Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Sean Platt of Writer Dad.
It doesn’t matter whether you are an architect, gardener, or bus driver, everyone has the ability to find the distinct beauty embedded deep inside their daily grind. The problem isn’t capturing our creativity, as individual inspiration is a steady pulse that beats within us all. The problem is keeping those embers hot once we have them in our grasp.
Keeping the flames of our creativity close to an inferno takes decisive commitment. Fire dies without tinder, so will creativity collapse to ash without the needed fuel. Coaxing our creative core requires listening to the quiet whisper of instinct, trusting the honor of its voice, and then doing everything you can to bargain, cajole, or trick yourself into following its advice to the letter.
The start of any project is often the most difficult as the rewards are slow to arrive. Yet taming the creative beast is well worth the best of your patience. You will eventually reach the tipping point where your brain can function with automaticity and your every action is but an extension of breath.
No one builds a cabinet by bare hands alone. To craft the most from your creativity, you must have your best toolbox always on hand. Individual methods are as different as the people wielding them. I could never hope to speak for everyone, but here are a few of the things that always work for me.
Find your rhythm
Your body knows when it’s time to eat, sleep, and regulate. Your mind knows when it is most creative. If you have the flexibility in your day to maintain a schedule, then finding an internal beat and sticking to it might offer your creativity the most motion. Me, I prefer late morning through early afternoon. When the sun is sitting high in the center of the sky, my mind is then mostly prize and very little cracker jack. When I have to work late in the evening, I am resentful. My mind is slower and my effort belabored. This internal reaction is as steady as the sunrise and I do everything I can to adjust my workload accordingly.
Build yourself a studio
This is easier than it sounds. Your studio can consist of a well lit corner in a 400 square foot apartment. The trick is to train your thought to traffic its creativity in the same neighborhood each and every day. If you use a particular area to be creative on a consistent basis, your mind will have a natural stimulus every time it’s near.
Use a quality toolbox
Your tools don’t have to be top of the line, but they do have to work for you. From the computer on your desk to the ink in your pen, using materials that do not infuse efficiency into your day will only slow you down. Set aside time, again on a consistent basis, to experiment with the various tools that will help you build the box that’s best for you.
Picture the milestones leading to the finish line
It isn’t enough to imagine how nice it will be when your project is complete. You must articulate the steps you need to move from A to B. Not only is this necessary to arriving at the finish line, it’s fundamental to the motivation needed to endure a daunting task. By building reward for yourself, you are fueling the engine that gets things done. As you pass those benchmarks along the way, you will have all the motivation you need to keep going. It is easy to keep rambling down the road when you’re driving toward sunset and leaving the big empty behind, but it’s important to evaluate your environment along the way. Maybe you didn’t get what you had hoped to get done. Sharpen your focus and go at it again. If you are happy with how much you’ve grown, congratulations, keep on doing what you’re doing. Either way, you’ve covered distance and now know the road a little better.
Keep twisting the Rubik’s Cube
Don’t give up. Difficult tasks are there for a reason. They force our brain to invent solutions. This is what makes us human. It might be necessary to set something aside for a while, but you must never abandon a task entirely, because you feel frustrated. Every problem you solve will sharpen your confidence, enhance your intelligence, and build on the overall body of your finished work.
Everybody’s creative process is different. My wife and I share few specific habits, you and I probably share even less, but the best tip is universal. Pay attention to what you’re doing. Never be content to do something just because it’s the way you did it yesterday. We’re meant to evolve, there’s no reason we can’t do it on a daily basis.