I was recently asked what my creative process is and I had to stop and think about it before I could come up with an answer. It’s probably because my creative process is not something that I’ve been developing for a long time. I feel like I really just started being intentional about it in the last year, actually.
At the time, I answered that it starts with cleaning up my space so I feel prepared to sit down and create. But after thinking about it some more, there are two other parts to the process that come way before cleaning and go deeper than just than tidying up the pens and loose papers on my desk.
A Little Background
Before I jump into how I arrived at my current creative process, I want to share a little about how I pretty much didn’t have one of my own despite being “creative” practically my whole life.
The people who know me would probably tell you I was always a creative person. Since starting art classes at 5 years old, graduating from university with an architecture degree, and then working as a designer for over a decade, I was always involved in something artistic.
I used to think the time I spent at work designing for clients (while implementing my boss’ input and anyone else who might have an opinion on the project) meant I was being creative everyday. But what I discovered just this past year is that when it came to creating for myself, I wasn’t entirely sure what I was doing.
I had gotten really good at channeling my creativity to bring other people's ideas and styles to life, but I wasn't sure what my own style was or what I even wanted to create. When I was creating for others, there was a process to follow: collect the requirements, research solutions, implement into design, present for feedback, and repeat.
But when it came to my creating for myself, there was no one telling me what to do. I didn’t have a list of requirements, no immediate problems to provide solutions for, and no real deadlines to hit. It was just me, some art supplies, and a big blank sheet of paper.
I remember thinking to myself “…now what?” I got everything out and was ready to paint and drew a complete blank. I also knew that whatever I was going to put down on that paper was going to suck and there was nothing I could do about it except just get over myself. I think I ended up painting some really sad looking beets. I’m not 100% sure because I threw it away almost immediately, but now I wish I kept them!
What I realized was that I wasn’t feeling inspired or confident and knew I wasn’t going to keep up painting if things were going to continue on this way.
Partly by accident and partly by nature, I’ve found a creative process that has become about getting into the creative mindset, fighting any fears about creating terrible work, and giving myself the space to make anything I want.
I did some thinking and it comes down to three things in no particular order: reading, writing, and cleaning.
Before I started reading more heavily the past year, I think I had read only a handful of books in the last 10 years. Isn’t that sad? Reading has had the most impact on my creativity. Somehow in the last year I ended up reading a lot of self-help, feel-good books either on my own or that were gifted to me.
Being exposed to the messages in those books has really changed my perspective. I want to share a few of them here because I’ve enjoyed them so much.
Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown
I’ve read a few of her books, but found this one spoke to me the most during a time when I was just starting this small business and rediscovering what it was like to create for myself.
“Being ourselves means sometimes having to find the courage to stand alone.”
“Stop walking through the world looking for confirmation that you don’t belong. You will always find it because you’ve made that your mission. Stop scouring people’s faces for evidence that you’re not enough. You will always find it because you’ve made that your goal. True belonging and self-worth are not goods; we don’t negotiate their value with the world. The truth about who we are lives in our hearts. Our call to courage is to protect our wild heart against constant evaluation, especially our own. No one belongs here more than you.”
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
This is the first book I read specifically about creativity and creative living. A really easy, fast, and interesting read. Here are a few great quotes from the book - it’s full of them!
“What is creative living? Any life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear.”
“Fear is always triggered by creativity, because creativity asks you to enter into realms of uncertain outcome, and fear hates uncertain outcome. This is nothing to be ashamed of. It is, however, something to be dealt with.”
"Let inspiration lead you wherever it wants. For most of history people just made things, and they didn't make such a big freaking deal out of it."
The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
I was gifted this book by a close friend and it changed everything for me. It takes you through a 12 week process to rediscover (or discover) your creativity. I am so grateful that she sent this to me!
“No matter what your age or your life path, whether making art is your career or your hobby or your dream, it is not too late or too egotistical or too selfish or too silly to work on your creativity.”
“'A painting is never finished. It simply stops in interesting places,' said Paul Gardner. A book is never finished. But at a certain point you stop writing it and go on to the next thing. A film is never cut perfectly, but at a certain point you let go and call it done. That is a normal part of creativity - letting go. We always do the best that we can by the light we have to see by.”
“We deny that in order to do something well we must first be willing to do it badly.”
You are a Badass by Jen Sincero
I was also gifted this book by another close friend and laughed out loud more than a few times while reading this book. She’s funny, sassy, and straight-up when it comes to dishing out advice on how to live an awesome life.
“In order to kick ass you must first lift up your foot.”
“Have you ever done something that you’re so proud of and feel all on top of the world about it until you see that someone else has done something similar that, in your mind, is better, and all of a sudden you feel sad? It’s none of your business what other people are doing. All that matters is that you’re enjoying yourself and pleased with what you’re creating. It’s precisely your uniqueness that makes you awesome - deciding that someone else’s uniqueness is better than your own isn’t exactly being your own best buddy about things.”
The Artist’s Way gave me my morning pages routine which I count on to clear my mind everyday. This is how Julia Cameron introduces the idea of morning pages:
“In order to retrieve your creativity, you need to find it. I ask you to do this by an apparently pointless process I call the morning pages…What are the morning pages? Put simply, the morning pages are three pages of longhand writing, strictly stream-of-consciouness: ‘Oh, god, another morning. I have NOTHING to say. I need to wash the curtains. Did I get my laundry yesterday? Blah, blah, blah…’ They might also, more ingloriously, be called the brain drain, since that is one of their main functions.”
When I write morning pages, I ramble about nothing but somehow it helps me get all the junk out of my brain and onto the page so that I have more clarity and peace when I move through my day. In fact, when I don’t write, things feel off. I don’t always write 3 full pages, sometimes it’s only 1, sometimes it’s 2. I just go with how I’m feeling, but I always show up to write something.
If writing is clearing space in my brain, then cleaning my workspace is the physical equivalent.
I can’t really start anything creative until my space feels like it is not a hot mess. I clear my desk, put away random things, and make sure I have a clear space to sit down and do whatever creative thing I’m doing. Call me crazy, but I feel like the energy is just better when everything is in its place. It feels more peaceful!
As Marie Kondo says, “Life truly begins after you have put your house in order.” So I like to think that my creative process can begin after I get my work area in order.
My Creative Process: Spiritual, Mental, Physical
To summarize my current creative process it would be: read, write and clean. I read to stay inspired and keep my creative spirit happy, I write to clear my mind so it’s open to new ideas, and I clean to clear my space so that it’s ready to receive whatever mess I’m going to make.
Obviously, the actual creation of things has its own additional set of actions like research and execution, but I find the creative process that keeps me creative in life to be more interesting.
It’s my hope that this process keeps me believing in my own creativity, allows me to have fun, and ensures that I never lose the wonder and curiosity behind making things. I enjoy finding out how others stay creative and keep inspired day to day. If you’d like to share your process, I’d love to hear all about it - so please share!
Thanks for reading and being here,
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