Episode #28 – How to Set Up Routines to Support Your Creative Practice

Today’s episode is all about doing the creative work that we are called to do and setting up the routines so that we can actually express ourselves and create the sacred space for our creative work.

The idea of a routine doesn’t FEEL inspiring or creative or free or really much fun. It feels like productivity or pushing, but that’s not how I view it.

Setting up a creative practice that is based in routine is actually giving yourself space to create, honoring your call to create, it’s saying this thing that I want to do is SO important, that I’m going to prioritize it in my life.

That IS soulful creativity; that’s honoring your creative calling.

The question is, how do you create a routine that works until it becomes a habit that you don’t have to think about (or resist), and you get your butt in the chair on a regular basis to do your creative work?

In this solo episode, I discuss:

  • Why routines and habits are crucial for a sustainable creative practice
  • The myth of waiting to work until inspiration strikes
  • Seven steps to set up effective creative routines
  • What my daily creative habit looks like

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Hello, Hello this is Amy Isaman and you are listening to Episode 28 of the Dear Creativity Let's Play podcast. Let me take a sec before we dive in today and celebrate that 28 episodes. When I started this podcast I committed to a year of weekly episodes, and I knew that to really explore this medium, and to play with it fully. I needed to commit to it. So the podcast launched in November of 2019 with three episodes. So that meant for a year I needed to do 52 more episodes for a total of 55 and we are officially halfway there. And it's been fun. It's just and that's a fun milestone. to. to track. I'm also a little more than halfway done with draft one of my current novel which is a sort of sequel to The Tarot cipher. Kind of an adventure story, and halfway done which is good, it's progress, and it totally has to do with today's episode, which is all about doing the creative work that we are called to do, and how we can set up our lives, so that we can actually write and create and express ourselves and journal and meditate and create that sacred space really for this creative work that we want to do.

Today is really actually about doing the work actually creating and diving in and doing the thing. The idea of routines and creative routines doesn't feel very inspiring. It doesn't feel very creative, like the creative habit, it almost feels like an oxymoron or a paradox or something. But it's really for me, the best way to actually get the creative work done. And it might feel like productivity or pushing or some of these very sort of more businessy sounding terms but that's not really how I view it. Setting up a creative practice that is based on a routine and a habit is actually really giving ourselves space to create an honoring your call to create. It's saying that this thing that I want to do is so important that I'm going to prioritize it in my life in such a way that it becomes a habit. And that is how I think of soulful creativity. That is honoring your creative calling, not like, oh yeah I got inspired and I'm gonna do this thing. It's really making it a priority, making it a routine, making it a habit.

There are so many quotes out there and ideas that really reinforce this as well, Julia Cameron encourages readers to place this sign in your workplace, "Great creator I will take care of the quantity. You take care of the quality." And we can't take care of the quantity, unless we're actually creating a lot of work. One of my favorite non-fiction writers Malcolm Gladwell wrote a book called Outliers, and in that book he frequently mentioned, the 10,000 hour rule which basically means that to achieve mastery over a skill. You must devote a significant chunk of time to it again. You've got to create the work. You've got to have quantity in order to get quality and Steven pressfield in his book The War of Art, which is another one of my favorites all about overcoming creative resistance that we all face. He talks about resistance showing up as procrastination and fear. And we overcome this, by being a professional and showing up anyway.

So all of these creative teachers and leaders and people that are really doing a ton of creative work, they're showing up anyway. And I get it. This is often easier said than done right, which is why entire books exist about how to get through this resistance and do the work. There's a reason for all this attention on it, because when it comes to our creative work and actually sitting down and putting our ass in the chair and doing the work in spite of the resistance is hard. And so people are addressing it. It's much easier to talk about our idea for a novel or say, imagine our beautiful paintings and sketches, or scout out locations for photographs or learn how to use Photoshop or create an editorial calendar and plan the topics for all of those awesome blog posts that we're going to write, but actually never sitting down and writing or getting out the paint or canvas or paper or taking the photos doesn't get the creative work done right, like we can plan and plan and plan but unless we actually do the work, it doesn't happen. And it's fun to imagine it, because it's always perfect in our imaginations, and it can even give us sort of a feeling of completion. But it's not actually done it's, it's in imagination. But it's not actually done it's just in our heads. And that's kind of where the inspiration comes from too so we think oh I'm thinking about this I'm getting inspired I'm getting all of these ideas.

