Doing anything every day is tough. Just ask your kids. How often do you nag them to brush their teeth and make their beds? And how often have you committed to a daily activity such as exercise or reading only to fail on day two?
They say it takes 21 days to build a new habit, but that’s not exactly true. And you don’t have 21 days. You have today, and you want to do something a little more fun with your life. Let’s not beat around the bush. Here are some ideas on how to overcome barriers to creativity so you don’t fail before you start.
Build a Budget
Many people feel like they don’t have time or money to be creative. I think that’s bullshit. If you have a mobile phone and the means to take your kids to Disney, you have the ability to step away from the world for a few minutes each day and focus on creativity. It’s worth considering how you currently spend your time and money, and it’s worth dreaming about a future with more creative freedom and less nonsense. Allocate your time and money differently. Invest in your interests, not the interests of others.
Make a Public Commitment to Your Creativity
Lots of people dream of being artists, singers or even world-famous quilting bloggers. Not enough people make an explicit commitment to creativity in their lives. I think some of this is cultural: we have unrealistic expectations of what it means to be artistic and try something new. You don’t have to be Picasso or Ernest Hemingway, but with anything important, you do have to fight against apathy and competing priorities in life. What makes you an artist isn’t the end product, it’s the effort. So start telling people about your big plans. Don’t dream alone. Let others support you.
Communicate with your muse, not with Facebook.
There’s nothing like getting into a groove only to be distracted by a buzzing iPhone. I love the internet, but I suffer from tech exhaustion. Between passive-aggressive communication and the misuse of digital channels to belittle other people, I have had enough of social media. I believe it’s my responsibility to manage my attention span. I’m taking advantage of tools like RescueTime and Moment to block my access to social media during my scheduled writing breaks.
Never Stop Improving Your Core Competencies
I would love to pretend that being a writer is all about drinking red wine, smoking cigarettes and wearing a French beret. Being a writer involves writing, rewriting, editing, and still finding typos. Dammit!
Creative people are skilled thinkers and project managers. They develop core competencies and shore up the nitty-gritty aspects of their work with skills and capabilities that grow over a lifetime. Great art isn’t accidental, it’s evolutionary. And it takes work.
Avoid Conflict and Drama.
You know what kills creativity? Fake conflict. It’s true that some people need a little irritation to get them going, but those people aren’t artists. They are ordinary individuals with unresolved issues and a tendency to disregard very clear and evident warning signs. If you want to experience a more creative life, you’ll have to put pride and envy on the backburner. Want to fight with someone for the sake of fighting? (Me, too. I hate to admit it.) There’s plenty of time to be pissed off when you’re at work.
Get Your Team Behind You
My friend Jessica Miller-Merrell talks about the idea of a personal board of directors. I like it. During my recent retreat, my husband also had a business trip. He covered my kitty duties at the beginning of the week, and then a friend stepped in and kept my household running while I was out of town. I have several big clients right now, one of whom made a big announcement during my leave, and everybody worked hard to ensure that I could take time off. No questions asked. Finally, my friends helped out by limiting their texts and emails to me while I was trying to stay off the internet and write. It takes a village to be creative. Nobody let me down. My personal board of directors, friends and colleagues want me to succeed. I just had to ask for help.
Here’s How All of This Matters to You
I am a strong believer in anticipating failure rather than doing a post-mortem analysis of what went wrong. So if you’re looking to be more creative in life, my best advice is to think ahead. In six months, how will you have failed? Fix that now.
If you can address your barriers to creativity right now, you’re much more likely to find success and happiness throughout your entire creative journey.
This is my favorite quote, “What makes you an artist isn’t the end product, it’s the effort.” That means a lot to me.