Output (Creative Work) + Input (Nourish Creativity & Skills) + Community Building = Creative Practice
In the first of 3 posts I’m going to look at Input – the things you do as a creative person to feed your creative well, to nourish your creativity.
Gather with Purpose: nourish your creativity & skills
My personal experience is that it’s relatively easy to invest time in the output and community elements of my practice but the input element often gets demoted or ignored. But as I’ve learned over the years you cannot do truly great creative work without feeding yourself creatively. You must feed the well to have inspiration and ideas, to maintain motivation and energy for your work.
Feeding the well does not mean spending time on Instagram and social media looking at the work of others. It does not mean spending time watching rubbish telly or idly flicking through magazines (no matter how entertaining or sector-appropriate). Feeding the well is about being selective. It is nourishing, inspirational, challenging, relevant and intentional. It doesn’t matter where you go to get your nourishment – I’m not here to tell you which sources of inspiration will work best for you – what is important is that you give it the prime time it deserves, that you deserve. That’s why I’ve chosen to talk about this element first. In my opinion it is the bedrock of your practice, everything else stems from this.
It can be tricky, especially if you’ve not been making much time for this for a while, to get back into the swing of nourishing yourself creatively. We feel like we don’t really need it, that we get along just fine. But, this survival mode only works for so long before we start to feel stuck or fatigued. Here are some ways to reclaim the things that give you joy:
First, identify what inspires you and what gets your imagination going. What activities give you the opportunities to see things in a different way, or to occupy a space where you can think clearly? What places do you find inspiring, where do you feel relaxed or expansive? What events do you love to go to, that leave you feeling excited for your own work or for new ideas? What sources of inspiration work best for you? Do you like to visit museums or exhibitions? Do you love to watch films or television? Do you enjoy music? Do you find reading (whether escaping into fiction or learning through non-fiction) opens up new ideas? What is it that works for you?
Now you’ve identified the things that work best for you, start to think about how you can do these things more regularly. How to make doing these things a regular habit or something you do without thinking about it.
- What is it that stops you from doing them?
- Where is the resistance?
- Which things do you find it easy to do?
- Why is that?
Take some time to really think about why you do/don’t do these activities. Notice the things that feel easy to do, that you can always find time to do. What makes it easy? How about the things you don’t do? Do you put off these nourishing activities because you don’t have time? When we have limited time available we tend to focus on the things that seem urgent as well as important (like paid work, commissions etc) and push the important but not urgent things to the side. It’s so easy for this to become your habit and for weeks to go by without attending to your creativity. Maybe there are issues to do with how you feel about these activities? Does doing them make you feel uncomfortable? Perhaps it feels like a waste of time or indulgent, especially when there are so many other things you could be doing. Or perhaps, because you have got out of the habit of doing these nourishing things, they actually feel a bit scary? The thought of doing them makes you a bit anxious? Whatever the source of resistance for you, is there something you could do to help? Something you can do to make it easy for you to take a bit of time to do something for your creativity?
Things that might work for you:
- Schedule a specific time next week to do a nourishing creative activity and stick to it
- Ask a friend to join you – be accountable – it’s harder to put off when other people are involved
- Or sign up to a class where you have to be there and other people expect you to be there
- Promise yourself you only have to do it for a short amount of time and can stop any time after that (it’s often the starting that’s the hardest)
- Try tacking it onto an activity you are already doing – if you are out for a meeting or for some errands can you pop into a gallery or go for a walk after? Could you read for half an hour before bed or first thing in the morning? Could you listen to music or a podcast while you’re doing boring tasks in your office/studio/workshop?
If it sounds like these things are obvious and simple that’s because they are. But just because they’re simple it doesn’t mean they are easy to do. Spending time on ourselves, which is what this input/nourishing really comes down to, is hard to do. We can see the results of working on our craft, we can tell if we are connecting with our communities, but we don’t see how important and vital taking time for your creativity is until it’s too late.
What can you do today to nourish your creativity? Even just for 10 minutes? Give it a go!