Last week’s blog looked at the benefits of a creative routine, and how it worked for some well known creatives. The idea being that having a set routine helped the muse arrive, gives the creative time and space for their ‘thing’ and hence they would create more.
And for some people it really works.
The hard bit is getting the habit established, but once they have done it for a few weeks or months, they find themselves getting things made, written and produced.
But for others, well, life just doesn’t work that way.
What if you work shifts, have extended family coming and going, sickness, overtime demands at work etc etc? For so many of us life these days is not 9-5, with a set timetable for each day.
For people in that situation, developing a routine for anything is going to be hard because they simply don’t have a routine week. So, what do they do? Keep trying to find their habit, keep restarting each week or month, everytime there is a set back?
Well, yes, for some that will work. I know it has for me. Just keep on resetting, rinse and repeat, and have patches of productivity then stop, but at least I know I CAN build a habit again. Sometimes an enforced break from the habit is no bad thing, we can return refreshed to the project, but at other times it feels like starting again, and that can seem like a hard scramble back up the habit forming mountain. We don’t always want to strap on the crampons and struggle uphill, we need to find another way.
So what is the alternative?
There is another approach, a non-routine routine. A ‘give up all attempts to have a ritual around your creativity, and simply do it when you can’ method. But, as with most things in life, it isn’t as simple as it sounds.
This approach requires almost as much discipline as having a set time and place for creativity. It means you have to be able to grasp any gap in your day, whether planned or spontaneous, and in that gap, no matter how short, do something for your creativity. Obviously this is easiest for writers or others who can do things on the fly but even then, I have found that it is hard to allow myself to ‘just write’ if I have a gap in my work day. My head is elsewhere, my thinking is different. There are so many pulls to do other things – some useful and others……well the pull of a favourite social media or game on the phone can be very hard to resist for those precious few minutes.
Plus the gremlin rears up and says there is no point for just 5 minutes, you need at least an hour.
But really, do we need a set amount of time to add a few lines or ideas to something?
This is where the discipline comes in. Just as we need to develop the habit of getting up early, or sitting at our desk in the evening etc, we need to develop the habit of being spontaneous. So instead of our thoughts jumping to mindless Facebook scrolling while we wait on the train, or in our breaks etc, we would immediately grab our notebook and write, or sketch, or take photos, or just plan ideas if we can’t do our actual creative thing.
So this non-routine, spontaneous approach requires its own form of discipline, an ability to quiet the gremlin, grab a pen/pencil/camera and do something when an opportunity arises. Whether you feel like it or not. Now maybe, this is where some of those famous peoples’ rituals might be helpful. Because while it is nice to have a habit, often it is what we do to set ourselves up that allows us to form the habit.
So for example if you always play certain music while you write. Make sure you have that music with you, so wherever you are you can set the ritual in flow, then it won’t matter where you are or whether it is 5 minutes or 50. Have your notebook with you, a pen/pencil, your favourite sweets that you always have when you create.
Whatever YOUR creative requirements are, carry them with you so you don’t have the excuse not to, the gremlin can’t jump up and down and yell ‘told you so, you’re not a proper creative’. Which is always off putting.
We can help ourselves be more spontaneous and moment grabbing by carrying our rituals with us. And although we might not have a set time or place to do our creativity, we can trigger the part of the brain, and thereby summon the muse, by having these rituals wherever we are.
And just like the more obvious daily routine approach, we actually build a habit to create wherever and whenever.
Whichever approach works for you, do that.
And keep doing it.