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
More and more I’ve found myself deeply valuing my time spent exploring and gaining inspiration outside the Internet. This is not what a blogger, social media manager, web writer should say. Call me an old soul, but I remember the not-so-distant past when my creativity was constantly fueled by the world around me, not images on Instagram or quotes on Pinterest. I think I’m part of a confusing (or rather confused) generation who is both excited to be on the cutting edge of a grand new era of technology and who has a fond memory of a youth without said technology – a generation that continually grapples with their physical persona (outside the Internet) and their digital persona (on the Internet). I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I feel both blessed and cursed to know both sides.
Some people manage to be, say, 80% detached from the digital world. Sure these people probably have an email address and a cell phone, maybe a Facebook or LinkedIn account, but not much more. The rest of us call these people “disconnected.” I’ve made the accusation myself, namely because my boyfriend (oddly enough a web developer) is one of these people. And to him (and others with raw digital personas) I’ve defended blogs and social media hundreds of times, touting their widespread popularity (audience) and overall value (free to those who participate, lucrative to those who create) – they’re an integral part of our society, numerous industries, my life! I can confidently say I’m thankful for my experience in the blogosphere and on social media, but what happened to the experiences outside the Internet? The Instagram-able, Pin-able, hashtag-able experiences that supposedly make up this media? I can’t escape the technology completely – in fact it has quickly evolved into a very inescapable part of most of our lives – but I can slow down, take a step back, and remember there is still a beautiful world out there – it doesn’t just exist in images on the Internet.
Regardless of your level of engagement in the digital world, the Internet has a powerful influence on our lives. Time and time again, I’ve been influenced by other bloggers, digital media, friends and followers on social networks – so much so that every now and then, I lose track of where my digital persona ends and others’ begin. Sometimes you have to take a step back in order to move forward. So this February, instead of the digital world telling me “blog me,” “Instagram me,” “share me,” I’m calling the shots. I’m reconnecting with my unique digital persona. My blog and social media have been quiet for the past few weeks and will continue to be in the month of February as I pursue this introspective exploration of my digital self. Stay tuned, readers… MORE SOON.
Photography by Angie Webb Creative