85 - Creative Habits. Creative Rituals.


Hello and welcome to the 85th episode of The Spark & The Art creativity podcast. Thank you for subscribing to our weekly podcast, where we alternate between interviews with creative folks from all different career levels and insight and inspiration episodes. All with the intention you’ll get the inspiration you need to get your creative projects started and, more importantly, finished.

I’m your host Tucker and this week is insight and inspiration and we’re going to talk about Creative Habits and Creative Rituals.  

Habits happen without us really knowing. The develop without us really paying attention. As laid out in the book The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg the three parts of a habit are Cue. Routine. Reward or Reminder, Routine, Reward is another way I’ve heard it stated and may be easier to remember because it’s three Rs. I don’t really like ‘reminder’ though because it implies that you might go "Oh Yeah, I have to bite my nails now” or “Whew, I’m glad I was reminded to eat this cookie after lunch ‘cause I almost forgot.”  So, Cue. Habit. Reward it is. 

Habits form from doing something over and over again. When you get to the store and you don’t remember driving but you’re not dead? That’s habit. All the signalling to change lanes and breaking to not hit the car in front of you and stopping at traffic lights happened automatically. Little  cues triggered little routines that gave the reward. You didn’t die. You didn’t hit anyone. No one honked or gave you the finger. 

Creative habits then come from doing your creative work over and over. Getting into the zone and letting your brush slide over the canvas and when you step back you wonder who painted that. When your done your word count for the day and you’re tired and you know what happened in the story but how did it get to be 3:00 already? This is the habit of your creativity. This is the habit of your work. When you get into this flow state it’s a great dragon to chase. 

How then do you get to that state. I’ll be honest it doesn’t happen every time. Sometimes you have to force yourself to sit down and do something, anything and when you’re done you’re exhausted from the effort. But we can certainly help that flow-dragon appear and we do that with a summoning ritual. 

Rituals are very thoughtful and purposeful steps to create a moment. Kids' bedtime is a ritual. In our house (my kids are 7 & 5) at 7:30 we get on PJs and brush teeth. After that each kid chooses two stories and after they’ve been read we sing four songs. The same four songs each night. Twinkle Twinkle, The Blanket Show (a lullaby I wrote), Rock-a-bye Baby and Hush by the band Jellyfish. If they aren’t all snuggled in and yawning by then they just read books and are usually asleep by 8:30 at the latest. Ritual. 

In the book The War Of Art. Steven Pressfield describes his ritual. I’ll paraphrase but if you haven’t read the book you should. Like REALLY SHOULD read the book. His ritual is this: He sits in the same chair, in the same office, at the same time everyday. On his desk are his various lucky knick-knacks from different people and places important to him. One of which is a model cannon that he points at himself so it can fire inspiration into him while he works. Then he recites, like a prayer, The Invocation of the Muse from the Homer’s Odyssey to ask for inspiration, from wherever it happens to come from, and then starts writing.

Just like my kids brains know it’s time for sleeping Steven’s brain knows it’s time to create. 

My ritual is that after my kids are in bed I hangout with the wife and we talk about how great the kids are and how frustrating the kids are and how lucky we are to have the life we have and how frustrating our life is. Then we watch a show or two and I give her a kiss and head down stairs to my little office and I start doing my thing. 

Now a ritual doesn’t have to be this big crazy thing. It could be as simple as making a cup of tea before sitting down to the computer. It could be opening your sketchbook, setting out a couple favourite pencils and doing a couple quick blind contours of the cat. It just needs to be a couple minutes and it needs to be very similar each time. Prime that brain and let it know what it it’s getting ready to do. 

Summoning the dragon requires a ritual but once it’s there you need to let it's dragony habits and instincts do what they need to do.

Here’s where you get to do some thinking

  • Do you have a certain time and place where you do your creative work
  • Do you not do work because you 'don’t quite feel like it’?
  • When would be a good time for you to work on your project? 
  • If you don’t have one is there a way you can add a small ritual to the beginning of your project time? 

If you enjoyed this episode and you know someone who could use a little help summoning their creative dragon. I really don’t know where this summoning of dragons thing came from I’ve never used this metaphor before. Anyway, it would be great if you could share this with your friend. The easiest way is to send the short URL TheSparkAndTheArt.com/85

Habits and rituals are a pretty big topic to be tackled in a short podcast so if there’s anything you wished I’d talked about or explained better let me know on twitter @SparkArtPodcast. And you know what I haven’t mentioned my toll-free number for quite a while. If you’d like to leave your name website address if you have one and your question/comment you can do so at 1-877-966-4886. I also accept animal impressions there so I can either answer your question in an upcoming episode or I can play your awesome horse whinnie or dog bark, it’s up to you. You know what do both and then there’s no deciding for you. 

This it for this week. Thanks for listening and remember: you won’t get the art without the work and you won’t do the work without the spark.