For the past 30 years creativity coach Eric Maisel, Ph.D, has worked with a variety of individuals, everyone from artists to authors to musicians to scientists to lawyers. He’s also written numerous books on creativity. So it’s safe to say he knows a few things about the creative process.
In his latest book on creativity, Making Your Creative Mark, he reveals the nine keys to achieving your artistic goals. These include: thinking thoughts that serve you; building confidence; developing your passion; using freedom to support a successful creative life; dealing effectively with stress; cultivating empathy; navigating relationships; strengthening your identity; and exploring how society affects you and choosing your role in society.
Here are 10 illuminating tips from his book on cultivating creativity.
1. Set a starting ritual.
According to Maisel, “One of the best ways to help yourself create every day is to craft a starting ritual that you begin to use regularly and routinely.” This tells your brain that you’re ready to create. For instance, your ritual might be meditating for a few minutes, drinking a cup of tea, listening to the same song or lighting a candle and taking several deep breaths.
2. Challenge yourself to create every day.
Maisel suggests pledging to do creative work every day, even if it’s only for 15 or 20 minutes. Start by challenging yourself to create for the next 14 days.
3. Instead of discipline, think devotion.
Maisel quotes Luciano Pavarotti, who said: “People think I’m disciplined. It’s not discipline, it’s devotion, and there’s a great difference.” Maisel suggests pondering that difference.
4. Have a Q&A.
When you need to kick-start your creativity, ask yourself an interesting question, and try to answer it.
5. Focus on the thoughts that serve you.
Self-doubt is basically part of the creative process. And it roars when projects aren’t exactly going our way. That’s when thoughts like “I’ll fail” or “I’m such an idiot!” pop up. Pay attention to how you talk to yourself. If a thought doesn’t serve you, consider how you can revise it so that it does. As Maisel writes, “Be your own best supporter.”
6. Become an expert on “blockage.”
Creative blocks are common. Make the most of them by exploring how your blocks manifest. For instance, according to Maisel, do you have creative blocks with certain projects, at certain points in the process or at certain times of the year?
7. Learn to manage anxiety.
Anxiety can stall creativity, so find ways to relax, unwind and manage your angst. These articles can give you some ideas:
- 11 tips to help manage anxiety
- 15 small steps to improve anxiety
- 3 deep breathing exercises to reduce anxiety
8. Create in the morning.
Creating first thing in the morning not only helps you make progress on your projects, but it also helps you tap into your “sleep thinking,” according to Maisel. That’s all the thoughts your brain’s been chewing on during the night. Plus, this means that you’ll make some meaning well before your “real day” even begins.
9. Brainstorm strategies.
Maisel suggests dividing a piece of paper into three columns: “starting,” “working,” and “completing.” Then list as many strategies as you can think of to help you progress through each part of the process.
10. Forget talent.
Here’s the thing about talent: We tend to think we either have it or we don’t. Maybe it even deters us from working on our creative projects. Talent is a loaded word, Maisel says. That’s why he encourages readers to “forget about talent,” and “concentrate on showing up.”
Creativity isn’t some mysterious or murky marvel. It’s a process. Some days – probably many days – you’re left sweating and exhausted. Show up, work hard and support yourself. It’s how you’ll make meaning every day.