In our last post, we shared six creative professionals and the productivity tips they use to keep their creative habits going strong. Their insight is invaluable, inspiring, and, if you plan on implementing their tips as a New Year’s resolution, potentially life-changing.
...But as is, their strategies might not be realistic for everyone.
If you’ve ever tried a radical new resolution, you know that they’re easy to start, and almost IMPOSSIBLE to maintain.
It’s why resolutions rarely survive beyond January. Change to your entire routine doesn’t just happen overnight - and even in the best case, it’s hard (or impossible) to see the benefits of a creative resolution within weeks, months, or even years.
So why bother trying?
When done well, resolutions have the ability to help keep us on track to grow more than we ever thought possible… but goals, habits, and routines, need to grow and change with you in order to remain viable. Otherwise you’ll be left burnt out, discouraged, and unwilling to try again.
Here’s how to make sure your resolutions actually make a difference in your creative life.
("Drawing is made so much easier. Before my Art Satchel I produced one new art piece a week but now I'm able to complete a piece daily." - @stef.wanderlust)
Let me guess…
On December 31st at 11:59:59pm, you opened your third eye, saw into the coming year, determined the absolute BEST resolution to carry you into the future, and committed to it. It was a perfect fit, you nailed it in one, and your personal or professional goals never changed or altered in the course of your life. In that moment, you were able to crystallize a perfect, static representation of who you would become as a human being.
Yeah, me either.
More than likely…
You looked backwards at your existing year, and forward at who you wanted to become, and made your best guess at what it would take to get there. (It’s the best any of us can do.)
We can’t see the future. And our goals, habits, and lifestyles change like the seasons. If you commit to a rigid resolution, without keeping an eye on your true goal, you risk setting yourself up for “failure” when your priorities inevitably have to change.
If your resolution can’t grow with you, it may end up hindering your goals, instead of helping them.
Speaking of goals…
("When moving forward with my drawing goals, I remember Jake Parker's Mantra 'It doesn't need to be perfect it just needs to be finished'... and the Etchr Mirror is helping with that by allowing me to lay solid foundations down so I can worry more about detail work." - @lentinijim )
Did you know that the word “priority” used to be inherently singular?
“Priority”, at its root, refers to something being first. As in, before every other thing. You can’t have multiple priorities. That word didn’t show up until around 1940.
Decide what your priority, singular, is, and eliminate every struggle except what you need to focus on.
When we’re not careful, struggles can stack up.
I would love to learn how to paint realistically with watercolor. I might be tempted to do some realistic, full color watercolor studies in the new year.
...But without realizing, I’ve split my attention into three different challenges:
1. Realistic draftsmanship takes a lifetime to master...
2. ...Color theory is its own herculean struggle...
3. ...And learning a new medium takes a ton of time and practice.
Trying to tackle all three at once is a surefire way to burn myself out, fast. I should decide which is most important to me, and remove the other variables.
Maybe you could remove the drawing and color theory by simply practicing blending watercolors in a coloring book.
...Or study color theory in any medium available, ignoring subject matter or draftsmanship.
...Or remove color and medium for your anatomy studies, and just use whatever’s most comfortable during a life drawing class.
When you know what your one goal is, you can now measure every other distraction, side quest, or complication against this one question: “Does this help me reach my goal?” Yes or no.
If it helps, go nuts!
If it hurts, cut it.
And if you can’t cut it...
("My Art Satchel is doing wonders for my productivity. I love being able to carry a full studio around so I can switch up when I have time to kill." - @countzero23)
Stay sensitive to your own brain’s quirks and intricacies. Analyze your behavior patterns, and ask questions that might help you understand how to motivate yourself.
Are there any distractions that keep you from your resolution? What triggers you to seek this distraction, instead of working towards your goal?
For example: if the distraction is endless video games, could your brain be telling you that you NEED more time to decompress?
...Or are you just afraid to work on your goal for today? Why or why not?
Examine what motivates you. Are you motivated by performing a task, or by some reward after the task is completed? What’s your least favorite part of this resolution, and how can you mitigate it?
(For example: if you hate going to the gym, you might save your favorite podcast or audiobook for your workout times. Then, suddenly working out is something to look forward to!)
The most successful creative routine will blend into your existing routines, not necessarily come as a complete overhaul of your habits and lifestyle. The more you can use your existing habits as a foundation for new ones, the better.
("There's no time to just sit and stare, sit and sketch!" - @addictivesketcher)
When you fail, you’ve found your limit. And that’s a powerful piece of knowledge.
Finding the breaking point of a resolution, habit, or project is an active way to measure your growth.
If you try a sketch-a-day, for example… if you maintain a streak of 25 days, but fail to sketch on day 26, then you have a benchmark. It’s a powerful opportunity to pause, assess what happened, and proceed with a new goal: sketch every day for 26 days.
Ask your self-assessment questions - but this time, with the benefit of hindsight.
What worked to motivate me? What didn’t? When did I get distracted? What did I love about this practice, and what did I hate? Did this habit actually bring me closer to my goal?
And if it did… is this actually the right goal for me?
Failing to keep your resolution means you’re growing. It means you accurately identified a direction in which to progress - and if you can overcome the fear, and examine your failures closely, you’ll likely find a map for how to move forward.
Resolutions are not visions of the future. They’re time capsules.
New Year’s resolutions reflect the aspirations of a you from the past.
If you outgrow your goals, find new ones. If you find that a resolution isn’t a good fit, make a new one. That doesn’t mean you’ve failed - that means the resolution served its purpose of furthering your growth as a fellow human on planet Earth. And that’s never a bad thing.
Did you make a creative resolution this year? Why, or why not?
Share your creative habits in the comments, and don’t forget to encourage each other! Let’s continue to make this year better and brighter.
- Sarah Mills