“The routine is as much a part of the creative process as the lightning bolt of inspiration, maybe more.”
I fully believe that creativity is not just something you simply wait around for, hoping it will come. It’s not something that strikes you out of thin air. It’s not a stroke of magic. Creativity is something you work for, tirelessly, day in and day out. But in this belief, I fear I’ve lost track of the fact that the routine is not a part of creativity itself but a part of the creative process.
Creativity has been and always will be a process. In today’s world – a world that’s obsessed with results and a world that tells you only have value and worth when you’re producing creative output – it’s no wonder that creatives are losing sight of the beauty and possibility and joy in the process.
For about six months now, I’ve been cultivating something – I’ve been deep in the creative process. In the spring, my objective was to achieve the end product by this fall. In the summer, my goal shifted, and I set out to complete the process by the end of the year. Now, it’s mid-October, and I can clearly see and feel – I know – the process isn’t over yet.
No, I’m not waiting for a lightning bolt of inspiration. I’m simply honoring the creative process and allowing myself to be present in the somewhat uncomfortable flux that comes before you reach that pivotal moment when you release a creative project into the world.
You can make a creative routine. You can practice creativity every day. You can work on your craft every spare moment. You can explore other creative mediums and fill yourself with creative inspiration whenever possible. But you can’t force the creative process, nor should you. In fact, you should savor it, linger in it, and enjoy it.
This month, challenge yourself to honor your creative process. Slow down. Appreciate the journey. Stop measuring yourself and pressuring yourself. Don’t just sit and wait for creativity to fall into your lap, but don’t rush your creative process.
It has officially been a month since I lasted published on this blog. I’d like to say this was intentional or a result of writer’s block. I’d like to say I have an amazing story to tell about a great adventure I took over the past thirty-plus days.
The truth is, it has been one of the most strange and unusual summers. There have been a lot of unexpected personal and professional opportunities and obligations that have come my way. The truth this, this month-long hiatus wasn’t intentional at all, it crept up on me quite suddenly when I flipped the calendar page to August, and I thought to myself, where did the time go?
One thing I can share about the past thirty days is that, although I’ve not been channeling my creativity into this blog, I’ve made time for it elsewhere – in dance, in poetry, in a much needed weekend retreat. And now that I finally have time to come back here, to this space, I realize that it’s time for another Creative Habit Challenge.
I’ve learned a lot over the past month, but one of the most important things – the thing I’d like to share with you – is to allow.
Life is not a content calendar with carefully scheduled blog and social media posts. Life is much bigger and better than that, more unpredictable than that, more exciting than that. So allow yourself to live when life comes at you.
Allow creativity to flow in the means you’re given. It doesn’t have to be on the blog you’ve built for three years or the YouTube channel you’ve grown from the ground up. Sure, don’t abandon your commitment to those things, don’t forgo the countless amounts of time, energy, and effort you’ve poured into them, but, at the same time, don’t let these things hold you back from something more.
Allow yourself to let go of one item on your to-do list, to make room for something else. Allow yourself to do this without explanation, rationalization, judgement, or guilt. Allow yourself to embrace the wild uncertainties of life. Allow yourself to indulge in a new opportunity. Allow yourself to be present in whatever is happening in your life right at this very moment.
Above all, allow yourself to release whatever is holding you back from being creative. Do this with mindfulness – don’t up and flee your city, get fired from your job, lose your partner, get evicted from your apartment, and scare your loved ones – but just allow yourself to let go and live. Allow yourself to let creativity in.
The creative process can be inherently introspective and isolating. In previous posts, I’ve even talked about intentionally making the creative process private in order to allow you to really connect deep within yourself and avoid external judgement or comparison. I believe that the creative process is a highly personal cycle and that there is value in keeping it intimate and internally focused. However, I also believe that cultivating a creative community can benefit both the creative process and the creator.
As the old saying goes, opposites attract. I find that creatives are often drawn to non-creatives. By nature, creatives can tend to be more abstract and intuitive. Building close relationships with more logical and rational beings helps to maintain balance in creative life and keep creative ideas grounded. It’s great for creatives to be well-rounded and have a more analytical perspective throughout the creative process – they can benefit from a non-creative community of loving friends and family, but this is only a part of the puzzle. It’s essential that creatives also have a community of more like-minded individuals to support them.
