Eileen McKenna Art & Design

Watercolor Art | Creative Inspiration to help you be creative on a regular basis


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Creative Habits

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Early last year, I was struggling to get back into a creative routine. I spent a lot of time thinking I should draw or paint, but for some reason I couldn’t motivate myself to pull out my art supplies and get going. I knew starting was the hardest part, but still I couldn’t do it. By chance I started reading Gretchen Rubin’s book, “Better Than Before: What I Learned About Making and Breaking Habits – to Sleep More, Quit Sugar, Procrastinate Less, and Generally Build a Happier Life.” Within a few pages, I had the answer to my problem. I had fallen out of the habit of being creative. It was harder for me to do it, because I had to make the conscious decision to do it. It was an internal willpower battle every time and was no longer a habit – something I did without thinking.

Rubin perfectly states it here,

“When we change our habits, we change our lives. We can use decision making to choose the habits we want to form, we can use willpower to get the habit started; then – and this is the best part – we can allow the extraordinary power of habit to take over. We take our hands off the wheel of decision, our foot off the gas of willpower, and rely on the cruise control of habits.”

This was an “aha” moment for me. I immediately took action, following Rubin’s advice to try to make creativity a habit again. I highly recommend you read this book!

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An Interview with Crystal Moody of a Year of Creative Habits

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At the same time that I made my creative resolution, December of 2013, Crystal Moody challenged herself to build her own creative habits by doing one little, creative thing each day. In 2014 she made a drawing every day, often photographing it with her breakfast. In 2015, she painted each day, and her journey continues in 2016. (www.crystalmoody.com)

Crystal Moody’s 2014’s year of creative habits….drawing a day:
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Crystal Moody’s 2015’s year of creative habits…painting each day:
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Crystal Moody’s 2016’s year of creative habits…:
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What has impressed me, from the beginning, about Crystal, is her dedication to create something every single day! As I struggle with the ups and downs of my creative resolution, she seems unwavering in her commitment. I reached out to Crystal recently and here is what she shared with me:

Eileen. When I started (my creative resolution) I had no idea what I wanted to accomplish, aside from being creative on a regular basis. Did you have a clear vision of what you wanted to do?

Crystal. No, me either. It was really important to me to not miss a day that first year and that was my main goal. Other than that, I just went with the flow.

Eileen. I thought I might end up refinishing furniture and instead I ended up working in watercolor and ink. What was the biggest surprise for you?

Crystal. I thought I was going to change habits every single month. I was thinking – drawing, collage, watercolor, etc. I thought I’d be trying lots of things and that I’d find THE one. Instead, after a month of drawing, I knew I wanted to stick with it for the whole year and that surprised me. (I didn’t really like drawing that much!)

Eileen. I’ve gotten a lot of joy and fulfillment out of being creative and continuing to work on my skills, but sometimes it is hard to stay with it. Some weeks I’m not very inspired. How do you keep to your daily creative habits?

Crystal. The online commitment really helps me. I pretend that a lot of people are watching me and I don’t want to let them down. I’m often not that inspired but I just do something, something to keep the momentum going until I do feel inspired again.

Eileen. I had a year where my goal was to try many different things. I admire how each year you focus on a specific project. How do you go about selecting what you’ll work on? Is it hard to select the project, since you’re making a year-long commitment to it?

Crystal. Well like I said I didn’t have this plan in the beginning. I just knew that after a month of drawing, I hadn’t really improved as much as I wanted. I realized that growth takes a whole lot longer than that. It was kind of natural to go from drawing to painting. I knew the second year I wanted to have more finished work. (The first year was mostly just sketchbook drawings.) The painting a day in 2015 was a really difficult task but it wasn’t a hard choice. It felt like a natural progression from the year before. Also in 2015, I decided to do a weekly painting project called Fursday where I painted a rescue dog. As I was coming up with ideas for 2015, my husband and I came up with the idea to paint rescue dogs but I just didn’t think I could do that every single day for a whole year. So that’s when I turned it into a weekly thing and let the other days of the week be open to whatever I wanted to paint.

This year the choice was more difficult. I knew couldn’t continue doing a whole painting in a day. I think if I’d stuck with the loose, abstract style that I began with, I could’ve continued painting this year. But instead my style changed and paintings took longer and longer and pretty soon I was spending hours each day on it. This year I knew I had to cut back but I also wanted to do another weekly project which I agonized over for weeks. I initially chose to collage for the year and to do it in a sketchbook to keep it simple. It didn’t take me long to realize collage wasn’t my thing and now I’m back to drawing and painting. Instead of finishing a painting, this year I have a set amount of time that I make myself stick with. I also began a weekly project called Monday Mournings which was intended to be a mixed media project—collage and paint mostly—but has become just a painting. I guess overall the decision is not that big of a deal because I allow myself to change. As long as I’m creating, it’s ok.

Eileen. At what point did your challenge grow to include encouraging others to start a year of creative habits?

Crystal. I don’t know! That’s been a surprising part of it too. I always encouraged people to join me. I knew if others came along for the ride, it would help all of us but I never really thought of myself as an encourager or a leader. I think through the blogging and writing my newsletter, I found my voice. Maybe the teacher in me came out. 🙂

Eileen. Your blog has evolved into a business with you selling your artwork, and teaching online classes, was that your intention from the beginning?

Crystal. I did hope to sell my work eventually but I never imagined I’d be teaching classes. I’m not sure why…I used to be an art teacher and then a math teacher. I didn’t really enjoy teaching art before but that was mostly because I didn’t enjoy grading it. Luckily with online courses you aren’t expected to give out grades, just feedback and encouragement.

