It’s funny that I often forget about reading, considering it’s such an essential part of being a writer. I’ll go through spells where I’ll collect a bunch of books and read them one after the other, then I’ll go weeks if not months without reading. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of blogs and magazines and online articles. I read daily doing research for clients or simply staying up to date in my industry, but I mean reading (a book).
Reading a book seems pretty self-explanatory, right? But there are a few ways you can make a habit of reading books in a more creative way. I’ll give you a pass if you absolutely adore your Kindle or the like – they do make things quite convenient, particularly for those who travel often or commute on public transportation and need a one-handed approach. However, I encourage you to read a physical book whenever possible. We look at screens all day, and many of us are conditioned to certain habits when reading on a screen. You may associate reading on screens with work as opposed to pleasure, and you may tend to skim to get through the material more quickly. When you read a book, it should be a ritual – you should slowly slip away from the world around you and into the pages. I believe physical books help facilitate this practice – they help to ensure reading is a leisure activity, and they help you to slow down and really take in each and every word.
What you read also impacts the creative habit of reading. I had such an “ah ha!” moment when I heard Cyndie Spiegel, a business strategy coach for creative entrepreneurs, talk about the benefit of reading fiction versus non-fiction. In one of Cyndie’s newsletters she discussed “turning down the noise” and reminded us that constantly reading non-fiction books on your industry or interests or stage of life can influence your connection to yourself. When you’re disconnected from yourself and more vulnerable to outside influences, your creativity is impacted. You may be more judgmental or less inspired. So, I love Cyndie’s suggestion to read more fiction. Escape into another universe, dive into the life of a character, and allow yourself to fantasize.
The holiday season and end of the year is an incredibly hectic and stressful time for almost everyone. Now more than ever, we need a creative outlet, particularly one that can easily be carried in a pocket or purse. Pick up a book this holiday season. When you need a break from the bustle or family, drift away into a story without even leaving the room.
If you’re just joining the creative habit series, be sure to look back at the challenges for the past four months for more creative inspiration and learn about the book that sparked the series, Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit. Finally, don’t forget to share your experience making a habit of reading (a book) using the hashtag #AOCBlogCreativeHabit.
I may be a little partial to the art of writing for obvious reasons, but even if you’re not a writer, there are creative benefits to writing. If you really want to get your imaginative juices flowing, the key is to write it! Don’t type it.
With the evolution of the digital landscape, people have gotten away from turning to pen and paper to write. There are notes in our phones for list making and blog platforms to help us tell our stories. Those of you who know me recognize that I’m pretty old-school when it comes to writing – I have a physical planner as opposed to a digital one, I handwrite my to-do lists on post-its, and I have at least one journal on my person at all times. In fact, it took me a long time to move away from handwriting everything. I vividly remember when we transitioned from handwriting to typing papers in school. For a long time, I continued to handwrite my first drafts, then type them. I believe that ideas free flow more organically from the brain to the hand to the pencil and finally to the page and that writing with pen and paper is crucial to the creative process of writing.
There’s another less obvious difference between handwriting and typing: privacy. The digital landscape has made it almost too easy for us to share everything. With a couple clicks you can send a note in your phone via text or email, in seconds you can publish your writing on a blog, and much of our days are spent sharing status updates on social media. However, when you handwrite a note and place it in your planner, no one will see it unless you physically pass it along. If you write in a journal, no one will read your entries unless you want them to. So, why is this important to the creative process? Judgement is the enemy of creativity. Most artists and creatives would be called crazy if they shared every idea that came to their minds. The creative process is filled with outlandish and seemingly illogical notions, but when executed properly, they’re brilliant. If you allow judgement to interfere, you’ll never reach the point of carrying out the concept.
For the month of December, turn to a pen and paper not the computer. Set the scene, buy yourself a cool new notebook, light a candle, steep a cup of tea, and enjoy a private moment with your thoughts without judgement. It’s that time of year when you may be thinking about ideas, goals, and plans for the New Year. There’s no better way to spark your creativity than setting aside some time to write with pen and paper.
If you’re just joining the creative habit series, be sure to look back at the challenges for the past three months for more creative inspiration and learn about the book that sparked the series, Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit. Finally, don’t forget to share your experience making a habit of handwriting using the hashtag #AOCBlogCreativeHabit.
When I went to college, my mom gave me an adult coloring book and a box crayons. At first, I chalked this up to a final attempt to salvage my childhood as I was heading out of the house and toward young adulthood. I tucked the book and crayons on a shelf between textbooks and framed photos and didn’t give them much thought. When people came to my room, they would notice the big yellow Crayola box, then look beside it. And they started to ask if they could color.
I ended up toting around that coloring book and box of crayons for the next four years of college. Pages got ripped out when people wanted to keep their work and others enjoyed making a contribution to the book. When I couldn’t pour any more words into my journal or my creative writing classes, I would turn to the coloring book. It evolved into this amazing tool and creative outlet for me and my friends whether we needed a mindless escape or to express ourselves.
