.
These are tools that helps me put my fears, dreams, ideas and desires on paper, which is useful for personal reflection. Tests and books give me a framework to understand my personality + have some kind of reference to how I am different from other people;
By doing this I learned that I am an ENFJ personality type and have the Rebel tendency. This means that in designing a creative routine I have to keep in mind that I have a tendency to focus on people + gravitate towards speaking up, rather than staying quiet, and that I form habits easiest by focusing them on my sense of self and identity. (“I am a person who is creative, so I need to be a person that creates something every day”).
I recommend that before you make any resolutions or design goals and habits for your creative life, you do the following things:
1.Try active reflection using a journal (physical booklet or diary prompt app on your phone);
2.Take the 16 personalities test
3.take the four tendencies test, or another personality test that relates to habits;
4.Look for tips that fit your personality type + put these tips into a document!
The goal in these reflection activities is that you learn what kind of person you are, how you can form habits, and use that to phrase what you would like to improve on. You can start by doing these things, and make this a part of your creative practice. Which brings us to the next step: the focus of your new creative habits.
Define a focus
The focus of your new creative habits can be anything you want. I think it is responsible and ethical to note that the focus that you define for your creativity should be a real focus. Because it is easy enough to say: I want to be the most creative person in all fields of all time, but that is not really a relevant goal. An ideal focus touches upon these three areas:
1. An outside focus: It can be that it helps you to be perceived by others in the way you want to be perceived. This is a less strong aspect than the two below because it is based on vanity, but for some people it helps to have an incentive as a goal that makes us the people we want to be. An example of an outside goal is: “I want to look and behave creatively.”
2. A heartfelt focus: This is a goal that is focused on making YOU feel good. This can be something like: “I want to paint every morning, because it helps me feel happy”.
3. An impact focus: An impact goal is a goal that helps others or other things. An example of this is: “I want make others happy with my art” or “I want to give some of my art away to charity” etc.
How I do this
Some of the parts of my creative practice stem from these focal areas. Here are some examples of the focus of my own creative practice:
- I want to be knowledgeable about creativity and personal development and be perceived by others as such. (outside focus: how do people see me? + heartfelt focus: I want to learn!)
- I want to attract client projects that make my heart sing. (heartfelt focus: i want to feel good while making a living, otherwise what is the point of freelancing?)
- I want my work to positively impact the lives of others (impact focus: I want to share art and knowledge + inspire!)
Depending on the type of person you are, you will respond more strongly to some of these aspects than others, so the balance is up to you. But, setting a focus that will both make you feel good + make you look good, or even have a positive effect on others, would be the most awesome thing ever!
Designing your goals
Now, in designing your goals, the personality and frame of reference part in the Reflection step really come into play. Because I learned that I don’t stick well to vain goals or goals that are too strict and big, yet I do respond well to goals that tap into how I want to be as a person, I can customize my goals on this. The same works for you. By knowing yourself, and knowing what you want to achieve, you can set goals that will be more effective and closer to your heart, than just setting a random goal that doesn’t make you happy or that does not fit in your life. The focus of the goal is important because it will help you commit. Having an area that it is focused on, and a clear outcome/for who the goal is, will help formulate it.
How I did this
To connect with my focus areas described before, I created these goals for myself – and note how I phrased them!
I want to be knowledgeable about creativity and personal development and be perceived by others as such.
So: I have made a habit of reading a book about these topics every time I take a bath.
I want to attract client projects that make my heart sing.
So: I have made a habit of doing portfolio projects for fun, that I work on during my commutes
I want my work to positively impact the lives of others
So: I have made a habit of learning about public speaking + practicing it
(Obviously it is important to make your goals SMART. I am not going into SMART goals because I have no desire to come off as a broken record so you can look up how they work if you so desire :).)
Make a plan
Now that we know how to set goals, we have to figure out how your goals fit into your daily life. I recommend you take a look at your calendar and at your journal you have kept from the reflection step. During what time of the day do you feel creative? I personally get going after about 11, so I do my emails in the morning and then I can keep going with illustration until dawn (if I want). Knowing yourself is key. I made it a habit to read in the bath because otherwise, I’m on my phone in the bath – and who needs more mindless social media consumption? That is right – no one. Besides, it is a great way to unwind after a long day. If you hate the bath, this obv doesn’t work for you, but you can find a time and place that fits your existing habits + calendar.
How to develop habits that creatively fulfill you?
The intention I have with this article is to show you how I design creative routines for myself and to explain the relevance of reflection for creatives. As a critical note to my own approach, I would like to say that I totally get it if you don’t like the idea of making this a longer project. Some of us simply aren’t like that. That is why I included some things for you to try out that you can then pick and mix into your own goals and creative routine. These work for a lot of people, and some work for me as well.
1. Making something every day – even if it is small
2. Give yourself time to have your thoughts wander.
3. Bring a small notebook and pencil with you.
4. Dedicate a (small) space to your craft.
5. Try a new thing to fuel creativity for another thing.
6. Make things for you, not for social media. Don’t even post it.
And with that, I have left officially nothing out that I know about creative routines. I hope this was useful to you!
If it was, share this article with your creative friends. You can also follow me on @annalenaillustrations – I’d love to see what your creative routine looks like.