A Year of Creative Habits: Everyday Creativity Exercises

By Robert Half on July 2, 2014 at 3:00pm

When full-time mom, part-time freelance designer Crystal Moody felt like she was falling into a creative rut, she found inspiration in the artwork of her youngest child and launched a Year of Creative Habits.

How many times have you come across a creative project on a blog and wondered, "Why don't I do something like that?" Designer Crystal Moody had that thought many times and finally decided to do something about it when she realized that her four-year-old daughter was the uninhibited artist that she herself always wanted to be.

Moody, who's based in Springfield, Mo., currently homeschools her two kids and does freelance work in art, graphic design and photography. Until this year, she wasn't doing any creative work for herself. "The worst part about seeing all the cool stuff that others were doing is that I knew I could be doing something, too, and I just wasn't," Moody explains. "I was scared to put myself out there and probably a little lazy."

A creative challenge

crystal_moodyTo get back in touch with her natural creative impulses, Moody developed a challenge and committed to it for a year. Her rules are simple:

  • Choose one creative habit.
  • Do a creativity exercise every day for one month.
  • Share the effort and progress with others.
  • Reflect on the month and set new goals.

Moody began her year with the simple act of drawing every day for the month of January. She created a small, dedicated space for the task at an unused bay window in her home. She turned to favorite books like Twyla Tharp's The Creative Habit and Austin Kleon's Steal Like an Artist for inspiration, and developed daily rituals to help her stay committed to her goal.

Creative habits and community

From the beginning, Moody encouraged other lapsed creatives to join her by setting their own daily goals and posting the results on Instagram with the hashtag #yearofcreativehabits. She's also been extremely open about sharing her own struggles to stay committed to the project ­– and the process she goes through to evaluate her work and set new objectives.

"Slowly, others have joined in," Moody says. "In the beginning, I told myself that people were following along and that I had to keep up with it. Fake it until you make it, I guess. Now, I have a group going. I follow along with their projects and that helps keep me accountable for my own. I love to see how they tweak the project to fit their own needs."

Moody says the most challenging part of her Year of Creative Habits has been keeping up her blog. "I've spent a lot of time researching creativity and habits and reading books," she explains. "The writing about the research, my process, my thoughts and fears has been the most difficult. This project has sort of been all-consuming. It creeps into every part of my life. It's not just 20 minutes in the morning with breakfast. I read, research and think about this all day, all the time."

In the first month alone, Moody wrote about everything from dealing with fear and the importance of process to why it's tough to stay in the moment and how to keep yourself accountable to a large goal. Simply scrolling through the posts that document each day is enough to spark inspiration when you're feeling stuck.

How to start your year of creative habits

Not sure how to begin your year of creative habits? Moody lays out the plan very simply:

  • Choose a creative habit and begin today. Here are some ideas: draw, paint, knit, cross-stitch, collage, journal, write a story, tell a story, sew, build, carve, sculpt, scrapbook, color, make a video, write a song. Pick a tool and make something. OK, now do it again tomorrow.
  • If you aren't doing a daily creativity exercise, block off time in your schedule for it. Find a trigger. It could be after your shower, after the kids' bedtime, when you get home from work, etc.
  • Share your habit daily on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook. It builds accountability.
  • Set up your creative space and make it an enjoyable place to work.
  • Go on an "artist date" by asking a friend to join you at a museum or gallery.
  • Share this project with others and then check in and support each other.

If you committed to being more creative every single day with a project like this, where do you think you would be after a full year? How might your career and your life flourish?

Moody says that by the end of the year she hopes to have built her confidence along with her drawing, painting and writing skills. "I'm not sure where all this will lead but I feel momentum toward something bigger." she says.

Searching for more ideas? Check out our post on The One Creative Exercise You Should Do Every Morning.

Photos provided by Crystal Moody.

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