Creativity is subjective. Period. It goes without saying that subjectivity is something more logical, rational beings have a hard time wrapping their minds around. Creativity rarely has a tangible motive or result. Whether creativity is an inherent part of you or something that fulfills you and fuels you, the most concrete outcome of creativity is contentedness. Without a community that includes other creatives, you may never fully believe that is reason enough to be creative.
Start today, right now. If you feel like you don’t have anyone else creative in your life to be part of your community and support system, start here. I’m here to tell you that being creative solely to feel content and fulfilled is enough. When you feel whole and complete, you’re able to give the most to your job, your loved ones, and your life. If creativity is what makes you your best, most authentic self, embrace it, accept it, and never let it slip away.
For this month’s AOC Blog Creative Habit Challenge, focus on cultivating your creative community. Connect with your creative friends, co-workers, Facebook groups, meetups – whatever and whoever it may be. Perhaps you’ve thought about developing your own creative community and this is the push you need to get started. Maybe you’re feeling disconnected from other creatives and don’t know where to start. I invite you to connect with me – I constantly crave more creatives in my life!
On any given day, I get dozens of emails in my inbox, typically from clients or potential clients, sometimes from friends, and, of course, a handful of messages that are subscriptions and spam. Most of the time, managing email is the activity on my daily to-do list I dread the most. But on occasion, I’ll get a message in my inbox that completely makes my day. This past March, I got one of these exciting emails from the handsome and talented men of the alternative rock band Amsterdam Station, announcing the upcoming release of their first full-length album. In preparation for this monumental event, the band enlisted me for a collaborative partnership.
We started with styling the band for a photoshoot for the album, “The River. The Sound. The Wake.” The band and I jumped on a live video call on a Sunday night during one of their weekly rehearsals to discuss the inspiration behind the album and some of their style influences. As the title of the album indicates, the central theme focuses on the forces of nature, specifically the river as a source of cleansing, forward motion, and the cycle of life and death. In addition to embodying the energy of the outdoors and capturing the tones of the earth, the band wanted to stay true to their minimalist style approach that mirrors other alternative rock bands, like The Killers, Mute Math, and Dead Weather. Over the course of the next month, we worked to compose individual looks for each of the band members that reflected the concept for the album and stayed true to each of their individual styles. Then, on an unseasonably cold and windy Saturday morning in April, the band convened at the Chattahoochee River in Roswell, Georgia for the shoot.
For the next several weeks, the band worked tirelessly to complete the album. At the end of their long and arduous journey, I was fortunate enough to get an exclusive preview of the tracks and learn more about the creative process that went into composing the album.
AOC BLOG GIRL: How did you come up with the name for the album?
AMSTERDAM STATION: The album title first originated from the song “The Sound”. This song has been in our writing room for about two years and was the first song written for the new album. This song demonstrates a key change for our band and the maturity of our writing, with haunting harmonies and a tip-of-the-hat to great southern literature and iconic murder ballads. The River has been an archetype throughout history as a place for the soul and the body to be cleansed, a place to offer up the horrors that haunt our minds, and a place to break free from the demons that bind.
The sequence of the wording is important too. The River. The Sound. The Wake. It equates to the place, the event, and the aftermath. A wake is the tracking of waves after movement cuts through the water. When you approach a river, you bear witness to its constant state of change, and, in the wake of the aftermath, a future that is flux, pushing and pulling against an ever changing present. It’s never the same river. With every action or event, there may be admission and regret, but there is never an undoing. If you come to the river heavy with burden, so much so that it consumes you to the core, then you shall sink and bear witness to the bed you’ve made. But, if you allow yourself to purge, grow and persevere, your life becomes buoyant again, and so you float on.
AOC BLOG GIRL: Describe the creative process that went into conceptualizing one of the songs on the album.
AMSTERDAM STATION: In the song Florence, the idea is that the woman (Florence) is having a conversation with God during her last waking hours. Greg (Vocalist/Bassist/Guitarist) wrote this song while his Grandmother was in terminal hospice care last year. She was at a point in her life where her COPD had rendered her unable to catch her breath, even doing the simplest tasks. Once in hospice, she was surrounded by family, reminiscing and telling stories, all while tethered to a wall by an oxygen container and confined to a bed and a body that was merely a shell of herself. Her soul was still vibrant, but her body had run its course, and she died peacefully in her sleep. She had given their family some scares in years past, but during her final moments, she seemed content, accepting and at ease. This song is a tribute to her and a hope that she’s living in peace with her maker.