And we have this pervasive idea in Western culture around muses, and muses come from Greek mythology. There were nine of them. They were goddesses that were the goddesses of inspiration in Greek mythology, and they've come to sort of represent this side of inspiration, like the ancient Greeks would pray for the Muses to come visit them when they started their creative work even Homer opens the Odyssey, with an invocation to the Muse he wrote, "Oh Muse Tell me of that man of many ways who traveled far and wide after he sacked the sacred citadel of Troy. Start from some place. Oh goddess, daughter of Zeus and tell us." Homer did not own his own creative gifts in writing the Odyssey, and the Iliad, he gave all the credit to the Muse, and he sort of acted like a channel for the inspiration of the goddess to come through him, and many artists and writers, myself included have felt this feeling of ideas coming through us coming through creator source God whatever we call it. And when you get in that space of creative flow. Like you're just writing along and you write something and then like, Oh my god, where the heck did that come from. And then the next thought is, oh,okay, doesn't matter thank you and you keep just going in that flow state that's like this inspirational state, and we kind of have this idea of like, Oh, I can't do the work until I get into that state, but that's not really how it works.

You have to put your butt in the chair and start writing in order to get into that creative flow state. I've got on my blog, eight years of blog posts I started documenting my writing journey in 2012, I think. And so many of them document the ongoing struggle to produce creative work and to break through the resistance. And it's kind of funny to go through them because through the years I've dealt with the issues, similar issues over and over and how to get the work done. And it's also the same issues that those people I work with, deal with right. And it's the age old question, how do we get ideas out of our heads and hearts and set ourselves up for creative success. The Greeks thought it was the Muses. I'm going to say, you have to sit your butt in the chair and create a routine until it becomes a habit. And there's a lot of stuff that comes in the way of that right? Resistance and we can do some self coaching and use some tools to get there it's sort of the battle of inspiration versus a more mundane routine and creative habits. But in both my life experience as a writer, and as a woman who works with creatives, and in diving into a lot of the current research out there. It shows that the whole idea of waiting for inspiration to strike doesn't work, it doesn't get the work done routines and habits will get the things out of our head, far more effectively than sitting around and waiting for the Muses to bless us with inspiration. And I would even argue that setting up a routine and habit for your creative space is a sacred act that honors the inspiration. Right. It's the routine that will invoke the muse, not the other way around. The Muse won't invoke the writing, you've got to have the routine to invoke the muse.

It's, it's just sitting down and doing the. It's pretty much just setting up routine, doing the work. There are really seven steps to setting yourself up for creating a creative habit or creative routine. And the first step is actually a mindset shift to kind of address all of the things I've been talking about. So shifting your mindset that committing to setting up and embracing a routine is in fact, creative, and is honoring your creativity. Think about routines you have in your life when you have a strong habit or routine you don't even question it, you just do it you don't even think about it. For example, think about what you do, right before you go to bed. You probably wash your face, brush your teeth. You maybe read a little bit, you put your PJs on whatever it is that you do, and I would guess I would be willing to bet that it looks roughly the same every single night, and that it has for years, and you haven't thought about maybe I should alter my evening routine, unless you have of course.

Same thing with waking up I'm guessing that you've got a process that looks roughly the same every day right you get up, you go to the bathroom, you start the coffee, I feed the dogs, whatever it is. Tidy up while the coffee is is finishing up, grab my journal and then I have my morning writing a meditation prayer time, which leads into my creative time. It might vary a little bit. In the wintertime I build a fire, because it's freezing where I live. Or if my husband gets up before me and he feeds off starts coffee and builds a fire, I don't do those things. But I don't think aboutit. It just happens and committing to to making a creative routine that's the first step, and honoring that as a creative step. This is how using this routine that I just described is how I wrote my first three novels, while I was teaching full time while I had two teenagers living at home. I got up my alarm went off at 4:45 every day. I wrote, every day before work either wrote blog posts, or I worked on my novel. And when I quit working full time and moved to part time, so I would have more time to write. I started a business serving clients, and I turned off my alarm. And my writing slowed way down. And then when I quit teaching altogether. And I was working 100% from home serving clients full time my writing ground to a halt. Despite the fact that I left the classroom. So I have more time to write.

Why? Because I objected to the alarm clock thing I didn't want to get up at 4:45 and write that early if I didn't have to be at work at 7:15 in the morning. I got out of my writing routine. And I stopped writing which meant when I wanted to write it became harder and harder and harder to dive back in. I became a dabbler instead of a committed writer, even though I had quit my job, so I could become a committed writer, because I had left my routine behind.

What I have learned and what I would love to share with you is that if you really want to commit to your creative work. The first mindset shift is to stop dabbling, to own it, to commit to it, whatever that looks like until it becomes a habit. I have now reinstated my earlier habits and commitments and guess what I'm writing again on my fiction and it's so much easier just to get up and do it in the morning, do the work.

