Boundaries? Routines? Discipline? But I’m an Artist!

I fall in love really easily with the promise of new things. Take a new journal for example. Before you even open it, the potential it has is delicious. You could write ANYTHING in those pages, and more specifically you could unfold the most wonderful words you’ve ever written. All that possibility! It’s easy to fall for.

But then comes the crunch. You actual have to open the journal, take a pencil and start writing. Those words, lyrics, verses, chapters, aren’t going to magically appear themselves.

So obviously the best way to do this is to wait until you’re feeling REALLY creative, so you can be sure you only put the very best, most perfectly crafted combination of words inside. Anything less just will not do, and this is why you have to hold back from doing anything until your creativity is riding high!

Well, this sounds like a great recipe. And it is. A great recipe for procrastination and never writing a word on your shiny new journal!

What actually WILL you get you creating as soon as possible, and starting to build momentum, are three vital ingredients:

Firstly, set some boundaries.

Now hang on, boundaries? You’re an artist, you have to be free to create in any way possible don’t you? Contrary to what we might logically believe, by limiting our creativity, we actually set it free.

Let me explain. If you write, and you have that brand new journal, how are you going to decide what to write, when there are so many words, so many styles of writing, so many forms? You could write absolutely anything.

So, set a few boundaries. Maybe you decide to write a three verse poem about the passing of summer. Or a fifty word story about a man who collects matchbooks. By choosing something, you get yourself up and running, get those juices flowing. By just reading this paragraph I’m sure you already have images in your head associated with those suggestions?

Next, find a routine that works for you.

I know, I know. Routine tends to conjure dull associations of monotonous repetitive work. But it doesn’t have to be like that. Routines, which are essentially the same as habits, are incredibly powerful.

The simplest, and one I use myself, is to create every day.

I cannot remember a day when I didn’t write something or other, even if it was just a small poem, or a few lines of a story. When you commit to creating everyday, and especially at a similar time each day, it works a subtle kind of magic in many ways.

Probably the most significant is you give your creative mind permission to create. By giving it a specific chunk of time each day, rather than saying you’ll be creative “when you have time” (in other words, er, never), you begin very quickly to program your creativity to flourish.

This is similar to a child having play time at the same time each day. Once she starts to realise this, she’s likely to look forward to it, enjoy it, and play far more freely in that time.

Lastly, a little bit of discipline is needed.

The easiest way to develop this is to start small, get comfortable, then build gradually. A great starting point for creating every day is to do just 15 minutes. This is a tiny part of the day! Then, 10 or 20 or 30 days in, once that 15 minutes a day is a strong habit, you can expand to 30 or more, and build further.

The biggest mistake to make when trying to develop a creativity routine and the discipline to maintain it, is to overwhelm yourself too soon. If you declare you’ll create for 2 hours a day, then on the third day only create for 90 minutes, you’ll feel disappointed, and you’ll most likely focus on the 30 minutes you DIDN’T create for, rather than the 90 minutes you did.

Boundaries, routines, and discipline at first seem big scary words for an artist.

But by introducing them gently, as we’ve just talked about, they can be the keys to being more creative then you’ve ever been before.

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