Know the habits that keep Y-O-U creating.
I have habits that really fire me up to make art.
I have a lot of habits that drain me and distract me from making art.
None of these habits are intrinsically good or bad. They are just habits that produce different results. The trick is to identify the outcome you want, and see if the habits you’re holding onto support that desired outcome.
For those of you in the back row ready with some snide remark about which habits I’m obviously still hanging on to that don’t have good outcomes (like having candy bars for lunch yesterday)… Look. I get it. It’s not about living a perfect life. It’s about getting back on the horse after he’s spilled you a few times. (Hey! A riding metaphor!)
I have several outlets for my creativity: Writing, making jewelry, fiber work, stamp carving. Today I finally realized that these different outlets need different switches to flip ‘on’.
Here’s one concrete example for writing:
In the morning, I usually make that first cup of coffee and head into my studio to “check my email”. (Raise your hand if you do that, too.) (Ohhhh….so many hands!)
Soon I’m doing a heckuva lot more than slogging through my in box. (Yeah, you know.) Soon I’m surfin’ and networkin’ and tweetin’ and other good stuff.
Now, all this isn’t necessarily a “bad” habit. After all, I like seeing what my friends are up to. I like to explore new venues for my artwork. I like reading funny blogs like Hyperbole and a Half, and watching funny videos on Today’s Big Thing. And we all need down time. In fact, sometimes you just need to waste time.
The problem is, an hour goes by. Every. Single. Morning. That’s a lot of downtime, before I even do anything to deserve it.
It’s not just the lost time, though. I’s worse. It actually drains me of creativity.
If I spend too much time abmiring other people’s art, I start to feel insecure about mine. (“Why bother?? So-and-so’s work is light-years ahead of mine!”) If I read too many other blogs, I start to feel inadequate about mine. (“What’s the use?? He has 10,000 followers, I have a few hundred. And he said it better!”) If I offer too much advice in a forum, I feel like I’ve done my writing for the day.
Either way, the down time ends, and it feels like I did something productive. But I didn’t.
So something harmless, fun, maybe even helpful to others, is good under the right circumstances, and not good in others.
But something happens if I simply stay in the dining room with my coffee, pick up a pen (has to be a Uniball Vison pen, too–no ball points for me!) and start writing my morning pages (a la Julie Cameron’s THE ARTIST’S WAY.)
It’s odd. I always starts out kinda bitchy. From there it goes to whining. Then I run out of steam around the middle of page 2. That’s when I simply blather. “I hate this I have nothing to say who would even WANT to listen to anything I have to say, this is too hard, my new idea for a wall hanging sucks blah blah blah….” And yes, there are many days where I simply write, “Blah blah blah.” In an artistic way, of course.
But somewhere in the midst of the wailing and whining, something marvelous happens.
A new idea pops up. A new insight creeps out. Suddenly, I get something I didn’t get before.
I know what I have to do. I know exactly what my next step is.
Many of my blog ideas come from those awful, whining, boring morning pages. It’s a light switch for my writing, and a pretty powerful and reliable one, too.
Some days I simply forget to do them. Some days I don’t have time to do them. Sometimes I go for months without doing them, thinking I don’t need them anymore.
But I always come back. Because they work.
Now, on the other hand, writing those morning pages is really good for generating an idea for a blog, or an article. But not always so good for my other artwork. Again, because I feel like I’ve ‘already made something.” In fact, I had that insight this morning as I wrote. I actually need to think of another switch to flip for my other stuff.
But now that I’m thinking about what works, and what doesn’t, I don’t think I’ll have to spend too much time figuring that out.
So what is YOUR process? What little habit do YOU have, that helps you flip on the switch to YOUR art?