Creatives on Their Most Valued Habits
Morning pages, writing prompts, and keeping an ideas diary: these practices are all too familiar to creative types. We rounded up some more unexpected rituals that you can incorporate into your days to make your creative life richer.
Kyle T. Webster is not afraid of being bored. In fact, he makes a point of creating opportunities for unstructured time that can give rise to some brilliant ideas. In his 99U talk, he pointed out how scarce that blank time is becoming in our lives. “It’s a beautiful, blank, unexplored space that we will probably lose altogether if we’re not careful,” said Webster. “We need to seek it out and bask in it.”
By reframing it as a blessing and an opportunity, we have the chance to embrace boredom as the time when our subconscious gets to work on ideas and makes them better. As Webster says, “This is where a new idea could be lying in wait for those who are open to discovering it." Allow for the space between.
Ashley C. Ford brought down the house with her inspiring talk at the 2019 99U Conference. At the heart of her message was the idea that your imagination is the greatest transformational tool we have. “If you can be brave enough to imagine past your understanding, you can change everything,” she said. Make it a regular practice to push yourself past the comfort zone of your assumptions, and see where it takes you.
Stephanie Pereira, Director of NEW INC at the New Museum says, “I try and start a new list every morning, but sometimes that slips to once per week. I currently have one of those very thin Muji notebooks, but really any paper will do—the less fancy, the better. I’ve found it to be incredibly soothing just to simply write a list.” The ritual of list-making and seeing your ideas and tasks on paper can illuminate patterns, inspire you, and track all the seeds of ideas that can eventually bloom into significant projects.
Get to know your brain
Dr. Sahar Yousef is a cognitive neuroscientist specializing in strategic consulting for businesses looking to improve productivity and structure in always-on workplaces. She coaches her clients to think of the brain as a muscle, a malleable tool that you can work on strengthening, especially when it comes to improving focus and building up your attention span. “You are the designer, you know your brain and your own conscious experience,” Yousef says. The key is taking the time to get to know yourself without passing judgment. You have a natural rhythm, and times when your productivity peaks and wanes. Keep track of when you are most productive, note your daily “slump times,” and set a few strict ground rules for those time-suck habits like checking your inbox or Slack notifications.
Grace Bonney would be the first to credit the internet and early social media for the success of Design*Sponge, her design site that folded in early 2019 after 15 years. But the time-wasting potential of Instagram and other apps is the big obstacle to a healthy relationship with social media. Bonney has found the key to be mindfulness about her habits. She starts by asking a crucial question before clicking, "'Why am I going there?' If I go to Instagram to be inspired, I don’t have any guilt about how much time I spend. But if I am going on there to read things that will make me feel good about myself or feel connected to people, I need to understand why am I going there and not to real people in my real life.”
More about Mia Pinjuh
Mia is a writer based in New York.