The free training is here!
So when I asked on twitter what you guys wanted to learn about, the answer was loud and clear - better creative habits. :)
And it's totally normal for us all to want that seeing as creatives aren't famous for being super productive, how, are we? What we are famous about is being moody and cutting our ears off. Or becoming alcoholics.
If you think about it, creativity can drive some people to madness, but it can also drive other people to success. I believe it's a choice, in the end.
So today I am answering your request and digging into your creative habits.
We'll discuss how habits work, where to find the answers we are looking for, how to dig deeper to the root cause instead of just treating the symptom, and finally, discuss something I like to call a tipping (or avalanche) habit.
At the end of the article, you'll also be able to sign up for the training!
Are you ready to turn your bad creative habits into better ones?
Yaaaaaaaasss, let's do thissssssssssssss.
1. How habits work.
Habits account for most of our time.
It’s just easier for your brain to go with what it already knows for most of your day, and only when it's really necessary/beneficial will it stop, evaluate, and take risks and get out of its comfort zone.
This means that the only way to make progress is to evaluate what's working and what's not, and to make sure that nothing is holding you back from making progress and achieving your creative goals.
And you and I both know, there are many questionable habits that we accidentally or intentionally develop that stand between where we are now and where we want to be ultimately, including:
- Getting distracted easily
- Putting it off until the last minute
- Trying to make it perfect
- Yielding to creative resistance
- Overthinking, overplanning, overcomplicating
- Waiting for something/someone to give you permission
- Not distinguishing between important and unimportant tasks
- Starting new ideas before finishing old ones
- Not asking anyone for feedback
- Not asking for help when you need it
- Trying to control the creative process too much
- Allowing resistance to stop you from creating
- Not putting yourself “out there”
- Comparing your work with others’
- Asking for feedback too early
- Taking criticism personally
I bet you can relate with some of those, or even all, can’t ya?
We all know how frustrating it is to be doing something all the time and feel like you can’t get out of it. But listen--
Habits are easier to break out of than you think.
To understand how that works, let’s look at their structure.
A habit is a loop that goes between a Cue, a Routine, and a Reward. The same elements are also sometimes called trigger, response, and reward. Here's a visual representation of that process (called a "habit loop"):
The above illustration is from the brilliant book, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, who has studied how habits can be changed and the results that would have in personal and corporation environments alike. After reading it I could never look at habits the same way again, and I never really felt stuck either.
So the habit loop is a really simple process:
- First you get the cue, which launches you in a specific behavior
- Then you respond by doing your routine, or what you always do
- Finally you get your reward, or the feeling of satisfaction at the end of your routine. And you get it every single time after you do the routine. No wonder you don't want to stop doing what you always do!
Now, here's the thing...
Sometimes the cue is psycical (like, your stomch growls, so you eat, or you do whatever it is you do to keep your diet), but most of the time the cue is an emotional trigger like boredom, overwhelm, or anxiety.
For example, you may feel overwhelmed by the approaching deadline for your book and your response is to engage in procrastination, which makes you distracted and therefore calm for a while. But as you know, it makes matters worse because the more you put something off, the more anxious you become. It's a vicious circle, one that you need to break out of, eventually.
And here's where it gets interesting:
That's good news because creating completely new habits is exhausting and most of the time it’s ineffective. But when you already have a loop in action, you can simply utilize it to change your habit from “bad” to better.
You already have the habit of surfing Youtube when you get bored. And you don’t like it because you end up watching cat videos for hours. What if, instead of going to Youtube, you opened TED or grabbed your Kindle? You could end up getting a real rest or getting inspired and motivated, and that inspiration and motivation will make what you create all the more brilliant.
Obviously, it takes time and effort to make sure the habit sticks, and we can’t just change all of our habits at once (when each habit takes 30 days to stick), but if you just start with one simple replacement of a really bad routine with a better one, that’s doable! You can do it today even!
- Think of a particularly bad habit you have.
- Ask yourself, What is the feeling I get before I do this? (the cue)
- Ask yourself, What would I rather do in response to this cue, instead of doing what I’ve always done? (the routine)
- Your answer is your better routine, and therefore your better habit!
- Replace your old routine with the new one as often as you can (for example, when you catch yourself feeling the cue, remind yourself of the new routine OR when you catch yourself doing the old routine, stop and remind yourself of the new one, and then try to do it instead).
- The more you repeat the new one, the easier it will be.
2. Your beliefs aren't helping.
I'm talking about your limiting beliefs.
You’ve heard about those, right? They’re the stories we tell ourselves, the narratives running inside our heads, the voices that tell us what we can and can't do, and they're more often than not, WRONG.
You see, they mean well. You formed them when you really needed to protect yourself, but later when the threat was over you kept them! And even though they are no longer serving you, but actually limiting your capabilities and your potential, your brain clings to them because they've helped you in the past.
But you have to see what they really are.
They're stories that hold you back from making progress, creating more joyfully, and getting the things you want.
