Most days, this is how you'll find me:
Perched in front of my laptop with my creative "necessities" laid out in front of me. Journal in hand, I'll cozy up in our breakfast nook or find a table at one of my neighborhood coffee joints to get my inspiration on. I'm currently writing you from the corner booth at a local Starbucks while my husband works at a college fair down the road. I'll sneak in these moments anywhere.
Laid out in front of me are my tools o' creativity. Favorite pen, check. Filled water bottle, check. Coffee or tea (tonight, it's peppermint tea), check. Favorite "Decomposition" spiral notebook, check, check.
I love writing. It's like my fuel. Forget the caffeine, what really gets me going is putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard, as it were). It doesn't matter if I'm writing about the creative process or how to write authentic content or about something mind-blowingly cool that I learned about yesterday in one of my favorite podcasts, if I'm waxing poetic about relationships or giving you the down and dirty on how to stay away from all-the-shiny-things and lead with soul… it's like air.
I've got my favorite pens, my favorite journals, my favorite Spotify playlist playing in my earbuds (psst... it's this one). I've captured a rhythm and a routine to my writing. I've learned what environments inspire different topics, and where I need to be to get stuff done.
This past week, I filled the final page in a notebook that I purchased just prior to launching katekmccarthy.com last December. Made out of recycled cardboard with line-drawn woodland illustrations on the front, it was one of my all-time favorites. It holds inspiration, business building tips and tricks, notes from meetings, appointments, and doodles that have fueled my creative fire.
In honor of this notebook's "passing" (aka finding its resting place on my bookshelf), I am bringing you my favorite tips for cultivating an intentional and inspiring creative practice -- and I'm hoping that you'll share some of yours with me!
ONE. Define creativity on your own terms.
Creativity doesn't always look like what we might categorize as "art." Your creative muse might inspire you to volunteer, create an organization, or crunch data - just as easily as they might push you to write or paint or cook. Creativity is a natural extension of whatever gets you excited or engaged or inspires you to expand. So stop judging yourself for not being "artsy" and start creating whatever gives you life. Or use the experience as an excuse to try something new. I find that when my writing flow is stuck, picking up a paintbrush or a sketch pad can be incredibly freeing and helps me get back into the flow – in a way that feels good.
TWO. Do it. Do it a lot.
"You can't use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have." - Maya Angelou. Just like a muscle, creativity only works when you use it. So write, or paint, or volunteer, or whatever gets you moving in the direction of creativity. And do it a lot. As a writer, I sit down to write almost every day. It might be crappy, it might be cliched, or it might be brilliant… but I'm always writing. You don't have to publish it or share it, but moving the creative muscle keeps it healthy and working and growing!
THREE. Make lists.
I haven't always been a list-maker. But now you'll find the walls of my workspace nook covered in lists. Blog post brainstorming. Lists of things that make me happy. Lists of things I want to change. Lists of my favorite places, my favorite people, my favorite quotes. List writing -- and the act of putting those lists on paper -- inspires. It forces you to think outside of the box, to download all of the chaos into something that can actually be used. Lists are the fodder for creative genius.
FOUR. GTFO. Get. OUT.
Changing your environment creates actual neurological shifts in the brain. Play around with this. Whenever I'm stuck, I grab the dog and go for a walk around the block. The combination of movement, curiosity, and the natural world is electric for me. Whenever I know that I need to write something particularly soul-centered and wholehearted or knock something spirit-driven out for a copy client, I make sure that I'm writing in an area where I can catch some extra inspiration from the people around me. You'll know when you're in a place that facilitates communication with your muse.
FIVE. Respect the muse.
There's a reason that I carry around a notebook with me everywhere that I go. The reality is that if you don't respect the muse, she'll stop showing up. You might tell yourself that, if it's important enough, you'll remember later. But that's just not how it works. So, when she shows up, listen. Write it down, sketch it out. If you're at an event, escape to the bathroom to write down lyrics or lists or phrases. The more you listen, the better you'll get at recognizing the voice of the creative muse apart from the normal chatter in your mind.
SIX. Magic lives outside of your comfort zone.
Over the past couple of years, I've spent some time working through Danielle LaPorte's The Desire Map - the premise of which goes a little like this: get clear on how you most deeply want to feel and then... go do things that make you feel the way you want to feel. In our Type A culture, it's pretty revelatory on a personal level. One of my "Core Desired Feelings" is expansive. I want to live wide, open, expanding into spaces that previously, well, scared the hell out of me. So, I write about things that scare me, do things that bust the comfort zones wide open, have conversations that expand my view of the world. Talk about material for transformation. Within the confines of being safe, go explore, my friend. Magic lives there.
SEVEN. The good stuff takes time.
Be patient with yourself. Don't judge your creation in comparison to someone else's. (Was that two pieces of advice?) The really good stuff takes time to create, so let it percolate and simmer. Whether it's a painting or a book, an entrepreneurial pursuit or a new entree, give it the time that it needs to cook.
What about you? What are your creative rituals? How do you make the intentional time and space to write or paint or play?