I still have this book today, and surprisingly there are still a few blank pages left to be explored. Now, it mostly serves as a colorful walk down memory lane. But most importantly, my mom’s simple gift taught me the power of color (a verb).
So, for November’s creative habit, I challenge you to channel your inner child and color. If you want some guidance, purchase a coloring book (here’s the one I have), or simply get some crayons, markers, colored pens or pencils, highlighters, sharpies, pastels, and some plan paper. Just start coloring! It’s not just for kids anymore.
If you’re just joining the creative habit series, be sure to look back at the challenges for the past two months for more creative inspiration and learn about the book that sparked the series, Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit. Finally, don’t forget to share your experience making a habit of coloring using the hashtag #AOCBlogCreativeHabit.
Last month I kicked off a new series called the Creative Habit, inspired by Twyla Tharp’s book The Creative Habit (which I highly recommend reading). For September’s Creative Habit challenge, I encouraged you to embrace the last few weeks of summer weather and go outside every day. However, I really urged you to take it a step further, be present in the outdoors, appreciate your natural surroundings, and remove the extraneous technology, noise, and distractions to better connect with your environment.
Now that fall is in full swing, we’re slowly but surely beginning to spend more time inside. Sometimes these cooler months and increased confinement indoors can really stifle our creativity. We may start to feel more lethargic and less inspired to be creative. That’s why it’s more important than ever to develop and maintain a creative routine!
As we get older and as technology advances, we begin to work with our hands less and less. Instead of writing with pen and paper, we type on a keyboard or tap on a touchscreen. Instead of making cookies from scratch we buy dough at the store or order a batch on Seamless. When was the last time you gardened or painted or did any type of work with your hands?
I recently had an experience that reminded me of the value in working with your hands and experiencing the sensation of touch. I attended a Salsa/Burlesque class, and the instructor encouraged us to touch and feel the movement of our bodies as we danced and use our hands as an extension of movement through our arms. It was here I remembered how the hands can be used as a mode to express and communicate. I realized what a powerful tool we have available to us.
During the month of October, make a creative habit of working with your hands. Find a fun DIY project or pottery class and build something. Pick up an instrument or take a sign language class. Get festive and carve a pumpkin or craft a handmade Halloween costume. The opportunities are endless! How are you going to take on this month’s Creative Habit challenge? Please share your experience making a habit of working with your hands using the hashtag #AOCBlogCreativeHabit
Today I’m kicking off a monthly series, the Creative Habit, inspired by Twyla Tharp’s book The Creative Habit (which I highly recommend reading). The focus of the book and this new monthly series is best summarized in a passage from Tharp’s practical guide:
“The routine is as much a part of the creative process as the lightning bolt of inspiration, maybe more. And this routine is available to everyone. Creativity is not just for artists. It’s for businesspeople looking for new ways to close a sale; it’s for engineers trying to solve a problem; it’s for parents who want their children to see the world in more than one way… Creativity is a habit, and the best creativity is a result of good work habits. That’s it in a nutshell.”
Since leaving college and the cushion of being surrounded by countless peers, professors, and mentors all of whom were writers or dancers or artists, I’ve struggled to maintain my creative self. In my experience, the older you get, the more you lose that youthful abandonment and in turn, begin to lose your creativity. In addition to outside forces impacting our creative selves, we’re at greater risk of inhibiting our own creativity as adults. We allow the left brain to kick in with logic, analysis, and judgement, and we become quick to extinguish or abandon our natural creative impulses. Slowly but surely, over the past five years, I’ve fought to maintain my creative self. It’s challenging, and that’s why I believe in forming a creative habit.
For this Creative Habit series, I’ll present you with a creative assignment toward the end of each month. Then, for the thirty days that follow, I challenge you to incorporate the creative habit into your routine. The tasks will start out very basic so that you can discover what creative habit works best for your lifestyle and your creative self. September’s challenge is to simply embrace the last several weeks of summer weather and go outside every day. I don’t just mean walk from your car to your office or step in the backyard to let out your dog – really go outside! When was the last time you sprawled out in the grass and gazed at the sky? Do you ever go on a walk or run without your headphones and let your surroundings speak to you?
So many of us are confined indoors for 80-90% of the day. As a freelance writer who typically works from a home office, there have been periods where I didn’t leave my apartment for three to four days at a time! This is an extremely unhealthy work practice, and I can definitely say my creativity was at an all-time low during these stints. Now, living in New York City without a car, I’m forced to spend time outside almost anytime I need to go somewhere, but that doesn’t always mean I’m engaged with my surroundings. Most people who are going from Point A to Point B on the streets of NYC are in their own worlds – talking on the phone, listening to their headphones, or even reading a book or newspaper. Remove the extraneous technology, noise, and distractions! Don’t just go outside, be present in the outdoors and appreciate your natural surroundings.
Over the next month please share your experience making a habit of going outside with the hashtag #AOCBlogCreativeHabit