Creatives thrive on routine.
Sounds a bit strange, doesn’t it? Planning something in advance seems to almost negate everything we know about creative surges of inspiration and how they arrive: usually, we perceive, they come from some external stimulus that engages us at random intervals throughout the month, week or day if we’re lucky. While all that might be true, relying on these inspirational surges means you aren’t proactively taking steps to ensure you are finding the time to be creative every day, and as a result time spent on creative acts usually diminishes as you automatically (and understandably) prioritise other areas of your life. But what if you could do both? What if you could find a way to focus on all the must-do tasks and still have time for creativity? That’s where a daily creative ritual comes in.
"To get the creative habit, you need a working environment that's habit-forming. All preferred working states, no matter how eccentric, have one thing in common: when you enter into them, they compel you to get started."
What is a ritual?
In the traditional sense, a ritual involves words, signs and actions characteristic of a specific ceremony. It is, then, a celebratory act, and it is this notion of honouring something of importance that you should bring to whatever creative ritual you observe.
Why should it be daily?
Ritual also implies regularity; something that you choose to carry out at set intervals. If contemplating the idea of fitting a daily creative ritual into your life seems overwhelming, then start with only certain days, or maybe even just once a week. There are no hard and fast rules here, though I have found that if you develop a daily ritual it will evolve into a habit much quicker than something more sporadic. Today’s post suggests ideas for what to include in your ritual, when to schedule it into your day and how to turn it into a habit.
What should be included?
This is where the fun begins, because creative rituals are all about you. There isn’t just one ritual that everyone should follow; creativity is, in its essence, a personal act in which character, values, your environment and those residing in it all combine to produce something unique. If you’re anything like me, though, something like the following could work for you.
My Daily Creative Ritual
- 6am. I like to start early.
- A cup of rosehip tea sipped slowly outside.
- Deep breaths to take in the morning air and scents of the seasons. I listen carefully for the sounds all around me and really try to place myself in that moment.
- Read something inspirational. This could be a blog post, a quotation or an extract from a favourite book. Sometimes I might even listen to something instead, like a podcast for example. It just needs to be something to get my brain in gear.
- Write something. This could be as simple as a thought in my journal, or a response to a writing prompt. It could be a list of spiralled thoughts, ideas and inspiration for the day ahead. Often it isn’t particularly long, or noteworthy, but it’s a chance for me to get everything down on paper that I can come back to later if necessary.
For some of you, this might seem achievable, and I’m looking at those of you that don’t dread or snooze your morning alarms. Your creative ritual doesn’t have to be this early though. You might find that just before bed works better for you so that you can clear your thoughts to ensure a restful night’s sleep. Or you might feel at your most productive just after lunch and find that this is the easiest time to steal a few minutes for yourself from your day. What I’m trying to say is that it doesn’t matter when your creative ritual occurs, it just matters that it exists.
In terms of specifics to include, I would recommend starting your ritual with a few moments of reflection. This could be a meditation exercise or you could choose to simply focus on your breathing (there are a few tips for this in the bonus resource at the end of the post). If you’re going to get creative then you need to switch off all the external distractions that can normally prevent you from focusing, and for me mindful breathing is the easiest way to achieve this.
Follow this with something inspirational. It’s no coincidence that creatives usually love to read, listen, and take in as much knowledge as they possibly can: it is provocation for our own creative acts. Again, this will work differently for everyone, but finding a blog that always leaves you wanting more, or a book that you keep returning to, is often a good indication of where you’ll find your muse.
It’s at this point (quite far down in our creative ritual!) that you’ll actually get to creating something. You could choose to use this time for bouncing ideas around for new projects, or writing those words you’ve been struggling with. Alternatively, it could provide you with an introduce to a whole chunk of creative time that you’ve set aside but that you know can be difficult to actually get going with. If you’re a crafter or illustrator you could work on a new design, if you’re a writer plan out a new post or chapter of your book, or if you’re a photographer you could edit some images: I find that by following the initial steps of the creative ritual I can achieve pretty much anything I set my mind to, so make sure you use this time wisely.
How long should my ritual be?
It’s also important to remember that your ritual can be as long or as short as you like. I don't have a great deal of time in the mornings, so from start to finish my ritual can be completed in as little as half an hour. Of course, if I find myself with more time I try to elongate the final section of the ritual so that I can create for longer, but I find that if I skip any of the preceding steps then creativity is not forthcoming.
Eleanor is obsessed with stories. She writes for a number of online spaces including This is Your Kingdom, edits Creative Countryside, curates #aseasonalyear and teaches at Chalk House. In addition, she is currently studying for an MA in Creative Non-Fiction Writing. You'll find her roving the fields of the Lincolnshire Wolds or planning her next rural adventure.