Trying to develop and nurture a creative habit really becomes a challenge when life throws curve balls at you that require most of your time, energy and focus in order to deal with. I know for me it’s really hard to get back any sense of creative flow when a family or financial hardship comes up that has to be dealt with. I find that whatever momentum I’ve built up drawing, writing, and taking pictures soon disappears. Before I know it, my camera and sketchbook are gathering dust and I haven’t written a single sentence for myself in weeks, or sometimes even months.
We all have different types of challenges that inevitably come up no matter how much prevention we practice. Sometimes we really have to drop everything and take care of what’s urgent. Life’s emergencies have to be dealt with. The key is to not let these situations totally derail us. I find that I consistently struggle with this challenge time and time again. Too often, I allow myself to fall into the common trap of escaping into television, websites, social media, etc. for much too long. Before I know it, I find myself buried in that deep creative rut that becomes so hard to climb out of.
How do I get my creative train back on the tracks again?
Reclaim Creative Time
Time for creativity is usually the first thing that disappears when I’m dealing with a major challenge. I find that I need to take this time back as soon as I can. This usually requires some brute force. I start by finding those pockets of time in my day that I’ve allowed myself to drift into “escape” activities. Then I carve that time out to make something. In the wonderful book “Art Before Breakfast” Danny Gregory writes:
Every day is full of those moments between activities. Waiting in the doctor’s office, watching mindless TV. Instead of reading tweets on your phone, you’ll make a piece of art. Every minute of your day counts. Make it worthwhile.
Get Back to Basics
I try not to waste any of this precious time thinking about too many tools, materials or the perfect surroundings. I start with a sketchbook and a pen or walk outside and shoot some photos with my phone. If I’m writing, I just start with a single sentence.
The lure of escaping back to television, the internet or social media is the strongest at this point. More brute force is usually still required to make sure I don’t slip back into the patterns I’m trying to break free from. I find that the sooner I start making art that I want to share, whether that’s a cool image or a drawing, the more fuel that gives me to build my creative habit.
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. – Aristotle
The bottom line is that once I’ve done all that I can do to deal with a stressful life situation, I know that I need to get back to making art as soon (and as often) as I can.
I love this post so much. I struggle so much with trying to figure out the balance between work, young kids, commuting, financial stress, job searches…basically, life. I just requested Art Before Breakfast from the library and I can’t wait to read it!
Mark Chisholm says
Thanks Elizabeth! This is a constant struggle for me. I find that when I do have some time at night, my energy level is so low from stress that I’m not motivated to do anything too creative. I’m in the midst of struggling with this now. Hoping to get the train back on the tracks again soon.