Pages - Menu


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Pin It


Daily Creative Rituals

If you hang around artists, writers, and other creative types for enough time, eventually the topic of how to be productive comes up. How to stay motivated, how to be consistent, how to avoid all the slumps and distractions and pesky desire to procrastinate that plagues any creative. Daily rituals aren’t for everyone, but there is a certain logic to making your creativity a habit as much as possible.

To me, establishing a creative ritual is mainly about comfort. It’s about knowing what time of day and in what conditions you’re most productive, and then making a routine out of it. Eventually your brain comes to associate those things with productivity.

This happened in my life almost accidentally with tea. I was never much of a tea-drinker, but I started drinking breakfast tea after being introduced to it by a house guest. And ironically, it started out as a way to prolong the inevitable. I woke up early one morning to do some work. Rubbed the sleep out of my eyes, turned on the computer, but I still wasn’t feeling it… why not make some tea? That would wake me up. I continued to procrastinate this same way every time I needed to do work… and before long, I came to associate tea with working. It relaxes my mind and gets me in the mood.

Now, my creative ritual is to brew some tea and get going first thing in the morning. I’m an early bird more than a night owl. Something about the sun shining through the window and having the whole day ahead of me fills me with the right amount of optimism, and I take advantage of it. The longer I wait, the less likely I am to be productive.

Full disclosure, I’m actually pretty terrible at sticking to a daily ritual. It’s hard, guys! I prefer to think of it as a creative ritual. That allows for a bit more flexibility. Some days, writing isn’t the most productive thing I can do. Letting ideas percolate is just as important, so maybe instead of sitting down at my computer, I’ll go for a walk instead. Or maybe I'll read, watch a show, or doodle. I might not write everyday, but I'll do a little something everyday to keep the wheels turning.

I was scheduled to write this post weeks ago, but as it happens, on May 31 a friend e-mailed me about a project she found called the Year of Creative Habits. It’s a challenge to pick a creative thing you’d like to work on, and do it every day for a month. My friend would like to get more comfortable with ink drawing, so she’s doing that this month. Since NaNoWriMo, I’ve missed the challenge of writing every day, so that will be my June experiment.

I encourage you guys to check it out. I also encourage you to comment and tell us what creative rituals you employ to stay productive, and/or what creative habit you’d want to work on for a month!


  1. If I need to get something creative done, and it's not something I'm o-so-passionate about- I often times really have to force it. I normally procrastinate until the last possible minute and then I'll make myself sit down and start working. It will normally take me a while to get into it and the inspiration flowing, but making myself sit there and do it normally works.

    If it's a project that came to me out of sudden inspiration, well, that normally pops into my head suddenly and I write it down or put it in whatever medium it needs to be in almost immediately. If I can't complete it in one sitting, I'll make an extremely thorough plan as soon as possible so that I won't have to procrastinate and force inspiration to come back. I'll get as much as possible out of a helpful nudge by a passing muse so I won't have to beg her to come back later.

  2. There is a book called "Daily Rituals: How Artists Work" by Mason Currey that will interest all who can relate to this post. After falling victim to spouts of procrastination, Currey decided to do some research on the daily rituals of the most successful artists of all time, including Mozart, Beethoven, Sigmund Freud, Jane Austin, Ernest Hemingway, etc... and compiled them into a fascinating little book. Currey remarks that any given artist's routine can be equally inspiring and discouraging, but readers might also be surprised to learn that Francis Bacon partied every night and waited for "inspiration to come." What all these artists have in common is a variable of "routine," even if that routine includes smuggling snails out of France in your bra (see Patricia Highsmith). Anyway, I encourage all to check it out. The routines are funny and to the point!