Have you ever felt creatively constipated? Like you know you have something to share, but you can’t quite get it out? Maybe the vibe of your room isn’t right, or your mood is off, or you don’t have time, or you simply can’t trust yourself to stop procrastinating and do it?
When it comes to creativity (and most other things in life) I tend to be very “all or nothing.” Some days, I have no problem turning off technology, grabbing a cafe-au-lait and my journal, and going to town for hours. The words flow, and I feel on fire, totally intoxicated with my own creative power. And other days, not so much.
On other days, no matter how long I sit in front of a blank page, nothing flows. This usually continues for about an hour or so before I retreat to Pinterest and eat a procrastination snack.
If this sounds at all familiar, I have something that will help. Whether you feel confident calling yourself a creative or you just want to be, there is a way to enhance your creativity and feel it rise up within you on a more consistent basis. And it’s the exact opposite of everything you’ve been taught about what it means to be creative.
Let’s get one thing straight. You are a creative person. You need to believe this if you’re going to create consistently.
Yes, you are a creative, even if you’re a closeted one at the moment. Creating isn’t just about writing, or drawing, or selling hand-lettered cards on Etsy. Creating a business plan requires creativity. Making a difference requires creativity. Leading a team requires creativity. At its core, creativity is just problem solving with panache.
We are entering a new era of creative leadership, where the point of work isn’t to be a cog in a machine, but to create things that innovate, solve problems, and delight people. To be a creative leader, you must be the leader in your own life.
I was conditioned to think that creative people are a special breed: magical beings who walk around inspired all the time, and that I had to wait until I attained that special “creative” status in order to make things or to make money from my creativity. That single crappy belief kept me from engaging creatively for years. The truth is that whether or not you have a “creative” job that looks good on Instagram, you are creative. If you’ve found your way to this blog, it’s on purpose, and you posses some sort of innate creativity. You don’t need to wait around for permission to play in it, and you certainly don’t need to wait around for inspiration to strike.
The best way for your creative identity to flourish consistently is by consistently giving it time, space, and attention.
Instead of passively waiting for inspiration to strike or attempting to force it into a logical structure, you can actually train your brain to be more consistently creative by getting structure on your side. With this balanced approach, we are going to use structure to create a container in which you are in charge of your creative inspiration.
To achieve this balance, you must first understand your unique relationship between creative input and output.
It is impossible to create from a vacuum. While you don’t want to wait around for inspiration to strike, it is essential that you are filling yourself creatively so that you’ll have something to digest when inspiration is needed. Just like your body digests food and converts it into energy, your soul digests art, music, poetry, current events, and relationships and then converts them into whatever your unique voice is meant to express. If you aren’t getting enough soul food, of course you’re feeling uninspired or struggling to make things. The secret weapon here is building awareness around what fills you creatively and then actively calling in those conditions.
What is your unique input/output formula? Just how much input do you need to feel at your artistic peak? What specific types of input yield the strongest output for you?
Next, name and actively create the conditions that allow you to be at your most inspired, creative, and consistent.
I’ve always had a sensitive stomach, and I’ve learned that I cannot drink alcohol and have sugar at the same time. Whiskey? Let’s do it! Chocolate cake? Bring it on! The combination of the two; however, results in a stomach ache every time. I’ve had to learn my stomach’s preferred combinations the hard way.
Just like my stomach is sensitive (and rebellious) to certain inputs, my creativity works the same way. Certain types of input-like self doubt, fear, and lack of sleep-kill my ability to feel inspired and creative, while others allow my voice to flow freely.
After you understand what conditions yield your most creative, inspired self, you can now put those conditions in place whenever you want them. Don’t wait for the muses-invite them in. Light candles or go outside or snuggle into your pillows. Find what inspires consistency and creative flow in you and then do those things on purpose. Make them sacred.
Establish your “Rules for Creative Living.” Follow them daily.
So now that you know the secret to creating and feeling inspired more consistently, here’s how you can put it into action. One of my favorite coaches and authors, Kate Northrup, wrote a blog post called “Rules for Sane Living,” and it outlines 11 loving, supportive boundaries that allow her to feel less stressed on a daily basis. These 11 self-imposed “rules” are things that, when followed, allow her to feel at her best.
We are going to do the same exercise, but with a twist. Instead of making a container to reduce stress, we’re going to make a container to increase creative consistency.
First, get yourself centered. Find a quiet time when you can be alone, and take a few deep breaths. Think back to the last time you felt truly inspired and empowered around your creative ability. What was going on at that time? Touch that memory and see if you can point to specific things that allowed creative inspiration to bubble up naturally. Were you home alone playing classical music? Were you jamming about big ideas with a group of girlfriends? Or maybe you woke up early and sipped your coffee in silence and simply watched the sun rise.
Next, create a list of additional things you need in order to feel your most creatively inspired and productive. What settings open up your creativity? What things close it off? Who inspires you? Who distracts you? What do you need to be wearing to feel your best? What time of day do you flow mostly freely?
Now that you’ve done a little internal excavation, it’s time to create your “Rules for Creative Living” list. Aim for around 8-12 “rules” that you can stick to on a consistent basis, try them out, and tweak them accordingly.
Here’s my current list.
- When working on a writing project, write in the morning: after coffee but before any other work, conversation, or distraction.
- Ideally, brainstorm weekly at my favorite neighborhood coffee shop on Sunday mornings when it’s quiet.
- Walk in nature at least once a week, especially when I’m feeling stuck.
- Play fast, upbeat music during creation time and take frequent dance breaks. I find The Ting-Tings work especially well for this.
- Create without attachment and don’t judge the outcome. Remind myself that not everything has to be perfect.
- Have at least one deep conversation with amazing, conscious girlfriends per week.
- Completely clean off my desk before sitting down to do anything creative.
- Turn the phone completely off and put it in another room.
- Read for about 30 minutes immediately before sitting down to write. The actual book doesn’t matter for me-I just need to activate that part of my brain.
- Visit a local museum at least once a month. Wander toward whatever interests me.
Don’t overthink this list. Deep down, you know what works for you in terms of feeling creative and getting things done. The goal here is to create repeatable conditions so that when you engage in them, your brain will automatically launch into inspiration mode, and your creative process will be easier.
When it comes to your personal creative expression, whether or not it’s tied to your job, you have something valuable to express. It’s not about being perfect-it’s about the heart and the soul of what your creativity wants to communicate with the people who need it most. You posses that creative fire, and now you have the power to name your own “Rules for Creative Living” and use them to share your voice with the world.
Start by sharing your voice with us!
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