Cup of Paintbrushes with Watercolor background

Steps to cultivate creativity – find your passion

We are often told that we should “find our passion”. If only we could achieve this simple goal we will be happy and fulfilled.  We are told that if we can get in touch with our “creative side” we will lead happier, better-balanced lives. This sounds simple but it is easy to get lost. This article will provide help by setting out basic steps to cultivate creativity effectively.

Why is this so difficult?

What happens if you can’t find your passion?  What happens if you are sure you have a creative soul. You search relentlessly for that thing you are “meant” to do but never find it. What happens if you feel a bit lost.

I think this feeling of being lost is because we have been led the wrong way.  We aren’t meant to find our creative passion, we are meant to cultivate it. Specifically, the issue is the expectation that the perfect thing we are meant for will appear suddenly for us.  For example, one day, you see someone flying kites and decide that you are meant to build kites for the rest of your life or, you watch a watercolor tutorial, pick up a paintbrush, and suddenly create masterpieces. 

Creative tools

For most of us,  inspiration just doesn’t strike that way.  Or it may strike, but fail to materialize into anything substantial. When we experiment haphazardly, moving from one idea to the next, nothing is completed.  We are unable to truly see what could have been if we had taken our creative endeavors to the next level.  In addition, many of us get caught in the trap of following after shiny objects, becoming a jack of all trades, and a master of none.

Five Steps to Cultivate Creativity

So, if our creative passion is not going to suddenly appear to us within a ray of angel song the question becomes: 

How can we cultivate our creativity? Here are five steps to cultivate your creativity to help you get started.

Step 1. Narrow it down

Brainstorm a list of creative pursuits that interest you. Then pick one to develop.  I’m not saying this needs to be your life’s purpose.  Down the road, you can revisit this step when you want to try something new.  For now, just pick one! 

My list is huge and includes:

  • Watercolor painting
  • Sketching
  • Embroidery
  • Baking
  • Gardening
  • Calligraphy
  • Graphic design
  • Woodburning
  • Glass etching
  • Knitting
  • Crochet
  • Writing
  • Mapmaking

Almost everything can be considered a creative pursuit if you look at it from an artist’s perspective. You can see from my diverse list of interests how it is easy to get distracted. Especially if you try to do everything at once! The key to making progress is to focus.

Step 2. Identify a specific project or skill to master

We can easily spend hours trolling the internet, reading, or researching for projects to spark our inspiration.  There is nothing wrong with spending some time to become inspired. The trick is to put a limitation on yourself. Choose one project or skill you want to work on now. 

Once you have decided what area of creativity you want to cultivate, don’t spend more than an hour looking for inspiration or deciding on a project or class.  You may think there is a better idea out there but the truth is you will often end up going with the first idea that popped into your head.  Don’t let the fear of missing out hold you up or delay you from moving forward.  The best time to start something is right away, and even if you choose wrong you will learn so much from the process of doing!  Action is better than thought and the time is now.

You may also suffer from having a wealth of ideas. Try to keep the amount of work in progress at a low level. Having a creative journal where you can jot down ideas for the future can be a great way of keeping track of your thoughts so you don’t lose them. This way you can stay focused on your current project or goal. This simple practice will help you to bring more work to the point of completion!

Step 3. Set aside a specific time to work at being creative.

Step 3 is simple but very important. Set a specific time aside in your routine to be creative. Without structure, we will most likely not get much done.  Setting aside even a half an hour a day can yield big results in a short period of time.

If you have limited time to devote to your creative side, you may want to pick just one day a week.  Adding time to create to your routine is an important part of this step.

For example, if you want to improve your painting, you could set aside two hours each Sunday to follow a video tutorial and to practice.  It is amazing how small time commitments over time can move your skills forward.

Or, if you are working full time and want to write, you may want to write for fifteen minutes every morning before work, or a page a day.  If you only write a page a day, at the end of one year you will have 365 pages.  That equals a book!  

If you want to learn pottery set aside what time you can realistically spare. Decide how long you want to devote to a specific project.  For example, I want to learn to make vases, I have one hour a week to devote to that over six months.

“We tend to vastly overestimate how much we can get done in a day, and vastly underestimate how much we can achieve in a year.”

Step 4. Set a realistic deadline or benchmark

When I suggest setting a deadline in the heading above, it has a dual meaning.  We must set self-imposed deadlines both for getting started on a project and for when we expect to the project to be completed.

Once you have decided on a project think about what you would like to achieve.

What does success for this project look like to you? What skill do you want to practice or gain in the process? The next step is to plan out how long it will realistically take you to reach your goal. Of course, remember to account for the amount of time you have available to spend on the project.

If you want to write a book, how much can you realistically expect to have done in a month?  Track your word count through a couple of 15-minute writing sprints. Write down how much you can write in that time.  The average will let you know how long it will take you to write a book.

What does “being a good painter” look like to you?  Does this mean you can paint landscapes like Bob Ross?  Or does this mean your mountains look like mountains instead of pointy triangle things?  Decide what your goal is and write it down. Estimate how long it will take you to achieve this and review your progress at specific times along your journey.

I will elaborate more on how to do this in a future post.

Step 5. Eliminate excuses

Lack of energy, time, resources, and tools.  These are all excuses we use not to create.

We can easily come with reasons why not to do something.  There are no classes in my area.  I have no energy when my workday is done.  I am not talented enough to do this. 

The truth is there is always a workaround for every problem.  No classes in your area?  Get a book from the library on the subject or look around online for video tutorials.  No energy?  Tell yourself you are just going to work for five minutes, you will be surprised how often that five minutes extends itself.  It is getting started that is the difficult part!  Think you have no talent?  No one does when they start. Effort and consistency are more important than talent.

Summary of the five steps to cultivate creativity

In summary the five steps to cultivate creativity are:

  • Narrow it down
  • Choose a specific project or skill to master
  • Set aside a specific time to be creative
  • Set a realistic deadline or benchmark
  • Eliminate excuses

Once you complete a project, you can decide whether you enjoyed this pursuit and want to keep going with that creative pursuit. If so, you can use this process again, just skip step one. If you feel you have devoted enough time to this particular craft, go back to step one and choose something new to work on.  The important thing to take away from this process is an actual result.

Next Steps to cultivate creativity

Whether or not you decide to continue with a particular pursuit is up to you. Having a creative passion can be a conduit to express our emotions healthily. Don’t downplay that by comparing your progress to anyone else’s. You are at your own stage in your journey. Success shouldn’t be measured against others but only on your own progress. When you complete a project or gain a skill; you have won the most important battle, the one against yourself!

These five steps to cultivate your creativity are meant to help you focus and get started. There are many other methods to develop creativity to deep dive into and explore. If you are interested in exploring the creative process, please bookmark this blog for future posts.

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