Do you have trouble getting started on your creative projects? Do you find yourself stressing over your to-do list or doing chores instead of jumping into action? Using a ritual behavior every time you start to create can help you quickly get focused.
Many artists use simple rituals to put themselves in creative mode. I asked some artist friends how they get started on projects and compiled a list that I'm sharing here. Why not give them a try?
Creativity coach Dr. Eric Maisel in his book Making Your Creative Mark, suggests using a simple ritual such as making a cup of tea, to reduce the stress of starting each day's work. Use it as a short meditation period to focus on the work ahead and calm yourself so you are ready to tackle the problem.
My starting ritual is to clear my desk and cutting table of previous project materials. This is especially important after I've finished sewing and photographing a new doll or toy. Putting the fabric scraps away creates a clean slate for me to start fresh.
I also smooth on a scented hand lotion - usually something citrus for its wake-me-up scent. Then I turn up a snappy playlist on my phone or computer and get to work. I have a variety of playlists I use to energize or calm my mind. One creative playlist that I keep adding to contains obscure bands heard in Anthropologie and subsequently downloaded using the app Shazam. Anthro's music is great for nudging me out of a rut.
A clean space, a bright scent and happy tunes signal me that its time to create.
"Although I never really considered this a ritual per se, I have recognized that I tend to ease into each creative session slowly, with a project that's not too taxing at first. I might make a simple pair of earrings, for example, finish something that was partially complete, or sort through and organize my supplies. This allows me to get reacquainted with my materials and lets my creative thought process start to flow.
Once I'm in the swing of it, I can dive into more complicated designs such as multi-layered necklaces or coordinating various pieces for a small collection. But the ease-in phase is essential for me to get my mind fully wrapped around the really creative work."
Painter and surface artist Claire Leggett starts by clearing away past projects. As she says, "Sometimes the purge includes the whole house!! I think its a way of closing one project off and making space for a new one."
Claire also favors pin boards as a way to think through a project. "Sometimes I create a new pin board of images or colours that inspire but just as frequently I'll leave it blank - depends if the project needs coal in the fire or a quiet space to tiptoe out into!"
Watercolor painter and crochet artist Anne Butera of My Giant Strawberry has several rituals up her artistic sleeve:
"I don’t always use the same ritual each time I create. It’s dependent on what I’m doing, how I’m feeling and the weather. One constant, though, is clearing and/or cleaning my workspace before beginning. If there are other projects in progress, I move them off my main work space. I like starting with an empty table and plenty of room. For me one of the biggest challenges to creating is distraction and this helps keep distraction to a minimum.
"When I am beginning a new painting one ritual I have is washing my palette. Filling up the sink with hot sudsy water and cleaning all the old paint gives me a nice fresh start. Somehow the combination of a cleared space and a blank palette are very energizing for me and get me in the mood to begin.
"Something I do that’s dependent on the weather is set the mood in my studio with lighting. On dark, cloudy days I always turn on all the lights. I don’t have good lighting in my studio… lots of little lamps and some fun lighting, string lights and a Chinese lantern. All these lights create a light/bright mood in my studio and make it very cozy. On bright or sunny days I don’t need to do this.
"Sometimes I’ll light a fragrant candle when I need a boost and I always have coffee or tea (depending on what time of day it is) with me on my workspace (usually getting cold)."
Here are more ideas gathered from my shelf of creativity books:
Set a timer and doodle or write a list of project ideas for 15 minutes. This is to loosen you up and shake out any issues you want to leave behind as you start your project. Once they're on the page you can forget about them until later. Start your project.
Slip out of your shoes and leave them at the door to your studio.
Change your clothes into something loose and comfortable to free your body for movement. Or tie on an apron used only for crafts over your clothes.
Go to a cafe with your computer or sketchbook for a change of pace. Order a coffee, find a table and get to work.
Turn off all electronic media, ring tones, and alerts. Envelop yourself in the silence.
Take a brisk 20 minute walk to think through your process. Return to your project refreshed.
I found a lovely YouTube video of artists and actors talking about their need to create. It makes me smile - there are lots of starting points in it. Or, if you want a very quick overview of creative boosters, try this 1.5 minute YouTube cartoon video by BuzzFeed.
There are lots of creativity theories on YouTube (try searching "creativity"), but don't let the lure of all those videos take up all your creative time!
What's your starting ritual? Share it in the comments if you like. We all could us a little help getting started at times.