Every new year I think to myself, this year I will be more creative. For me that means, I want to spend more of my time creating things, trying out new things, and spending more time outside of my comfort zone. Some years are more successful than others. I had a knitting year and now I have more looms sitting in my attic than I dare admit. I’ve had jewelry years. Everything from beads to precious metal clay. (This year might be the year I fire the mini kiln back up.) My attic is filled with boxes of various art supplies from photo transfer paper, to rubber stamps, to paints and brushes, to fabric, to clay to photos of every size and shape. Each box contains remanents of my many creative endeavors. To be honest, it’s kind of my happy place. Every year I try to add more creativity to my life. It really doesn’t matter if I stuck with the medium or not. What matters is that I created something.
Some years I manage a small project or two. At least that is something. Then there are the years when I feel the creativity flow. These years are awesome. These are the years that I made creativity a priority.
Looking back at my efforts to be creative, there have been strategies that have helped me grow creatively. Here are my five strategies for having a creative year.
Let’s take a closer look at each one.
1. Join a weekly or daily challenge
I love challenges. There is something about the goal of doing something every day or every week that I find very motivating. It is also incredibly rewarding at the end of the challenge to look back at what you have accomplished.
Joining a creative challenge is one way to add accountability to your creativity goal. Most challenges give you a prompt or theme for each day, week, or month of the challenge. This can be super helpful if you are trying to overcome a creative block. The prompt will give you focus and a starting point.
One of my all-time favorite challenges is the Photo A Day Challenge by blogger FatMumSlim. January 2018 kicks off her 6th year of providing daily prompts. Millions, yes millions, of people around the world use her prompts as inspiration for daily photographs.
My first year of doing the Photo A Day was 2012. Each day, I would look and the prompt start thinking about how I would interpret it. The prompt was always in the back of my mind and I was tossing around different compositions. Some days the prompts were easy and I knew exactly what to shoot, while other days took a lot of thought. It was fun to always have this creative problem churning in the back of my head.
To my own surprise, I made it the whole year. Not only was I proud to say that I actually did something creative every day for a whole year, I had a fantastic record of 2012. I took pictures of things I never would have photographed. Simple everyday moments and things captured in new and interesting ways.
I did it again in 2014 and 2016 and planning on starting again for 2018. (I have found that taking a break year after doing an entire year of pictures was helpful to prevent burnout.) It has been interesting to look back at these three sets of 365 images to learn about who I am as a photographer and how my techniques have changed over time. I apparently really like clouds.
I learned so much about myself through this challenge, that I’ve incorporated it into my visual literacy and media literacy courses. It seems to be a class favorite.
Not ready for an entire year? Try it for a month and see what happens.
Not ready for a daily photo challenge? Check out this 52 week photo challenge by Dogwood Photography. I gave it a try last year. It was a great way for me to work on improving my photography skills. However, I was not able to make it past the first three months. I found a weekly challenge harder than a daily challenge. Might give it another shot this year.
Is photography not your thing? Here are a few other creative challenges you could try.
- Illustration Friday – A weekly art challenge.
- 750 Word a Day – A daily writing challenge.
- 15 Minute a Day Art Challenge
- Daily Knitting Challenge
- 30 Day Level Up! Challenge – Choose your own challenge by Coaching for Geeks. They did it in 2017 and might do it again. If they do, do it!! I wrote about my experience with this challenge on a past post – Level Up! What I Learned Doing a 30 Day Challenge.
Pick your favorite creative outlet (or one you want to learn) and I’ll bet you my favorite seed beads that there is a challenge for it.
2. Find your creative peeps
If you want to be more creative, surround yourself with creative people. They don’t have to be into the same thing you are into, they just have to see creativity as a part of their lives. These communities of people who are also engaged in creative pursuits become your accountability friends. You share with each other, learn from each other, and encourage each other on those days when creativity is eluding you. When you surround yourself with people who have also made creativity a priority, they get you and why you are doing what you are doing because they are doing it too.
One of the reasons I like the challenges listed above is because of the communities that come with them. The Dogwood Photography, Photo A Day, and Coaching for Geeks communities are all super supportive. Got a photography question? Post it in the facebook group and someone will answer. Want help with being accountable, Coaching for Geeks has your back.
Whether your community is IRL, virtual, or both, it helps to have people around you who can help you be your most creative self. People who are not afraid to nudge you when you need a nudge, critique you to help you grow, and celebrate your achievements even if it is as simple as taking one photograph for the day.
3. Share your creativity
Creativity is best when shared. It is perfectly fine to create something just for yourself. Go for it. However, something magical happens when you share your creativity with others. For example, the best part of the Photo A Day Challenge for me is posting my image on social media. At first, I only shared it with my Facebook friends. In 2016 I started sharing it with the larger Photo A Day community using the hashtags and groups. It was amazing to see how people from all over the world interpreted the prompts differently. Conversations were started around images. We learned from each other and about each other through our creative works.
When you share your creativity, you share a bit of yourself. Sometimes, it is a piece of yourself that people don’t usually see. It can be scary to put yourself out there. What if people don’t like it? What if it’s dumb? Those are scary questions. But, what if they like it? What if they want to talk about it? What if they want to help you get better? YOu’ll never know if you don’t share it.
I’m not saying that everything you do should be shared far and wide with everyone. Start with one trusted person. Maybe share it with your community.
4. Schedule time for creativity
I wish I could say that it is easy to be creative. But, it is not. Our lives can be so busy that we feel there is no time for making something or writing something. Well, then make time.
Yes, we are all busy, but we can spare a few minutes to flex our creative muscles. Look at the 15 minute art challenge. Who can’t find 15 minutes a day to do something creative?
Put an appointment on your calendar that is your time to create. You schedule time for things that aren’t fun like dentist appointments and project meetings. Why not schedule time for something fun that helps you grow. Just do it. Schedule it now. Go ahead. I’ll wait… Oh, make sure it is a recurring appointment. If you do it regularly, it becomes a habit.
Still struggling to find the time? Turn to your community. They can help you find the time, make it a priority, and remind you to follow through. Your community is there to help you. Let them.
5. Leave judgment at the door
If there is one thing we as humans excel at it is judging. The person we tend to judge the hardest is our self.
Every time I start a creative project there is a good chance that it will not turn out as expected. The sunset does not look as good in camera as it does in person. The necklace is ugly. The hat fits funny. The blog post makes no sense. It happens. Mistakes happen. Bad art happens. That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy making it.
I know people who will not start any project unless they know that the end product will be perfect. Where’s the fun in that?
Creativity is about the process of creating. Thinking about things differently. Trying out ideas. Making mistakes. Trying something else.
Sometimes the mistakes can be the best part. I mean have you seen the spectacular Pinterest Fails?
Stop being so hard on yourself and just create. You can’t be creative if you don’t start.
So, make 2018 your most creative year yet.