Apart from wanting to help people achieve their creative dreams, there is evidence that being creative is good for your health. In The art of being mentally healthy, Dr Christina Davies et al. from UWA suggest that two or more hours a week of arts engagement is associated with mental health benefits.
So no more excuses, get creative!
What, you say? Yes, of course, you WANT to … but are you having trouble committing to doing something creative? Or to any other worthwhile pursuit for that matter?
Like motivating yourself to exercise, eat well or change to any healthier habit, sometimes we need to kick start ourselves by committing to something tangible. Creativity is no different.
So how can we get going? Here are some strategies that I’ve found helpful:
1. Decide your goal.
Name it in beautiful, confronting, terrifying, real words.
2. Break your goal into achievable steps
Nut out your plan. Write it down if you can – even just a list of starting steps.
Naturally what you need to do will depend on your goal, but possibilities might include:
- Write a list of creative ideas/possible topics (I love this post by Louise Allan on What I want to write about …)
- Research your goal, idea or topic – although we have to be careful not to get caught on the endless research merry-go-round, there is no doubt that looking at what’s out there, how others have approached similar tasks and what works (and doesn’t) can be invaluable in shaping your thinking. The internet simplifies this no end. Don’t forget to save and file resources that you may need to refer to again – old-fashioned notebook or print and file, a folder in your favourites might do the job or there are apps that can help you.
- Do a course (or two) – great for starters but also can get the creative juices flowing again if you are beginning a new project in an area you are familiar with, or interesting in looking at alternative approaches. There are usually both free and paid options, some you can do online and others in person. Don’t underestimate the value of networking either – meeting others with similar interests can be invaluable, no matter where you are in your creative journey. For writers, check out
- your local or state writers’ centre,
- the Australian Writers’ Centre, and
- local one-off events and festivals.
- Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) may also be of interest eg the International Writers’ Program.
- You may also wish to learn more on a specific subject eg if your project is historical fiction, you may wish to study that era.
- The Khan Academy has an incredible range of topics (and also grammar courses if it’s the technical side of writing that you need to brush up on.)
- Identify what resources and equipment you need. It can be worth questioning the need before you decide whether to acquire each one. If funds are tight, what can you borrow or buy second hand instead? Or ask your family and friends to buy or put towards something on your list. (Who doesn’t love an easy present which you know the person receiving it will love?)
- Prioritise and allocate some timeframes in which you want to start and/or achieve the steps you have identified.
Leave space to add to your list of steps as the need arises. We often need to flesh out the detail as we better understand the requirements.
3. Make your promise public.
Uh oh … I can feel you hesitate. Seriously do you WANT to do this? What you commit to can be either your overall goal or one of your essential steps – committing to “writing at least 500 words five days a week” is possibly going to be less threatening than announcing you are going to write a book. And it will still get you there if you do it, and you keep doing it.)
- You don’t have to shout it from the rooftops, you could just tell one person. Squeak it out in an offhand way to a stranger if you must. But the more you clearly formalise your commitment, the more likely you are to do it.
- Announce it on social media. Many find this a great place to start and there are social movements harnessing the power of the pledge, for example encouraging people to makes changes to improve health outcomes through Change Day Australia. For an individual goal, a Facebook post or a tweet may be enough to cement your commitment.
- If you need some added incentive, you may want to look at Promise or Pay. Founder, Jay Boolkin says that “research shows that chance of success increases by 33% if it is shared with others and by up to 72% if money is put on the line”. At least if you don’t achieve your goal, a reputable charity of your choice will benefit. And the charity doesn’t have to miss out even if you achieve your goal – family and friends who wish to help encourage you can reward your achievement by pledging to donate if you succeed. *NB. Promise or Pay’s fee structure is outlined in their FAQ.
4. Get on and do it.
Fair’s fair. There’s no getting out of this step. But it’ll be worth it!
You may need to revisit your plan. That’s normal. You may need to revise your timelines. That’s okay too. Sometimes we don’t estimate timing accurately, other times complications develop or life gets in the way for a period and we may even need a break. But keep going.
5. Celebrate every success!
I love to tick something off a list – it gives me a real sense of achievement, and when the goal is a biggish one and/or something will take time to fully realise, acknowledging each step forward, no matter how small, is essential.
Do you have any secret (or not-so-secret) motivation techniques?
I would love you to share them in the comments below.
I hope you find this post useful. Some of my other posts include:
- When push comes to shove – juggling priorities in a time-poor world
- The power of naming procrastination and
- Is excitement a new strategy for writers?
With best wishes for your creative health and that of our community.
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