Don’t waste life in doubts and fears; spend yourself on the work before you, well assured that the right performance of this hour’s duties will be the best preparation for the hours or ages that follow it. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
I was chatting with my dad last week. He’s retired now and wants to write children’s books. But he just doesn’t know how to get started. I suggested to him that the best place to start with any habit, especially creative ones, is to just make time daily to practice. For writing a book, that means spending time each day writing – whether that is journaling about your day, jotting down ideas for your book, or just sitting down and writing whatever comes to mind.
Those conversations got me thinking about the value of creative routine. The idea that practice makes perfect. And how just the act of showing up can have massive benefits for your creative projects. Most of the famous creatives, from Beethoven to Picasso to Voltaire, had a routine. And there are lots of good reasons to have one. A routine gives your brain space to dream, to create, to imagine. Having a routine makes you show up. It gets you into a regular creative mindset. It allows you to practice your craft and improve on it. It makes creativity part of your life. And it can lead to inspiration and great work. If you don’t show up every day, how can you expect inspiration to make an appearance?
Routine also gives you space to start – and often just starting something is the hardest part. We’re worried that we won’t know what to do, or where to begin, or that we’ll do it wrong. But the great thing about creativity is that there is seldom a wrong way to do anything. The great thing about routine is that we don’t have to think about it. It’s the time of day we’ve set aside to be creative (whatever that is) and now all we have to do is sit down and do it, even if we don’t know where to start.
Here are a few tips to help you create your own creative routine:
Schedule Your Creative Time
A routine is a schedule. So make sure you are scheduling out your creative time. This has to be a time and place that works best for you. I write best in the early mornings and late evenings. So I schedule my creative time then, because I know I’ll be more productive. And then I treat that time like any other important appointment and keep it. So find a time that works best for you, put it on your calendar, and stick with it.
Create a Space
It’s key to create a space in your life where ideas matter and have the time and space to be explored. This could be a dedicated studio space. It could be a corner of your dining room table. Or even just a notebook where you jot down ideas and then go back and work more on them. Carve out a space in your life that nourishes your creative practice and then guard that space.
Make your daily habit something easy to do. Set an alarm for yourself and spend the same amount of time everyday on a small task – such as 30 minutes of writing, painting, editing a few photos, brainstorming, or whatever creative activity you like. Do it without worrying about whether it is good or not. And stop when your time is up. By breaking your creative projects into smaller steps, the process suddenly becomes a whole lot less intimidating and a whole lot more fun.
Just Do It!
It can be hard to sit down during your creative time when you have no idea what to do and no inspiration. For those times, keep a list of 10 simple tasks related to your creative project or process. Pick one of them and work on it for a set amount of time (usually 30 min-1hr). You could do the same task every day until you’re ready to move on to the next one or you could vary tasks on some sort of schedule. The key is to spend your dedicated time working on something creative – even on days when you don’t feel inspired.
There are so many things coming at us every day and so many people pulling us in different directions. We can’t rely on the idea that we’ll find time to be creative once we manage everything else. Instead of waiting for inspiration to just show up, make creativity part of your daily routine. Having a regular creative routine has worked for many great creatives. It will work for you too.