I used to think of my creative practice as the dedicated time and effort I would devote to a project. You know, spending time each day to work on a book, in my case. For you, it might be any expression of your creativity and I’ll talk a little more about this later. It turns out that there’s more to it…
This belief turned out to be only part of what it means to develop a creative practice—and it often left me drained, stuck, and frustrated when I kept hammering away at “the product.”
The prevailing belief is that you just need to grind it out. If you’re faced with writer’s block or any other sort of creative stuckness, what you need is a kick in the pants. I’ve said it often enough about myself (and heard it even more often from those with whom I work), “I just need to get more disciplined. I’m being lazy and procrastinating.”
While I still agree that a healthy discipline is needed for any kind of mastery, I think that the popular voices are extremely loud that preach things like: GRIND 25/8/366, or NO DAYS OFF, or “the hustle solves everything.”
This leaves a lot of us feeling exhausted and maybe a bit intimidated by those who claim to hustle without ceasing. “Like, you really take zero days off, you creative demigod? I mean, I want to get my things done but can I have an hour or two to maybe watch Netflix?”
“NO! That’s for the weak. Work harder and longer and never, ever stop. Do it 25, no… 27 hours a day. That’s how this works. The juice is worth the squeeze, yo!”
I want to share what I’ve discovered about developing a creative practice. It’s twofold.
First—and this is the most neglected and most important—a creative practice is the time you spend healing and developing the connection to your creative inner self.
I’ve found that a lot of what’s taught in the creative arena focuses on the creative product—the “what”. Then there’s a lot of focus on the “how,” which includes the techniques or skills, resources, and the process of getting it done.
Most don’t spend much time on the source of your creative expression—you. I call this “the who.” This is you, your real desires and dreams, your body, mind, and spirit.
Think about this with me. If you nurture the connection to your inner creative being, you increase your health, focus, energy, and clarity.
It’s tempting to view time spent on this kind of self-care as a deduction from the time you can devote to writing that book, designing the garden, coding the masterpiece app, or whatever represents an expression of your creative self.
I invite you to dismiss this belief and adopt a different one. Try this one out and see how it feels:
As I heal and nurture the connection to my original creative self, I gain the power I need to create the things I love and dream about.
In other words, the time you invest in tuning in, listening to yourself, caring for your needs, and moving into the real “creative zone” results in greater leverage. You are able to do more and better creative work when you develop this practice first. I will send you more information about the neuropsychology of this soon. It’s fascinating.
So, how can one get started in establishing this sort of practice?
I recently released a free ebook that can be a wonderful first step. It offers an incredibly simple, three-question process of journaling that takes you straight into communication with your inner self—and you can do it in just 5-10 minutes per day.
The reason I start with this is that our culture has trained us to exactly ignore our inner selves. It’s often hard to find the true voice or even recognize what we really need and desire. This simple, quick journaling process is what I use every single day. It’s only a jumping-off point, though. Many people have reported back on how they have added their own steps or developed even more robust ways to foster this inner conversation.
I love the first two questions in this Creative Self Journal: “How do I feel right now?” and, “What do I need right now?”
Those two simple questions all by themselves can open locked doors to your needs, desires, intuition, and imagination.
I also use and highly recommend a mindfulness/meditation practice. I’ll share more about this and how combining it with the creative journal is so powerful in helping us move out of anxious mental states and into the “creative green zone.”
But before I geek out about all that, let me just say that your creative practice can really include anything that helps you do that. You might find that a mindful walk, five minutes of pleasant daydreaming (when was the last time you allowed yourself to do that?), yoga, reading a great book, sketching, cooking a beautiful meal, or many other things can help you settle down and tune into yourself. So can a nap!
Let me move on to the second part of a creative practice, but before I do, can you feel how life-giving and restorative this first part can be? Since I equate creative energy with the feeling or energy of life itself, joy, and love, I also feel that developing our own inner health is the shortest distance between two points in producing beautiful creative work.
The second kind of creative practice is what we most commonly think of—dedicated time and effort spent on creating something.
Since this essay is part of a series that I’m writing, I will not talk about all of the strategies that can help you develop a regular, consistent “doing” creative practice—but this is also important and I can’t wait to share more about this with you as we go along.
Here are a few items on that list that I’ll share as separate essays:
- The Power of Five
Baby Steps and Micro-Choices
- Mind Mapping
- The Proper Use of Creative Tension
- And More…
You are already quite capable of sitting down and doing the things. You know that you need to do them, you might even often feel bad when you procrastinate or avoid them.
For now, I’d like to point out that if you start at the beginning—the source—and develop a creative practice that includes tuning into yourself, asking yourself questions, and caring for the more subtle needs of your inner creative self, you will discover that this is a major step toward more effortlessly getting into the regular work of creating.
You may know that I’m finishing a new book titled, The Creative Cure, that comes out later this year. I develop these ideas and much more about unwinding the socialization, fears of rejection, and traumatic experiences that have injured this vital connection to the inner creative self. Right now I’m happy to be in conversation with you about these things. Please feel free to leave a comment below or send me a message through the contact page of this site.
Also, look at me for a second. Right here in my eyes. I want you to know something.
You are enough. Just as yourself and what you already contain within you. I know that for sure.