So step one is to explore and embrace the idea that a creative routine and habit is actually honoring your creativity, and it is one of the biggest keys that you will use or you can use to get your creative work done. Step two, then is to own it say it out loud, I am a writer and I write, I am a painter and I paint, I am a photographer and I take photos, whatever it is, whatever creative habit you want to cultivate, own it. Say it out loud, post it, look at it, see it. Because that's the whole point right of this creative, commitment, creating routine.

Step three is then to write a goal. Why are you committing to this routine? What do you want to get out of it? Do you want to write a novel? do you want to start a blog? Do you want to paint, draw, sketch, photograph for a show or to sell or do you want to just do it for yourself, for your own sacred practice, which is great too. If you're not sure what your idea will look like sit down with your journal and ask yourself questions. If choosing a project is a challenge that's actually resistance again right because here's all the questions, What if I choose the wrong one? What if it doesn't work? What if it's a waste of time? But know this you can choose again. You can change mind just choose. And you can choose more than one project right now and my morning creative time. I sometimes work on podcast episodes. Sometimes I work on a blog post. Sometimes, most often lately I've been working on my novel. I'm also playing with a nonfiction creativity kind of piece. So I have several projects I am allowed to work on in during this time, though right now the majority of it is devoted to my novel, because I really really want to get that project done. I am not allowed during this time to check my email, to look at social media, any of that. This is creative time at a sacred creative time. So set the goal right my goal, my creative goals are to finish my novel, continue with my podcast for at least a full year right so I have 50, no 27 more episodes to go. Those are my two big creative projects that I want to that I want to do.

Step four, create a concrete plan for yourself that you will commit to. Remember step one, you're committing to a routine. So this step then is to create a plan. So we have the dream. I want to, you know, you have this vague dream this calling this creative calling to be an artist, then you have a goal. Right, which is I want to write your novel, paint, you know, X number of pictures, whatever it is. Step four is to create a concrete plan for yourself that you will commit to. And I would say 40 days, 40 days is a good number, it's long enough for you to get in the habit. And it's also like kind of a biblical number like Jesus was in the desert for 40 days it rained on Noah for 40 days and 40 nights like just a good number. So for me it looks like this the alarm goes off at either five or 5:45 somewhere in there I get up a coffee feed the dogs, grab my journal, do my soul writing to clear out my brain of all the things. And then I write, either a blog, a podcast or a chapter in the novel. I've currently been shooting for about 1500 words a day, every single week day before I do any other work. And this happens in my PJs on the couch with my coffee. Sometimes I write by hand and type it up sometimes I don't make the 1500 but I get some research done and sometimes I write more than that. I have lots of other creative projects that I do too. But right now, writing is my focus so writing is what takes time in the morning. Okay in the evening I might sit and do some hand work on a quilt or, or a smash book page or something. As you're listening to this as you're listening to my routine. Did any objections come up for you?

Were you thinking, I don't have time for that, that's too early, I have little kids, I can't get up that early. I have to go to work, totally get it. That's resistance, talking it's already saying, No, you can't do this. You can't do this. Note that note, like, take a sec right now, jot it down. Anything that came up as I was sharing my morning routine with you, or as I've been talking about this, all the things that your inner critic has been saying about not being able to do this thing. As you're setting up your routine, I want you to think about, when will you do your work? Will it be daily? Will it be every other day? Will you do it in the morning, the afternoon, the evening? A little caveat here. Research has shown that willpower and our cognitive abilities get lower throughout the day as we get tired. Willpower actually uses glucose in your brain, which lowers throughout the day. So if you're going to be relying on willpower to make this routine a habit, I encourage you to do it first thing in the morning.

Think also about how long you will work, will you work until you've got a certain amount of done like 1500 words or will you work for one hour, or will you do like the Pomodoro method where you work for 25 minutes take a five minute break work for 25 minutes take a five minute break. Play with it. Do what works for you. And then how many days and weeks we absolutely commit to this plan? As I said earlier, I recommend at least 40. And how will you get through it when you get stuck? Even if you sit there and stare at the blank page for an hour and write the affirmation I am a brilliant and prolific writer 40 times for 20 minutes, whatever. Yes, I have done that, how many days will you do this, how many days are going to commit to. Next, I would say, set a deadline for yourself off in the future of whatever this goal is so if you have a creative goal. Give yourself a little self imposed deadline so when will you have your book drafted your art created. And I get it, this sounds very uncreative, right. This is very structured, but we have to create structure to allow for the creative play. It's like a playground, right, we put out the swing sets and the toys and the fence. The tools if you will for the play to happen. And then when we go on to the playground it clues our psyche in. Oh, now's the time to play. Same thing with your creative work, you set yourself up you get there and then when you sit in the chair your couch or wherever you do this work, your brains like, oh, okay, yeah now time to write, now it's time to paint, now you get in your studio or wherever.

