Intimidated by that blank white screen or sheet of paper? It happens to everyone at some point. I’ve put together something to help you break this block and make these occurrences happen far less often in the future. If it does, you’ll know what to do!
I’ve really been digging into positive habit forming exercises lately. The more positive actions I can make a habit, the easier it becomes to accomplish more every day, week and month. Coming up with ideas for new designs is often the biggest challenge, but once the new design is in hand the processes implemented to bring it to life are pretty much the same.
While it may seem counterintuitive to make creativity a habit, it really isn’t. You see, when we learn a new task we use a large percentage of our brain to coordinate the thoughts, actions, and responses involved. As we repeat the task, our mind gets more efficient, using less and less a percentage of our brain each time.
The Power Of Repetition And Creativity
We’ve all experienced this – the intense concentration the first time we do something, whether it’s drawing a circle or hammering a nail. We grip the pencil or hammer really hard, we focus intensely on the paper or nail, and we are acutely aware of the flaws in the circle or missing the nail with our first try.
Then we try again. And again. We feel our muscles relaxing, holding the pencil or hammer with more confidence. With repetition, our accuracy improves even as the action feels more comfortable. And we can feel this in our brain, too – a relaxing, an easing of effort, less and less conscious thought involved in the process with each repetition.
In fact, once a process is learned, our brain can essentially hand it off to a different part of the brain that handles learned, repetitive action in order to free up that part of our mind used to focus and solve problems immediately at hand.
The Power Of Habit And Creativity
That’s just the power of repetition at work. Now add the power of habit. Our brains recognize cues from our surroundings, our actions and our feelings in order to figure out what to do next. It has to know if our next action is a problem that needs to be solved, or if it can be passed off and managed by a process we have already learned.
As you get ready to go to bed each night, your brain recognizes the cues that it’s time to go to sleep. As you get ready for the day, your brain starts anticipating that day’s activities. As you stretch before your workout, your brain anticipates the upcoming physical activity.
How can we harness the power of repetition and habit for our creativity? Several ways.
Whether you lean towards a scheduled creative ritual or rely on lightning strikes of inspiration – or both – you can still develop a habit around recording your ideas. Keep a creative journal, sketch book, or dedicated app with you where you can immediately record your idea.
When the ideas come out of the blue, the habit-building here is around the recording of them, so you get them out of your head and stored somewhere so you can flesh them out as time permits.
Setting aside a regular time for creativity further capitalizes on the power of habit. Whether on weekends or every day, your brain will begin to recognize the external cues and shift gears into creative mode, anticipating the activity.
It doesn’t have to be an awesome studio or your dream of ideal environment you want to have someday. Michael Crichton, author of Jurassic Park, Westworld, and more wrote on the bus on his way to school every day.
I’m a ridiculously early morning riser, so 30 minutes in the morning with my first cup of coffee, after I’ve walked the dogs works for me. Evenings, lunch breaks, commuting – whatever works.
Ha! You spend hours driving yourself to and from work so your hands aren’t free you say? Find that audio recording app and talk out loud, describing what you have in mind. Seriously – try it for a week and see how it gets easier. Your commute will feel way less soul-sucking too.
I drive my husband to work. He’s a pilot so it’s not every day, but the airport is over 50 miles away, with downtown Houston right in the middle. It amazes my husband that I don’t mind, let alone having to turn around and drive the 50 miles home again – he HATES driving in traffic. Not that I like it either, but whether I’m voice recording, listening to podcasts or practicing Croatian, I make the most it.
Because of this, I don’t get the feeling of dread that I used to when I drove my own daily commute to work. Even though the days and time of day I drive him to work is totally random, my brain takes the cues of settling in for a drive as time to get to work, not time to rage at the inevitable annoying things that happen in traffic.
There’s no one right answer; what works for me might not work for you. But you CAN find something that works for you. It takes time to develop a habit. Don’t give up after a try or two. It took time for me to stop being prepped for frustration at every red light, but it did happen.
So you have a way to record your ideas, you’ve figured out when to fit creative time regularly into your schedule, but you’re still stuck. How do you cue your brain recognize these habits as your time to be creative when you’re stuck?
To help you get started, I’ve put together a 30 Day Creativity Challenge. Instead of staring at a blank paper, I’ll give you a couple prompts, and you’ll record anything that comes to mind. Any object, shape, feeling, texture, smell, taste, memory that comes to mind – anything. At the very least, take the prompts literally and doodle them. Then in a different style. Blend them together. Vary their proportions. Make patterns. Use color. Add texture.
Do this 30 sessions in a row, and by session 31 you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to open that book or app and capture a new idea. I’ll make it even easier – I’ve made a pdf worksheet with different prompts and plenty of doodle space you can download and print out each day. When you’re done with the challenge, you’ll have thirty pages of your own original ideas to draw from for your next design! Awesome, right?
Ok, Let’s Do It!
I just need to know where to send the daily prompts. Enter your email, and get ready for the creative river to begin flowing!