AOC BLOG GIRL: What’s one signature quality that defines the album as a whole, lyrically, musically, or otherwise?
AMSTERDAM STATION: The signature quality of the album is probably the flow of the songs throughout the album. Like a River, it’s dynamic and constantly changing. Every time you listen cover to cover, it might bring you to a new or changing place in your life. It is a roller coaster of emotions, with constant peaks and troughs, instead of remaining static in one music style or feeling. It mimics real life, instead of the cookie-cutter lives we see ourselves adapting to from time to time.
AOC BLOG GIRL: What’s one thing you’ve learned in producing your first full-length album that you’d like to share with aspiring artists?
AMSTERDAM STATION: However long you believe the album is going to take, double it. In the world of DIY recording these days, you need the extra time to learn and better yourself and to allow for the magic of the studio to rub off on the tracks. Sometimes the last minute changes you make in the studio can really be what MAKE a song have that extra sparkle or resonance. Having more time decreases the stress for the artists and the pressure on the creative process.
Amsterdam Station is releasing their first full length album, “The River. The Sound. The Wake.” this Friday, July 1. Visit their website for details on how to purchase the album, upcoming tour dates, and more! If you’re in the Atlanta area, join the band at Smith’s Olde Bar for their album release party tomorrow night!
In most cases, when you want to make room for something new, you have to let go of something old. If you want to update your wardrobe, you might consign or donate items in your closet that no longer fit or are out of style. If you’re moving into a new home, you may have a garage sale to get rid of furniture that you no longer need. There are even small, everyday instances in which you simply remove the old to make space for the new without even thinking. Before taking a trip to the grocery store, you might clean out your fridge and discard leftovers or items that have spoiled. Purging something old to make room for something new comes naturally to us in so many facets of our lives, yet we don’t instinctively turn to this practice when it comes to creativity.
Creativity is intangible – it doesn’t literally take up space like a new pair of shoes or a couch or a carton of milk. Even though you don’t physically have to make room for a great big piece of creativity, you have to make space for it mentally. Just like your dresser or fridge can become unbearably full, so much so that you can never find the right pair of jeans or marinade when you need them, your mind can become cluttered and creativity can get lost. It’s easier when you can physically see that you have so many throw pillows you can no longer comfortably sit on your couch. You know it’s time to sell or give away a few. However, when you’re dealing with something more abstract like creativity and making space in your mind, it can be more challenging to know when and how to clear things out.
Like New Year’s Resolutions or bikini season diets, spring cleaning is a bit arbitrary. There’s never a wrong or right time to define goals, commit to a healthier lifestyle, or clear out clutter in your life. While these annual milestones are somewhat trivial, they serve as good reminders that it’s important to regularly set intentions, practice healthy habits, and let go of something old to make room for something new.
For this month’s AOC Blog Creative Habit Challenge, do a little metaphorical spring cleaning. Actively find ways to clear your mind and make space for creativity. This could be as simple as shutting off your computer, powering down your phone, and allowing yourself to detach and decompress for a few hours. Maybe you just need a breath of fresh air – go outside and get lost in the beautiful spring weather. Perhaps you’ve always been curious about meditation, and now could finally be the time to give it a try. If your mind is feeling particularly cluttered and the thought of freeing your mind sounds paralyzing or impossible, you might want to dig deeper into your spring cleaning.
Over time, the buildup of stress or the pressure of the never-ending to-do list can really start to saturate your mind. In these instances, a simple walk around the neighborhood park won’t suffice – you don’t just need spring cleaning, you need deep cleaning. Carve out some time and space to ritualize the process. Grab a pen and paper, and physically free write or sketch whatever you need to release. Try to be as raw and honest as possible. Then, tear it up, burn it, or throw it into a nearby body of water – really let it go and allow your mind to empty.
Whatever mode or method you choose, don’t just clean out your house this spring. Clean out your mind and make space for creativity. Let’s continue the conversation – tweet me @AOCBlogGirl using the hashtag #AOCBlogCreativeHabit!