Eileen. I love your weekly newsletter. It’s full of valuable links, and your personal reflections often resonate with me. {Sign up for Crystal’s newsletter here: http://eepurl.com/bak_6n } Did you originally intend on creating a newsletter? What inspired you to add this to your challenge?

Crystal. Thanks Eileen! This is funny because someone recently asked me about how I started my newsletter and I said that I started a few months in. Then I looked at my archives and I was wrong. I guess that’s just how I remember it . I started my newsletter right at the very beginning. I had 6 subscribers and that included me, my husband, and my mom. I’m not sure what inspired me because I don’t even remember doing it! I’ve probably blocked it from memory because those first few months were so terrible. I didn’t know what to write about it. It takes time to find your voice, your style, and your way. I’m still finding it!

Eileen. What are your future plans? Many of the blogger/newsletter creators I follow have a podcast. Do you have any plans to start a podcast of your own? 🙂

Crystal. No way! I’ve been on a few podcasts and I can’t even listen to myself! It’s so awkward for me. It’s just not my thing. I’m excited to develop some more classes. I’m interested in teaching classes about process and not media. I’m starting to work larger and share my work in more gallery spaces. That’s been a learning process for me and I’m still deciding if that’s what I really want. I’ve been having a great time with my weekly projects (the Fursday one and my current one Monday Mournings) and I’m looking for ways to turn those into something other than a blog series. I don’t have anything specific planned for 2017, I really like being able to stay open to opportunities and try new things.

Eileen. Thank you so much Crystal for sharing and answering my questions! I find it so inspiring and motivating to hear about other people’s creative journeys.
Follow Crystal’s blog at: http://crystalmoody.com/yoch/
and sign up for her newsletter at: http://eepurl.com/bak_6n


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Creativity breeds more creativity

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I’m already noticing a difference in my level of creativity, just a week after restarting my creative habits. It’s amazing how sketching every morning – often for just 5 minutes – leads to more sketching and painting later in the day. As Maya Angelou said, “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”

My creative habits were derailed a month or so ago, when I was busy with a work project. I forget how much I need my own creative projects. Working as a web and print designer, I have the pleasure of being creative with work. The downfall for me is relying on work as my creative outlet. Last month’s work project was very consuming and creatively fulfilling. I barely drew or painted during this time. Everything was great until the project wrapped up, and a new work project didn’t immediately replace it. I was out of the habit of working on my own stuff, so I was left feeling somewhat empty. As I wrote about in this post, I was having a really hard time motivating myself to work on my own projects.

Thankfully I was able to get back to it, although it’s not always easy to stick to it. I need to remember this lesson next time work gets very busy – to make time for my own creative projects, and to stick with my creative habits.

 


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Eight days in the sketchbook

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After seven days straight of working in my sketchbook every morning at the same time, this morning I said to myself, “I don’t feel like it. Maybe later.” So, I grabbed my kindle, which opened up to Gretchen Rubin’s book, “Better than Before,” and the words,

“Scheduling makes us far more likely to convert an activity into a habit.”

How could I not put down the kindle and pick up the sketchbook? So today, I’m celebrating and sharing my eighth day in a row of sketching. Here’s to my new creative habit (almost).

Read this post to learn why I’m working hard to cement my creative habits: Creative Habits and Gretchen Rubin’s book


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Creative Habits and Gretchen Rubin’s book

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I’ve been floundering in my creative resolution. I think about drawing and painting a lot more than I actually do it. Most times when I think about it, I can’t seem to take action. When I do sketch or paint, I’m not very inspired, and I don’t feel that hook. I’m not being pulled into the process. The next time around it’s still hard to get started.

I know it’s normal to go through peaks and valleys, but I was starting to wonder what was up. By chance I started reading Gretchen Rubin’s book, “Better Than Before: What I Learned About Making and Breaking Habits – to Sleep More, Quit Sugar, Procrastinate Less, and Generally Build a Happier Life.”

Within a few pages, I had the answer to my problem. I had fallen out of the habit of being creative. It was harder for me to do it, because I had to make the conscious decision to do it. It no longer was just something I did without thinking. Rubin perfectly states it here,

“When we change our habits, we change our lives. We can use decision making to choose the habits we want to form, we can use willpower to get the habit started; then – and this is the best part – we can allow the extraordinary power of habit to take over. We take our hands off the wheel of decision, our foot off the gas of willpower, and rely on the cruise control of habits.”

I still have most of the book to read, and I’m eager to do so. But in the meantime – How to get back to my creative habit? When I look back on the beginning of my creative resolution in 2014, I see I quickly developed tools to help me keep my resolution. Things like “dedicating time to painting,” “five minute sketches,” and eventually “my creative weekly checklist.” These tools worked in the past, so I’m adopting them again now.

My NEW Creative Weekly Checklist:

  1. Draw in my sketchbook every morning (while waiting for kids to get ready). Use an everyday object as inspiration, to make the decision of what to draw easier and quicker.
  2. Post twice a week on my blog. The blog is how I hold myself accountable.
  3. Start the day with a painting – every Wednesday. Flip the priority of the day by starting it with creativity, instead of work. When I do this, even when I work later, my mindset for the day is different. I find myself going back to the paints throughout the day.

And something else I want to keep foremost in my mind – Share what I create, don’t create to share.

How do you keep your creative habits?