How to Develop Good Creative Habits in Just 21 Days

By Aletta de Wal in Art Business Advice > General Art Advice

Anyone else out there ever decided to lose weight and get fit?

The first time you go to the gym, you can’t just jump into an Olympic level workout. If you try, there’s a good chance that you’ll injure yourself, or strain muscles in your body that you didn’t even know you had.

Instead, the key is to develop a habit of going to the gym. Over time, that good habit will bring healthy rewards.

Developing good creative habits is a lot like building muscles.

You will need space, time, motivation and the ability to stick to a schedule. The skills you learn may feel awkward at first but with training and repetition, they will become second nature.

Eventually, the habit of making art will feel as natural and enjoyable as breathing, and your portfolio of artwork will grow because of it.

If you want to get started building good artistic habits, I recommend the following program:

• Organize your work space
• Set your sights on the results you want
• Develop the habit of art production
• Create and follow a 21-day schedule
• Motivate yourself to continue your daily habit
• Reinforce your art production habit

Let’s take a closer look at each one.

Organize your work space

Before you start, prepare and organize your art making space. You’ll waste less time and resources and you won’t squander precious creative energy that is better spent on production.

I suggest that you arrange your studio space into two areas—one for making your art, where you work and have all of your supplies; and another space for storing completed work so that you can easily find what you need when it’s time to exhibit.

Set your sights on the results you want

In order to have a large enough portfolio for future exhibits, you need an idea of how many pieces you need to produce each month. Initially, you may not be clear on this, or even know how long it takes you to produce a piece of art. Don’t worry. You will figure it out as you go.

In the meantime, just write down a goal. How many pieces would you like to finish this month? As you learn from experience, adjust the number of hours or the number of completed works.

Develop the habit of art production

If you don’t have the time to produce art consistently, it’s unlikely that you can make a career of art. It’s up to you, however, to decide what “consistent” means. . . and of course it depends on all the other things you have to do in your life beyond art.

For the purpose of building good creative habits, try to set aside 15 minutes a day, or an hour a day, five days a week. Or find some time in between. The point is to choose an amount of time that fits your life so that you will stick with it.

You can always increase the amount or the frequency, or both, once you develop momentum. This is simply about establishing the habit of daily art production.

Create and follow a 21-day schedule

According to many experts, it takes 21 days to make behavior into a habit. So, you will need to follow your new art-making schedule for 21 days.

I’m including a sample schedule below. Adjust it to suit your current life and state of organization. Make sure to track your progress daily by making a checkmark on your calendar each time you follow the schedule.

Also, every day after completing your daily task, write down what worked well and what could work better.

Day 1: Clean and organize your studio so that you have one space for making art and another for storing it.

Day 2: Take stock of what you need to do to make your studio space work better so that you can step into it and simply enjoy making art.

Day 3: Order supplies and equipment online or go into town to buy them. (This is one time when shopping equals work.)

Day 4: Put away your supplies, set up new equipment and admire your progress.

Day 5: Fine-tune your studio space so that you can step into it tomorrow to make art without any further set up. Take a photograph of your handiwork.

Day 6: Work on a piece of art. Enjoy the flow. There should be no distractions. Tidy your studio space before you leave, and set up the work and materials you will use tomorrow so you can step right into it again.

Day 7-20: If you are new to making art, work on your current piece for at least 15 minutes daily. If you have been making art for a while, increase your time.

If you have to miss a day, catch up as quickly as possible so that you don’t lose momentum. Remember to tidy or arrange your studio before you leave each day so you can always get back to work quickly.

Day 21: Look over the log of your experience for the last 20 days. What worked well? What did not work so well? What do you need to stop, start or do differently to improve your art production? Reward yourself in some way for sticking with the schedule the entire 21 days.

NOTE: As you develop your daily habit of art-making, you may find yourself losing track of time. As long as you don’t have any other appointments, that’s fine. I use a timer to let me know when the time I set aside is up.

Motivate yourself to continue your daily habit

List out several reasons for continuing to create art on a daily basis. You only need to take a minute or two to do this. Here are some suggestions:

• Think about the positive outcomes.
• Keep a daily log of how each day went and flip through it at least once a week.

Notice any patterns that you see. What is helping you build the habit of creating art, and what is distracting you? Write down ways to reinforce what is working and to change circumstances that are getting in the way.

Reinforce your art production habit

New habits don’t always come easily. Take one day at a time. You are building a habit so the occasional slip is natural. Expect it, decide what to do about it, pick yourself up and get going again.

Developing the habit is the point. As daily art production becomes habitual for you, you’ll naturally produce more art, faster. Keep the emphasis on developing the habit and the artwork will follow.

Now get back to the studio and have some fun!


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