And there are so many limiting beliefs in the creative world!
Some of them you won’t even think are limiting until someone points them out to you and some others you'll really want to cling to, even though you know they're bad for you. (It's called a comfort zone.)
Let’s just look at one of the most damaging ones for now, to try and understand why you’re at the impasse where you have found yourself.
Limiting Belief #1: "I’m only creative when…"
This is extremely common among creative folk.
Any way you finish that sentence, it is a limiting belief…
- I’m only creative when I’m inspired.
- I'm only creative when I have had a nice sleep.
- I’m only creative when it’s November and I have had my ears cleaned out.
- I’m only creative when my favorite team has won.
If you ask me, it’s not just some, they are all ridiculous!
The idea that you would tie your creativity to anything outside of yourself is outrageous, and that you would make it dependent like that. You’re basically tying your creativity to this pole – like a dog – and saying, I’ll only walk you at these times of the year when these conditions are met. Understand?
Ughh – NO!
If you do that and I’m your creativity, I’ll vamoose and never come when you beckon. Seriously.
What would happen if instead, you told yourself your creativity was limitless? What would happen if you told yourself that your creativity depended on you showing up every day, not waiting for your Muse to grace you with its flaky presence? Why not starting a daily practice of showing up and creating!
When I started writing every day, it was awkward at first, and my old limiting beliefs were creating resistance, but in a few days there was no resistance, just flow. And my craft was getting better because of all the practice.
Now every time I write, it flows. Whatever mood I’m in.
This is what all professional creatives KNOW:
When it becomes a habit, what you create will not be dependent on mood or weather or anything. It's not going to be a dog tied on a pole.
And that way, you also show your creativity the respect it deserves!
Because when you show every day, your Muse will start to show regularly, too. Because the way you treat your creativity is the way it treats you. Period.
It can’t be all fun and play, you're not a kid anymore. You have a responsibility toward your craft, so MAN (or woman) UP and SHOW UP.
Start a daily project. Or just create daily.
And make it simple, so you can follow through.
3. don't go against your nature.
Now we’re going to talk about something most people miss:
The point of better creative habits is not to make something up and make it stick so you can win. The point is to build on your Natural Ways, as they are what holds the key to flow, to better habits, and ultimately success.
So many people say things like:
- “I don’t have many talents, so I’ll just get a job like everybody else”
- “I’m so bad at this and this, which means I will never win”
- “This worked for him/her, so I should try it as well”
All of those statements are WRONG. You heard me.
The first one is wrong because you do have talents, and I wrote about it at length HERE. (A lot of people reached out to say the article helped them.)
The second one if wrong because as long as you’re focusing on what you CAN’T do and ignoring what you CAN do, no wonder you’re in a slump. If you want to lead a badass creative life, you must forget your weaknesses and focus on your strengths. (There's a miniguide I wrote that will help you do this.)
The third one is wrong because things work differently for everyone.
If you’re a charismatic person, you’ll be a great vlogger, but if you’re an introvert, a blog or a podcast would be much more fitting than a vlog. So if you look at all the people who vlog and think, I should probably follow this trend as well, you are putting yourself at a disadvantage! Same goes with habits - if you decide to take up a habit that some successful person had, again, they're different.
Don’t do that. Go with what comes naturally.
(The only exception is when your comfort zone says something is not you and the only way to make progress is to push the limits. Uncomfortable things are not always unnatural, sometimes they're just scary and worth exploring.)
I just think you shouldn’t do things you hate just because someone else does them. And same thing goes for habits. Don't just adopt a habit because someone successful did it. It has to fit YOU.
Your audience can tell what comes naturally and what doesn’t. And your natural ways bring you peace and joy and flow when you create.
I’ll tell you my theory…
We’re all different human beings and in those differences lie our strengths. Trouble is, most people don’t think to look there when they want to improve their lives. Most people think they should be better at things they suck at.
Well, then you’ll waste your time trying to be someone you’re not!!!
What would happen if instead, you just decided to focus on your strengths and forget about your weaknesses? What would happen if you tried to figured out what your Natural Day would be like? What would happen if you just let go of your limitations and became a BADASS? What would happen if you reframed some of your weaknesses and tried to see them as hidden strengths?
Obviously, your life would improve. A lot.
- Honor Your Natural Ways (secret lesson)
- Your weaknesses are strengths in disguise (podcast episode)
- What would your Natural Day look like? (podcast episode)
There are many ways to foster better habits, but there will be one or two that really resonate with you, and you'll finally be able to take agency where before there were only excuses. I want you to stop making excuses - that's just the way I am, oh I've always been that way, etc., and realize that--
You have a choice between improving your life today or just doing things as you always have, to get the same results you never really got.
This is coming from a person who lived with her bad creative habits for 20+ years, and one day I just had enough. Maybe you're in the same situation, and I promise you, if you do something about it, you'll be a new man/woman.
And you'll be a happier and more productive human being.