Creativity and Structure

I’m halfway through the Creative Habit by renown choreographer Twyla Tharp. It’s a book I’ve had on my shelf for a few years and procrastinated reading because I didn’t want to remind myself of the creative life that felt like it was slipping away like a dinghy who’d lost its mooring. This book is an incredible peek into the creative mind of a prolific artist and the successful habits she’s cultivated over the years.

She has habits, routines, rituals and processes that at times seems almost militaristic, but within this structure her genius runs free. Thankfully, she give readers the gift of her creative process and suggests ways we can create our own.

Last year when I turned bend burn breathe from a blog into a business, it was time to truly walk the walk and uphold the “breathe” aspect of the bend burn breathe philosophy. “Breathe” is all about tapping into your passion and creative power to have a richer, happier, and more satisfying life. In essence, I ask “what makes you feel most alive?” My instant answer is art-making and performing in front of an audience.

I’m proud that over the past few years I’ve slowly clawed my way back into my craft from taking some fun improv classes and launching my new website I’ve set goals for myself to create new work and rewrite and finish some older ones. I’m excited that I’m sticking to my guns to create new work, but I’m having trouble rewriting and finishing older work. It’s not just because I’m lacking a concrete plan and writing schedule. I’m also finding it really hard to get back into the work I started. Tharp suggests three ways to do so. First, generate motivation through intense curiosity. Second, surround yourself with the best in the business. And third, create a plan to get started filled with routines and rituals that will act as cues to get you into a creative frame of mind. Brilliant!

This is all very ironic. I tell those that I coach that one of the main factors between a successful person and an unsuccessful one is good planning and taking action on that plan. The successful person may not be any smarter or talented, but they have learned to cultivate habits that serve them rather than deter or distract them. It’s time for the coach to take her own medicine. I have my creative goals, so what’s next? Here are the three questions I’m asking myself to get started:

  1. What’s the plan? How much time on a weekly basis can I devote to create a consistent schedule to set myself up for success? I need to take into account my commute, full-time job, exercise, meal prep, sleep, and other commitments. What’s realistic?
  2. What kind of routine can I set up to get me in the creative frame of mind? I live by the ethos, “move a muscle change your life” so I’m going to start with a 3 minute physical warm up consisting of stretching, patting up and down my whole body to wake my senses up, and a couple of vocal warmups. I’ll ritualize it by closing my eyes, placing my hands in prayer position in front of my heart, and setting an intention for my creative session (this is the yogi in me).
  3. When will I do this routine? I’ll do this routine every time I start my planned creative session.

Do you have a hobby or passion project that needs a jump start? Take a moment to write down your answers to the three questions above. For help figuring out a solid schedule, take a piece of paper and divide it up into seven columns, one for each day of the week. On each day, block out immovable commitments such as work, a favorite exercise class you can’t live without, a volunteer commitment, etc…How you use the rest of the time is up to you. Start small, maybe choose one consistent day a week for one hour. Now decide exactly how you’ll begin. If you want to start playing guitar again, pick a few simple scales and a favorite song that you’ll do every time you sit down to practice or compose.  If you’re a writer, take five minutes to journal stream of consciousness (like Julia Cameron’s morning pages from the Artist’s Way – another fabulous book to get your creative juices flowing).

No matter what it is you want to work on, carving out even a small bit of well-planned creative time with a solid routine on a consistent basis will reap huge rewards.

Featured image by Myriams-Fotos

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