Build a Creativity Habit

by Aug 12, 20216 comments

“I believe that we all have strands of creative code hard wired-into our imaginations. These strands are as solidly imprinted in us as the genetic code that determines our height and eye color, except they govern our creative impulses. They determine the forms we work in, the stories we tell, and how we tell them. “

Twyla Tharp – The Creative Habit: Learn it and use it for Life


Creativity is good for the Soul

As children, we instinctively know the power of creative expression.  We happily draw, paint, sing, dance, explore and tell stories with abandon.  We do not worry that we might not be good at it or we might look silly or people might laugh.  And if anyone does laugh, we join the fun.

Unfortunately, many of us become more inhibited the older we get and by the time we become adults we frequently have the tendency to be more cautious.   To worry about our perceived lack of talent or that we will not be any good or will embarrass ourselves.  If those of us who do make art can be more tentative, or focus too much on perfection and set unrealistic standards for ourselves.   It is time to take back our sense of fun, our confidence in being able to create, our sense of wonder at what we can build.

A variety of research has demonstrated advantages of creative expression, including:

  • Increased mental health
  • Improved happiness
  • Better problem-solving ability and, therefore, more innovative approaches
  • Stronger focus
  • More self-confidence

Invite creativity into your life

Make space

Find a physical space (or spaces) where you feel inspired, uninterrupted, and safe.  Gather some of the materials that you need.   Having an idea about where you will work, a dedicated area for your creativity is freeing and motivating. 

Build time into your routine.  That does not mean that you need to be regimented about when or how your create but it helps ensure that you make time available on a regular basis.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Write or sketch for 15 minutes over your daily morning coffee
  • Do 30 minutes of slow stitching while your kids are napping or otherwise safely engaged – or paint your own projects while they are making art
  • Take a class one or two evenings a week. Check out the offerings through your local college, library, rec center or a favorite store.
  • Join a community band or theatre group
  • Take part in an online challenge art challenge and invite a friend to join you for extra support and accountability

Be consistent

There is nothing magical about being creative.  It is a habit that you can nurture. Do something every day.  It doesn’t have to be a big commitment but you will be more successful about building a habit if you do it daily, preferably at a set time.

These steps might help:

  • Set an alarm for 15 minutes.  Or start with 5 minutes and build to 15-20.  You can do more but you will know that you only need to do this committed time.
  • Define a small, contained task – play some scales, stitch a few rows, write 200 words,  cut one dove-tail, take 3 photos, do a study. doodle a design…. whatever makes sense for your chosen form of expression preferred

 Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

Prepare for spontanity

This might sound like a contradiction in terms but you want to make it easy for yourself to start and stick to a habit.  That means reducing anything that you might be tempted to use as an excuse. 

For example:

  • You can be more flexible about where you work if you make yourself a portable collection of your most basic and necessary tools so you can grab it when it is time to be creative or any time you get an impulse
  • Keep a journal of ideas, with some that can be done or started quickly
  • Have a number of different projects in progress where you can pick up and start and do 15 minutes to progress the work.  It helps if some of these projects rely on some repetition or routine and do not require creative energy to start — sometimes, you need an easy boost and are not ready to start the next great play.  Take the pressure off those times when you are feeling creatively blocked.  Some more routine work will help you relax and perhaps get past the block.

Go easy on yourself

You do not need to create a masterpiece everyday.  Even if you are a professional artist, you do not expect to be brilliant and perfect every day.  Photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson said “Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.”

But everyone is sure to get better with regular practice.  Don’t expect perfection every day – or even ever.  The main goal is  to do something regularly, to improve and to find a creative expression – or even many – that brings you joy and a way to tell your stories.

Give yourself permission to not be great – yet.

Be kind.  Think of what you would say to a friend who was venturing into a creative process and treat yourself with the same generosity.

Start today.   At first,  you might need to force yourself to start but before you know it, creativity will be a welcomed habit.


Mary Elizabeth O'Toole

Mary Elizabeth O'Toole

Educator, Artist, Storyteller


  1. Glenda Cates

    I love using Creativity in our Homeschool Classroom because its easier to keep my son focused thinking outside the box instead of doing the usual Schoolwork children do.

    • Mary Elizabeth

      It sounds like your son is very lucky to have a creative teacher to help him learn new ways to think, and a space to be creative. I bet that is very rewarding for you!

  2. Marc Cohen

    I try to practice my guitar a little bit every day. I’d like to be more consistent with my other creative pursuits, like drawing and photography. And yes, I do need to take many pictures before getting the perfect one. But the entire process is fun. Thanks for sharing details on how to make creativity of daily outlet.

    • Mary Elizabeth

      I *try* to get in 15 minutes at the keyboard every day but I find it to easy to let that slip because I have something I need to do. I am determined to get better at that practice for sure. I am the same with photography and taking a lot of pictures but agree with you that the process is fun. Also, it feels like it doesn’t happen unless it was properly documented in great detail. 😉

  3. Kebba Buckley Button

    Mary Elizabeth, creativity is a super important dimension of who I am. I am always tweaking a decor item, changing its color or effects, making a garment, moving art items around for different effects, taking many photos and creating greeting cards and inspirational cards with them… I’ll never be bored! Thanks for a super article.

    • Mary Elizabeth

      I can appreciate the impulse to tweek and change. I have not mastered the art of garment making but it is my newest passion and I’m busy learning some new techniques. I have to agree with you that creativity keeps things from getting boring, for sure. Thanks for commenting.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This