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For those of us who self identify as ‘creative people,’ we feel compelled to devote some part of our day or our lives to our craft. We might have one or several creative endeavors that we want to focus on. Some of the most prolific and celebrated creative individuals invest in nurturing creative habits to hone their skills and forward their work. Habits that we want to start and keep require a significant amount of energy. In the case of a creative habit (i.e. drawing every day), we need to focus on the following areas: time, space, and actually doing the activity.

Dedicate time for creative habits

Mike Winkelmen describes his process for creating an art piece every day in the Atlantic article, “Creativity is Hustle: Make Something Everyday,” as a slog. He feels that the hardest part is showing up.

It is easy for us to avoid our creative work. For years, I drew very little. The world made it easy for me to get up, go to work, pay bills, and not care about drawing at all. I had to make the extra effort to block off time to draw.

Nurturing creative habits. Find the time to work freely.

Find the time to work freely. I discovered it was the time when no one was awake.

I realized after trying and failing to make this a regular habit, I had to find a time when no one was looking for me. That time was 4 AM. I used that time to draw anything. Eventually, after adding in the hours of practice, I became more intentional with my subjects and how I experimented. It was a level of work that eluded me until I decided to just show up.

Sometimes it helps to set a start date and deadline. I put myself on a monthly schedule to focus on one topic to draw and explore. When that month is up, I wrap up my illustrations and move on.

Reserve space

Bryan Collins writes in his article, “How to Build Lasting Creative Habits,” that we should pay close attention to your space. Be aware of the distractions. This is where we will find ideas and nurture them.

Nurturing creativity. Setting deadlines

Set start dates and deadlines. I box my work into months. This helps me “finish” my work.

For me, I separate my design work and my other creative endeavors. Most of my design and research work I do at the office. At home, I use the space to focus on my writing and illustrations. There is a physical separation between the work. So, it is easier for my brain to focus on one or the other.

I also turn off all notifications. Anything from email, texts, and social media, I check on my phone or iPad. I reserve those distractions for times when I am at a stopping point and need a break. At those times, I leave my workspace, go for a walk, and scroll through any communications that have come through previously.

Keep doing your craft

You actually have to do something. My art teacher, Michael Kight once reminisced for the class a common exchange he had with his own art teacher, “I only do ‘art’ when my muse visits me.” He later made the point that waiting for magic to appear was pointless. When he found a way to create something every day, that was when he started to feel more creative.

Nurturing your creative habits

After you establish time and space to practice your creative habit, you have push forward and do the work.

During this time, you will feel the need to work on a part of your craft or your big project that involves just getting something done. It is not what you expected, and usually, your first few attempts will probably disappoint you. Ira Glass the host of the NPR show, “This American Life,” explains in an interview on creativity that you will go through many versions of what you want to create before you feel it is worthy of sharing. The point is to keep trying.

As I write and illustrate for this book, I know that the versions I put out initial will most likely not be the final versions. The first drafts of any illustrations will only help me refine the work that you see now.

The struggle is to protect the environment you need to nurture your creative habits. Most of the world will not get what you are trying to do. The trick is to find the time and space to practice freely.

Interested in more posts on bringing creativity into work? Check these posts.

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Matt Eng

Matt Eng

DesignOps Manager. Based in Austin,TX. Worked with clients such as Alcatel-Lucent, Ogilvy, RBC, Deloitte, Whirlpool, Polycom, Symantec, and Pebble. Matt teaches, mentors, and speaks about design, creativity, and fostering stronger connections within teams.