Many people harbour dreams to become best selling novelists, film directors, sculptors or artists. But what’s the difference between the dreamers and the do-ers?
Chris Baty in his book No Plot, No Problem said: “the biggest thing separating people from their artistic ambition is not a lack of talent. It’s the lack of a deadline.”
He created National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) to challenge people to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.
Each November hundreds of thousands of budding novelists join the collective goal and work towards the deadline.
But when December comes and your NaNoWriMo deadline’s no longer breathing down your neck, how do you continue with your writing habit? You might well wait until January to set yourself a resolution – but why delay if you can start now.
Having worked with writers for many years, and researched creative habits, we found there isn’t one magic bullet to make you into a creative powerhouse. In fact there are seven – so here they are, seven ideas to tap into your inner muse and start creating on a regular basis.
1. Name your dream
Let your imagination run riot. Ask yourself what you’d really love to achieve, make or do. Once you have a dream – and I’m pretty sure you have one – put a name to it. Naming it means that you’ve gone from having a vague fantasy to having a goal – like taking up sculpture or performing poetry – something you can work towards. Try to make your dream as concrete as possible.
2. Turn your dream into a goal
The next step is to make your dream attainable and that means make it measurable in some way. Say you want to pull together some pieces for an exhibition you need work out what steps are involved, like having several artworks, notes, a venue. Don’t make these steps too large – be realistic about what you can achieve and how much time you can give depending on your other commitments.
3. Think daily
Once you’ve set out how much time you plan to give to your project, you need to plot out a schedule. Whatever goal you want to achieve, if you can possibly manage it – do it daily. Don’t worry if you can’t commit much time each day to your activity, the key is to commit some time – just 15 minutes a day will do.
Approaching a big project in smaller chunks tends to make it all feel less daunting too. For example if you want to write play just write one paragraph, one scene, one page and let it build slowly – small steps are the way to go.
4. Don’t break the chain
Comedian Jerry Seinfeld believes the way to write better jokes is to develop a writing habit. His approach involves using a wall calendar on which he puts a cross for every day he writes. He said: “After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job is to not break the chain.” So, the more you commit to your creative pursuit, the more your confidence will grow and the more likely you are to continue. Remember – don’t break the chain
5. Tell others
This isn’t easy but if you really want to achieve your creative goal – you need to go public, with both with your project and your deadline. Yes you can make a commitment to yourself but if you’re anything like me, you’ll go easy on yourself in a way that friends, family or colleagues might not. Tell people what you’re creating, making or doing. Share your dreams with them – it might surprise you how supportive they are and how accountable you feel to them.
6. Tinker with your goals
I don’t always know which goals will work so I tend to play around with them until I find what works. If I can’t meet a goal, it’s easier to adjust the goal than change everything else in my life. This isn’t about giving myself an easy ride, but experimenting to find out what really works. Tracking my progress is vital in achieving this as it gives me the evidence to reset and refine the goal. If you can’t meet your goal then don’t get down about it – change your goal into something that you can meet. Then meet it.
7. Party on!
It’s a long slog to finish any creative project so it’s vital that you treat yourself – celebrate your success and have a party to keep motivated! It doesn’t matter whether it’s a series of small treats each day or week you’ve worked on your project or a bigger celebration for every creative goal you achieve. Go on, have some fun, you deserve it!