There’s an old saying “practice makes perfect”, but when it comes to the creative process, I reject perfectionism and instead embrace the notion that practice makes a practice.
A while back I was gifted a fantastic book called Daily Rituals: How Aritsts Work by Mason Currey. The book describes the daily rituals of creative folks of all kinds, like Alexander Graham Bell, Georgia O’Keefe, even Sigmund Freud. Learning that creative minds (and there are tons of different folks written about in this book) all shared this thing in common, a dedication to a number of daily rituals/practices that helped them be their most creative selves was a fascinating discovery. To know that something as simple as a daily walk, or working during a specific time in a specific place was key to their creative success had me thinking about how I nurture my own creativity. Was I dedicatedly practicing? Stretching my creative muscles beyond the demands of my job as a graphic designer?
Nope! Not really.
For a good five years, I let the artist side of myself get pretty dusty. I wasn’t spending time practicing creating for my own enjoyment. I kept myself very busy and focused on my career as a graphic designer. The pace and demands of my first design gig had me come to the realization that it was essential that I built in daily practices to take care of my body and my mind. Not gonna lie that there were some dark times, and some physical ailments that were a result of ignoring my own needs for too long. I had to build in daily practices for my own mental and physical health.
Step one in being a successful creative (or human): Take care of yourself. Burnout is very real my friends.
I had already been getting back into painting and drawing for fun before the Pandemic hit, but a month into lockdown I decided it was time to start taking my creative self more seriously and even invest in it. I put some money into creating a tiny corner in my apartment living room which would become a space that I would spend the first hour of every day drawing for nobody else but me. The intention was twofold. I wanted to become a better illustrator and I knew I needed to practice. I also wanted to get back in touch with the artist part of my brain. Design and art definitely overlap, but I think it’s the intention that sets them apart. Art is usually expression whereas design is problem solving. A post for another time. It’s a tangly subject.
A single hour of drawing every day before my workday yielded so much joy and discovery. There were no deadlines or creative briefs. I could let go of expectations and explore my thoughts through drawing. I was reacquainted with myself. And it was so far from being about any expectations of creating something good let alone perfect. It was about creating space to sit for an hour and nurture a part of me that I had neglected for so long. It was honestly like being reunited with an old friend. It felt so nice.
So to close things off, practice has become so important to my wellbeing and I believe has made me a stronger creative human. Weather it be the daily practice of stretching in the morning and meditating, daily walks, and a cup of green tea on my desk as I settle in, to setting that first hour aside in a jammed packed day to just draw for fun, it all adds up to showing up for myself. The fruits of the practice follow. For me it was finding my voice as an illustrator, feeling more at ease generally, and knowing that I was honouring my true self. The catch is that you have to show up for practice forever. Practice makes a practice, and it cultivates a really rich creative existence.