4 steps to becoming more creative:
1. Carry a small notebook/sketchbook and pen/pencil wherever you go
Write down your ideas, make notes of things you like as soon as you see them, practice making art on the go or in fringe time that normally gets swallowed up looking at your phone. Get curious about your daily surroundings, mine your life and record your discoveries. The scrappier and cheaper it is, the more likely perfectionists will actually use it instead of keeping it ‘unspoilt’ in its perfect original state!
2. Make something everyday
Make something, ANYTHING to practice exercising your creativity muscle. If you can find a spare two minutes, then you have enough time to make something. If you think “what’s the point of only spending two minutes?” It adds up to an hour after a month and creates a small pile of art. Spending two minutes is better than spending zero minutes (especially if the myth of having to spend hours making art feels overwhelming and is stopping you from making anything at all).
3. Focus on quantity not quality
When you make art for yourself, you can let go of it needed to look ‘good.’ You’re not in school trying to please the teacher anymore. You get to make bad, messy and imperfect art because you ENJOY it. That’s the only important reason you need. By focusing on quantity, it helps to shift focus from worrying if you’re not doing it ‘right’. And when making quantity can actually accelerate creativity, quality can be so overrated.
4. Start making art right now
Don’t wait for the start of the year/month/week to roll round. Start NOW. You’ve heard you only need two minutes so pick up a pencil and paper and make some marks immediately!
We long for progress and improvement when making our art. The desire to fast-forward through being a ‘lost’ and shaky beginner is strong. The mind wants us to master things far quicker than what is actually physically possible. It’s going to take time and regular practice to make space for the grown to occur. You don’t plant a seed and then wonder why it hasn’t instantly grown into a fully-fledged flower. That would defy the laws of nature! You understand that some things take time to develop and your art-making practice is no different.
On the Take the Upgrade podcast, Leanne Peterson invites us to think about where we’re feeling we should be ahead of where we are and encourages “instead of getting mad at ourselves, we should be honouring the version of us that we are, that is going to enable us to grow into the version that we see ahead of us that we know we’re capable of.”
She uses the example of her son learning to walk: “I don’t get mad at my son right now because he can’t run. I’m excited that he’s taking little tiny baby steps to walk so that some day he can run. And I think a lot of us can almost picture ourselves running but we’re still in the baby step phase and then we’re mad at ourselves that we’re not running.”
Peterson’s advice on how to overcome the frustration of growing through tiny steps? give yourself “a) room to grow in, b) a direction to grow but c) grace while your growing in. Can I have grace for myself and my mistakes as I’m evolving into the version of me I see? Versus disqualifying myself because I’m not as good as the 10-year-from-now version which was built on the version I am today.”
Who you are today is the foundation for who you will be in the future. Similar to how Rome wasn’t built in a day – it took time – the same goes for your art evolution because it will be built on the foundations of 1000’s of little tiny steps.
“From Little Acorns Do Mighty Oaks Grow” goes the English proverb. This may be a helpful mindset to adopt when you’re making art as an adult. Instead of judging every little mistake, mark or piece of work as not being good enough, see each thing you make as a tiny seed. It takes a lot of time and water to become fully grown and its impossible to transform into a tree overnight (unless you have magic beans and live in a fairytale).
Robert Louis Stevenson advises “Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.” Your art doesn’t need a harsh judgmental critic. It needs a kind and positive cheerleader to give encouragement and support so that you’ll continue making art. An acorn is no less important or valuable than a tree even though it is smaller in size. In the same way your beginner art is just a different stage to the art you’ll make years from now. Both have their merits and show creativity. But if you’re enjoying the process then that’s all that really matters.
If you feel deflated about the art you made today, know that every single time you make something, you’re adding a drip of knowledge, practice and inspiration to your future creative self’s bucket. It may be helpful to imagine your future self as a separate person who you can help through actions taken today. If you make a mistake today, your future self benefits from the knowledge of what not to do, or how to do things better tomorrow.
Sean McCabe encourages that “497 of 500 most popular symphonies were made after the composers 10th year of work. Your best work is ahead. Be excited.” Your best work is only ahead if you take time to practice today. If you continue to make art, years from now your future self will be thankful for the commitment and praising you for your bravery.”
Continue practicing today to give your future self a helping hand.
Do you spend any time standing still in your daily life or are you constantly rushing around like the White Rabbit from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland? If you’re always in ON mode, never disconnected from a device or other people, it’s harder to justify spending time making art. If you believe you don’t have the time to stand still, or to make any art then it will never happen.
“The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.” — The White Rabbit, Lewis Carroll
But the truth is you don’t need a huge block of time to make art. A 2 minute investment each day is all you need to get started (and it adds up significantly over time). We think we need to spend a bigger amount of time to make it worthwhile, otherwise what’s the point – Surely 2 minutes isn’t enough to make anything significant? But your art don’t need it to be significant for it to be a worth the time or effort investment. It’s much more important something gets made and that you had fun doing it.
Significance is overrated and is entirely subjective so it’s far better to judge how you feel once you’ve spent 2 minutes making art something compared to only thinking about it. Taking action brings feedback and clarity while thinking can bring fear, excuses and procrastination. So find a pocket of time to stand stand still and make something.
Is a painting that took weeks to complete any more important than a sketch that took five minutes? You could argue the painting demonstrates more skill and labour because of the extra time spent but when it comes to creativity, more time doesn’t necessarily mean more reward.
Carolyn Schlam in The Creative Path explains “A sketch that takes five minutes to make can be more complete, expressive, and satisfying than a painting worked and reworked over months. In five minutes you don’t have time to steer too far away from a single idea if you’re on, you can capture the essence in a few strokes, which will make your inspiration vibrantly manifest.”
Don’t underestimate the power of small and don’t assume you have to spend hours working on something for it to be labelled ‘good.’
Doing one small thing every day may not feel like much when you do it, but it adds up over time. Committing to a daily art-making action is a way to x10 your creativity and get you in the rhythm of making something regularly. The writer Jack London encouraged in 1903 to “Set yourself a “stint,” and see that you do that “stint” each day; you will have more words to your credit at the end of the year.”
This echos Jerry Seinfeld’s advice to Brad Isaac on how to do something every day: “He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker. He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day. After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.”
Set yourself a creative stint or the challenge to make a chain and discover how little adds up to a lot.