Oh, how I love the first few weeks of January – that time of boundless optimism and dreaming big. The hard part is holding onto that positive energy when it’s the middle of July and you realize your plan to achieve great things got derailed in late March.
Here are 12 tips for making your creative dreams come true this year. All are offered with the hope that you’ll enjoy the bliss that comes with being in the “flow” of creation!
Tips for creative liberation
1. Focus on one goal or goal step at a time – you don’t have to limit yourself to one goal, or even one focus word, for the year, but when you’re working on a particular project, give it your full attention. Hone in on the step you’re taking today to move toward accomplishing the goal, and how it fits with the next step.
2. Use downtime for creativity, even if it just means incubating ideas instead of playing Angry Birds – think about how you spend your time in line at the store, or the DMV, or at the doctor’s office. Our versatile smartphones can be used for more than Facebooking or gaming when we’re waiting. Journaling, planning and sketching can all take place during small slivers of time, whether you’re using analog tools or digital ones.
3. Use your commute time to create – this is an extension of the previous tip. If you use public transit to commute, you have a built-in 30 to 60 (or more) minute chunk every day to work on your creative projects.
4. Take a class – Studying with a teacher can help you improve specific skills, and you can gain insight from your classmates’ work and feedback.
5. Teach a class – Instructing others in something you’ve mastered will help you learn even more about the subject matter. There’s always some skill you can pass along to someone else, even if you’re a beginner.
6. Make room to create – If you are struggling to find creative space or carve out time to practice your art, cleaning out your house or your schedule can unleash suppressed creative energy.
7. Build a routine that supports your creative work – Positive habits are the building blocks of a daily schedule that helps you start and finish more projects. Your morning or evening schedule may not even need a complete makeover – a few tweaks here and there may allow you to develop and maintain your creative momentum.
8. Find the edge of your creative skillset and take up residence there – Some creative failure is less a matter of making mistakes as it is getting stale and bored or not overcoming a long-standing obstacle in terms of technique. Look at the practice routine for your creative passion. How do you warm up when you engage in your creativity? What can you do that’s hard, but stretches you to expand yourself and become more skilled?
9. Pursue worthy projects – Another way to overcome staleness or ennui in your creative passion is to keep doing projects that you’re crazy about. These “worthy projects” could be big in terms of scope, impact or the developmental “stretch” you’ll have to accomplish in order to complete them. Don’t worry if a project is so breathtakingly big that it scares you – that’s actually a good sign!
10. Throw yourself into the deep end of the pool – Related to #9, this tip recognizes that we tend to engage our creativity most when we’re the least comfortable. Give yourself some constraints (a/k/a limits) that will force you to start working and silence the inner critic. You can always revise things as you go along. Sometimes, you just have to dive in at the outset of an adventure to overcome your inertia.
11. Get enough sleep – It’s hard to get much done if you wander around in a fog caused by sleep deprivation or insomnia. (Believe me, I know!) If there are medical or psychological issues involved, get the help you need. If that’s not the case, consider your wind-down routine in the evening. The time just before falling asleep can be a fruitful time for your creative subconscious, so take care of it by designing a bedtime routine that relaxes you and puts you in a hopeful frame of mind.
12. Connect your creativity to something bigger than yourself – Maybe it’s not all about you?! That can be a big relief if the self-expressive part of art-making has become paralyzing self-obsession or unbearably painful self-revelation. Christine Valters Paintner, who operates The Abbey of the Arts, has written The Artist’s Rule, a wonderful resource for exploring art-making as a path to deeper spiritual discovery.