Five Tips to Help You Build a Creative Practice

An array of new pastels waiting to be used.Last fall I gave myself a goal: go to the art table first thing in the morning before heading out to the office. That’s four days a week, first thing, 6:15am, for 30-40 minutes.

I did it 15 weeks in a row, minus a few days. Toward the end it was an automatic part of my morning routine, I didn’t even need to think about it.

Then I took a break for the holidays.

Now I’m discovering that it’s much easier to drop a habit than it is to bring one back, so these past few weeks I’ve been returning to the tools that helped me build my practice in the first place. They obviously worked, so I thought they might be useful to you, too.

If you’ve been thinking of implementing a regular creative practice, these are five great ways to help you get started:

  1. Start small. Don’t go in with the pressure of making art every day forever. Treat it as an experiment. Set a goal with a finite amount of time; five or seven days in a row is a good, doable target. Then, one day at a time, meet that. When you’re done take a look at what worked, what didn’t, and set a new goal.
  2. Experiment with your schedule. On office days I go to the studio first thing in the morning, on days I’m at home, I’m more flexible. Experiment with the best time of day for you to focus on creating, and with the length of your sessions. Notice what works and what doesn’t. Shift where you need to.
  3. Prepare things ahead of time. If you’re like me and moonlighting at an outside job (ahem), do what you can ahead of time. Prepare your painting surfaces, transfer your photos from your camera, brainstorm your writing topics for the week… That way when time is at a premium you’ll be able to make the most of it. This type of studio prep work is also great for those days when your creative mojo may be on the low side; it’s forward movement that doesn’t necessarily demand too much energy.
  4. Practice self-compassion. Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day, life happens. Just go back to it the next day. If you find yourself skipping a lot of days, try shifting your time of practice or the length of your creative sessions.
  5. Reap the rewards. Thanks to my regular studio practice I declared more pieces complete in 15 weeks than I did the previous two years. Every session was an opportunity to learn, practice and get better at what I love to do. Reflect on what you learned during your experiment about your craft, your process, your resistance. What small – or big – successes came about? Acknowledge and celebrate forward movement.

Are you up to the challenge?

If you’ve been thinking about it, give it a try. Experiment.

The world needs your creative gifts.

6 thoughts on “Five Tips to Help You Build a Creative Practice

  1. Love it Stephanie ~ practical and totally doable. Since this year started I have been making sure I go into the studio at least once every day. Even if all I do is go up there and come straight back down again, it makes it more likely that I’ll make some art, and being in there is the best first step to doing that!

    1. Thank you Tara!

      “Even if all I do is go up there and come straight back down again, it makes it more likely that I’ll make some art…”

      I read somewhere that consistency is the best way to build a habit. The more you go up to the studio – whether it’s for ten minutes or two hours, the more you’re telling yourself that it’s “just what you do.” (Credit to Christine Kane for that quote :) ) I find that powerful.

  2. Thank you! I couldn’t have said it better. I’m working on doing just that now… I’m writing a blog as well which is in flux and part of the creative program. I have lots to work on but its nice to read about someone else working on bringing back the creative habit to their life. Thanks for the inspiration!!

    1. My pleasure! You are certainly not alone in trying to maintain a creative practice. :) Good luck with your blog and with the rest of your creative projects!

  3. Love your ideas – it’s sometimes hard to realize we need to rethink how to engage in a creative practice. Thanks for the great reminders!

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