By talking to various dancers and artists around the world, I often hear the same item mentioned when it comes to continually improving at their craft. That is the task of daily practice. Whether you aspire to become a professional artist, or you simply enjoy creating as a hobby (or cathartic outpouring), you will gain much more from your endeavors if you do a little bit every day.
If you find this idea to be daunting, keep in mind that you set the guidelines. I’ve found that creating a ritual around my artistic time has made a huge difference in my focus and commitment to writing and dancing every day.
Some artists go into their favorite space (studio, library, etc.) and expect to simply fall into being “creative”. While this does work for some people, most of time, we find ourselves distracted and overwhelmed with the possibilities of what we could/should be doing. Creating a ritual around your art that is easy to follow will help solve these problems.
Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind when developing your artistic ritual.
DURATION: Rather than setting a goal that may be unreasonable to keep (such as one hour), start by setting the minimum amount of time you can definitely devote to your art on a daily basis. Even if you can only commit 15 minutes every day, it’s a starting point. In my opinion, it’s better to start with a shorter duration each day, knowing that you’re going to spend more time whenever possible, than to refuse to do anything artistic for an entire day because you cannot spend a large amount of time to the practice.
LOCATION: This should be a space you enjoy and one that makes you feel uninhibited and inspired. If you find the space to be claustrophobic, distracting, cluttered or frustrating, then you may need to spend time establishing a more conducive space. If you feel most inspired in your living room or at the kitchen table, so be it!
TIMING: The majority of my friends are night owls, who find they’re wide awake and ready to create after midnight. I personally enjoy very early morning hours, when it’s quiet and dark in my home, and I feel most alive, invigorated and refreshed. Perhaps you find a burst of creative energy in the afternoon, right after school or work. Everyone’s creative timing is different, and you’ll find that it’s best to tap into your own time signature.
FOCUS: I try to choose one creative task before entering my space. It can be as specific as continuing or completing a particular project, or as unspecified as doodling. The point is to pick something ahead of time, which will keep you from getting distracted.
Once you’ve defined the items above, you can set about developing more specific steps in your ritual. Consider how you want your daily practice to begin and end, how to engage all your senses, and how to handle flashes of inspiration.
Here’s a sample of one of my old writing “opening rituals”, which takes only a few minutes to complete.
* Brew coffee
* Mentally set the intention for today’s writing and bring that intention into my writing space
* Put on music
* Light three candles
* Burn incense
* Sit in comfortable chair
* Set favorite pencil and journal on desk
* Set purple cards off to the side for capturing ideas and inspirations
* Close my eyes and energetically join the space by taking three deep breaths
* State my intention (silently or softly) for today’s practice
* Open my eyes and compose!
If I can simply enter this sacred space, then I’ll be there as long as possible. We typically talk ourselves out of being creative, so just taking the first step is a major accomplishment. And artists are often their own worst critics. If we listen to the negative voices, we’ll never get started. This process has provided me with a process for following my muse, as well as handling the frustrations, anger and stress of daily life. Imagine how much better you’ll be at your craft and how much more inspired you’ll feel by simply doing a little every day, following your own rituals.