I often feel like I have a backlog of inspiration and ideas that are all muddled up in my head, just waiting to be put on paper. I’ve found that needing / wanting to create something of significance, however, can tend to result in a certain amount of procrastination on my part. One of the habits I’ve been working on this year is creating daily. I know that the more I produce, the easier it will become.
I recently experimented with this habit through Change Labs, a program hosted by my friend Leo Babauta, to test out some habit ideas for his new book. As part of the program, I committed to creating a page per day in my design journal. At the end of each day, I’d email Leo a photo of my work and this helped me stay accountable.
Creativity can show up in a lot of different ways and I believe that it exists in everyone. Fostering personal creativity can be challenging though, so I wanted to share a few of my takeaways from the experiment.
Start without a result in mind.
When I first started the habit, I struggled to sit down and effortlessly produce. I kept associating the practice with my other projects and the expectations I had about what the output should look like. During the second week, I changed my approach to focus on starting without an end result in mind. I’d sit down with my pens, paints and paper, not knowing what I was going to create. Sometimes I’d start with a thread of inspiration, like “mornings are an innocent time” and then I’d allow a visual to emerge. This minor adjustment created a lot of momentum with the habit.
Oftentimes starting with a fixed idea of what the outcome should be, can really limit what the outcome could be. Enjoy the process for the sake of it and see what emerges.
Enter a fluid and soft state.
The habit helped me step into the practice with a mindset of letting it be what it is. This was more of a fluid and soft state. I didn’t have to think about being present, because I was fully engaged. Watercolors seemed to be an appropriate medium, because they’re fluid also. The colors can just bleed into each other, allowing an entirely new state to emerge. I soon noticed that the way I approached my writing was changing as well. Rather than focusing on what I thought a post should say, I created space to discover what I really wanted to say. This allowed me to articulate some ideas that I hadn’t realized had already been formed inside of me.
A fluid state is one in which we relinquish control. The key is to trust yourself and know that there is both truth and beauty in allowing it to just be what it is.
Let the medium guide you.
I discovered that the interplay and iterations between visuals and words and words and visuals seem to be a good process for me. One informs the other. As I gave into the playful nature of this experiment, I noticed that I’ve been craving charcoal or pastels – something more tactile than pens. I was reminded that one of my little dreams has always been to have a home with a studio. The seed is planted and the freedom and joy of playing with the medium once again takes me on to new adventures.
Allow it to be messy. Feel your way to the answer. There are things our intuition can tell us, that our minds and routine cannot. Playfulness is a powerful tool.