Next step, so you've got your plan. How are you gonna work? What's this gonna look like every day? I want you to seal the deal. Write down your plan, and if you use the planner put it in there. And then I want you to go to your journal and describe the benefits of creating this habit. What will it do for you and your creative life? Be as specific as you can. What are the benefits? We get a book done. You'll feel super satisfied. You can strengthen your connection with your creative soul. That idea that you've had in your head since you were a teenager. You're finally going to get it out. You can play with a new medium, you can, whatever it is, what are the benefits of this? Be as specific as you can write them out and post it where you can see it. Okay, we're almost there.

Step six. Hire yourself as your own creativity coach to address the resistance, that will come up. So when you hit resistance, which is all the things that I've talked about all the reasons you can't do this. Take it to the page, ask the questions and find the answers. Admit it on the page I'm not writing my novel, I'm not doing the work why not? What am I not seeing? What is keeping me from this? Keep the conversation going. And repeat as needed and soon enough like once you write on the page as many times, why am I not doing this, you will get sick of yourself. You'll see the whining, the excuses the resistance for what it is, which is really like the fear of failure, the fear of not doing it right, the fear of being judged, the fear of sharing the fear of spending all this time on something that might not work anyway, the fear of fill in the blank. And then you can step past them and you can say okay fear. I see you, I recognize you. But you're not you're not driving the ship anymore, get in the back. I'm in charge.

And finally Step seven set up some accountability for yourself. This might be I already gave you some accountability strategies in this podcast right, write it down in your planner post the benefits, post your goals where you can see them hold yourself accountable. It might also be external. And this is when you get a partner, a coach or a group where you share your goals and your plan on a daily or weekly basis. In Episode 26 I talked about the value of idea partnerships and they can be a great source for some accountability, you can hire a coach you can hold yourself accountable, tell your partner. This is what I'm doing. Help me, help me be accountable to this, if you could just ask me every night, What did I get done. And and have your partner help you, without or your best friend whoever it is, it's that important. Whatever it takes to help hold you accountable set that up for yourself. Then, keep going, get this work done your creative work done, it is sacred work if you've got the ideas if you've got the inspiration if you've had the calling to create the thing from somewhere, you're meant to do it.

So let's review. Seven Steps to a successful creative routine, embrace a boring old routine, in order to establish a creative habit as the best thing you can do for your creative self and to creatively express yourself to own it say it out loud. I'm a writer I'm a whatever write it down post it somewhere shout that shit out like let the world know you're doing this thing.

Set the goal, what is the goal, what do you want to achieve with this habit that you're creating, and your habit can just be maybe. Explore your creativity. That's awesome. Do that. Step Four create your plan, when, where, what time how long, what are you going to do during this creative sacred time. Five seal the deal, put your plan in your planner, posts the benefits of having a regular habitual creative practice. And what that will do for you and post it where you can see it. Six hire yourself or coach to help you get through the resistance that will come up and you can get through it on your own. And number seven set up some accountability for yourself, again, with yourself with a partner with a coach with whatever it is to hold yourself accountable. Once you do this practice for 40 days. And then 60 days, 70 days, 80 days. It's a habit and you don't have to think about it anymore. It just becomes part of who you are. And that's the gift. That's the gift in all of this. Starting the day with my journal, and some deep soul writing some sacred time with myself, is the best way I know to kickstart my creative practice every day. It's the best way I know to kickstart my life every day.

I encourage you to dive into morning pages, deep soul writing this week I'm actually starting a songwriting workshop to teach how to do this. It is foundational for my own spiritual creative practice. If you're interested in that you can head over to Amyisaman.com/soulwriting and check it out. We start today Wednesday May 13 at 6pm. Pacific time. If you're listening to this afterwards and you're thinking, Oh, I wish I would have done that you can still sign up through Friday May 15 at noon and catch the recording of the first session and just join us on the last two sessions. And if you are creating Be sure to share your creations on Instagram. Shout it out that's the shout outs, that right, tag me @amyisamancreative and use the dear creativity hashtag and I will check out what you're doing. And that's it.

Have a great week set up some creative routines, allow your life to hold space for you to create and I will be back next Wednesday with another episode.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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