Photo by lulemon athletica
Let’s face it. We all get out of creative shape from time to time.
Just as an athlete quickly loses fitness without training, so your creative stamina will fade away if you don’t work at maintaining it – every week, if not every day.
So when you get out of the discipline of regular creative work, what stops you getting started again?
Is it because of work? School? Home? Family? Other commitments? Gossip Girls? The New 90210 (the original was much better)? Or some other excuse?
Oh I know – you have no time. That’s got to be it.
Your latest novel, blog post, painting, sculpture, business venture or website is just waiting for your time. That’s got to be it, since you used to be creative. You used to find the time but now, life has gotten in the way.
With kids, your job or just something good on TV, your life is too full to create. Well, I’m here to tell you that you do have the time – you just have to find it.
Finding the time is the first step in getting back into creative shape. The second step, is to build up your creative endurance.
Creative endurance is just like athletic endurance. No one ever runs a marathon on their first run – or even their tenth. You have to build up to it by training. That same training is what you need to get back into your creative swing. Sure, it’s going to be hard. Sure, you will struggle, but once you have your creative endurance back, creating will be a whole lot easier and more enjoyable.
Barriers to Building Your Creative Endurance
One of the biggest barriers most people face is the perfection fallacy. We trick ourselves into not creating because what we create is either ‘not good enough’ or ‘not perfect’. Let’s dispel this right now.
Most of the stuff you will create will be awful. In fact, it will take creating all that awful stuff to actually make something good. Doing all this ‘throw away’ work is called practice. Every creative person needs it – from Picasso to Rembrandt to Warhol to Kors (yeah, the guy on Project Runway).
Practice makes us better. It allows us to hone our skills and find our creative voice. As a writer, I throw away countless words, sentences, posts and even book outlines simple because my direction changes or it just did not work. All that creative flotsam and jetsam is still valuable because it’s practice and practice makes me better.
Our second barrier is time. For some reason, no one ever has enough time. You always here excuses like:
When the kids go to school, I’ll start to paint.
I have a deadline at work. After that I will go write.
I just don’t have time to compose my next score because I commute two hours a day
My family comes first and I have to support and nurture them.
You know, my computer sounds funny. I better get that checked out.
Did I miss any?
Go ahead, pick your favorite excuse. Write it on a piece of paper and then burn it. That’s right. Burn it.
Now you have no more excuses.
Didn’t that feel good? It should, because you just got rid of a big barrier. Now let’s look at the six steps to building your creative endurance.
Step 1: Write Down What You Do in a Day
The first step in building your creative endurance is to find time to create.
Take out a piece of paper and write down everything you do in the course of the day. Pick any day you want and start when you wake up and finish when you go to sleep.
Step 2: Look For Gaps and Non-Value-Added Activities
Now, look at the list. I guarantee you that there are activities on that list that add no value to your life. Maybe it’s the one hour commute each way, or watching reality shows, or maybe all those silly work meetings. These add no value to your life. Whatever those activities are, circle them.
See any you can eliminate? C’mon, be honest with yourself. You know there are certain things you either hate to do, don’t want to do or do out of habit. I dare you to pick at least one. Just one activity that you want to either reduce or eliminate so that you can create. I know you want to be more creative and the first step is to find the time. So look hard and be honest with yourself.
Step 3: Schedule 10 Minutes to Create
So you found at least one activity you can eliminate or at least reduce. That’s great. Now you need to use that time to create.
The minimum amount of time you need to build your creative endurance is 10 minutes a day. A measly 10 minutes a day. It’s probably half the time you spent reading this post or the time it takes you to flip through those gazillion cable channels to figure out what to watch.
Once you have picked your 10 minute slot, create a big sign that says ‘Creative Time’ and the time you selected. For those 10 minutes, all you will do is create.
Step 4: Set a Creative Goal
After a couple of weeks of creative endurance building, you now need to set a goal. All athletes set goals – they’re called races. Races are great goals since they bring together like minded people who have the same goals as you – so you all get to have fun and finish the race.
Be realistic in setting your creative goal. Remember, you have 10 minutes a day to work on it and this goal should be no longer than two months out.
Oh, one more thing. Tell your best friend, spouse or co-workers about your creative goal. Actually, better yet, write down your creative goal, along with the date it’s due and hand it to them. Make them post it on the fridge or in a place that everyone can see.
I know that many of you are shaking your heads right now. You don’t want to publicly commit to your creative endeavor. Don’t be afraid of this. You want to create. Your friends and family want you to create. You need their support to keep you on track. It’s just like being on a sports team. Sometimes, you really don’t feel like practicing but you can’t bring yourself to let the team down.
Your creative team needs you as well. All your friends, family, co-workers and yes, even your boss, wants you to be happy and creative – it makes you a better person and in turn a better spouse, father, mother, friend and worker.
Step 5: Publish, Sell or Give Away Your Creation
Once you hit your creative goal, publish, sell or give it away. You would be surprised at how much joy you can bring to someone’s life by giving them a piece of art or sharing a story you wrote.
No art is too small to be art nor to small to make a difference. In fact, you don’t need to be Piscacco to be an artist – you just have to get your work out there for others to enjoy. That’s it. That’s all.
Nothing fancy like putting it in a gallery or anything like that. In fact, at Etsy you can build your own creative store front easily and sell your creations to people all over the world.
Step 6: Expand Incrementally
Doesn’t creation feel great? Sure, you might have stumbled a bit, your first tries were probably a wreck and I’m sure you probably cheated a day or two (come on, admit it :)).
The thing to be proud of is that you achieved something. You are building your creative endurance – 10 minutes a day. Pretty soon you will be up to 20, then 30 and then who knows.
Keep up this discipline even when you don’t want to. Challenge yourself to do something creative, anything creative, at least 10 minutes a day. You will be amazed at what you can achieve.
Over to You
Do you ever get out of creative shape? What are the tell-tale signs?
Which of these steps would make the biggest difference to your creativity if you applied it?
Any other tips for getting back into creative shape after you’ve let things slide?
About the Author: Jarie Bolander is an engineer by training, entrepreneur by nature and leader by endurance. His new site, EnduranceLeader.com combines two of this passions – leadership and endurance athletics. By enduring, we conquer our fears, challenges and create magnificent things. You can follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.Tweet