Tips for doing your creative thang in the New Year

Do you plan to start doing more of something creative next year?

Here are 7 simple tips that I find help me keep my own creative practice front and centre in my life:

1. Get your tools ready. This doesn’t mean putting off your project until you’ve bought five million new pens or a new violin. Nope, just make a pragmatic decision to use the tools you have, and go find them, and put them somewhere you can get at them easily. I have a tray on a sideboard in my kitchen where I keep pens, glue sticks and paper to work on mixed media projects so they are ALWAYS easy to find, and I can even do a bit while the kettle boils.

2. Choose the smallest step. As Barbara Sher says, aiming high can debilitate us when we are starting out. Instead choose a super small step that you will commit too – it’s less likely to fire up your resistance. Eg. play one scale each day on the piano. Write one verse for a song. Spend 3 minutes drawing. Once you start you will probably go longer, but the important thing is to not be daunted by the task, while you build up your confidence.

3. As well as a time or effort limit, try choosing a narrow project to get you started. ‘I will be more creative’ is a terrible goal – it’s woolly and huge and feels daunting and kind of never-ending. So for example rather than ‘do more photography’ (how much is more? when will you start? what will you photograph?) try instead ‘I’ll take one photo a day this week’ or ‘I’ll take one photo a day of a flower while on my morning walk, for 10 days’, or ‘this week I’ll pick up my camera once a day before 9am and take a photo of the most interesting thing I can find around the house’. It almost doesn’t matter what it is, just start something, and make it something specific. This will get you moving.

4. Know that you are learning. Treat yourself kindly and with encouragement like you would treat a small child trying something new. No one leaps out of the womb playing symphonies. Everyone – now matter prodigious – starts somewhere. Everyone is a beginner when they start. The only way to get more technical skills is to do more of the thing you want to do – and be ok with the stumbling beginners’ lines, or screechy notes.

5. Find a tribe. It might be a group of musicians who jam in the park, a choir, a class, a meetup group, a dance circle, a Facebook group of beginner sketch artists. Find people who seem kind, open to beginners, helpful and encouraging. DO NOT go find the technical experts who despite their great accomplishments are highly critical, competitive or judgemental of beginners. You deserve kindness and support. Fine people who will cheer you on and accept you where you are.

6. Practice being your inner cheer squad. Now this is a bit dorky to admit but I have come to develop, over many years, some almost automatic encouraging phrases that pipe up now when I try something new or hard. I say to myself ‘well done’ or ‘nice work’ or ‘good try’. These come up as a way to comfort myself when I am out of my comfort zone and encourage myself to take the next step. If you grew up with more fearful or anxious voices around you the chances are you have internalised them. You might need to practice saying these kinds of encouraging phrases to yourself as you work, and they might feel very odd at first. Stick with it because it is an investment in your creative future. And the flip side is…

7. Know that your inner critic might pipe up and tell you mean and fearful things about how awful and incompetent, how pretensious, how unskilled or cruddy you are inside your own head. Know that this is normal, common, and doesn’t mean you should stop. It means you are stepping out into brave new territory, you are stretching, you are growing. The more you can quietly ignore those voices and keep doing your creative thing, the more you will connect with the absorption, joy and focus, perhaps the playfulness and even sense of accomplishment that you get from making something yourself.

May the coming year be a fabulously creative year for you!

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