What Is A ‘Creative Practice’?
Define Yours – Explore these 5 approaches
Every day the world is demanding you to be more creative — at work, at home, and in your life. Everywhere you turn you are faced with a new responsibility to ‘be’ creative, but you are struggling to get there. Creative experts tell you that practice will grow your creative capacities. Yet, you are still left hanging. With so much to consider when it comes to creativity, you wonder how you will ever reach your creative goals.
Don’t worry, you can get there. Allow me to help you step gently into your creativity by starting with a simple definition of ‘creative practice’. Then, you can begin defining a practice that works for you by exploring some of the most common types of practices that have been used for centuries by successful creative practitioners.
What is a Creative Practice?
A creative practice is the repetition of the creative process using a creative mindset.
Try saying that ten times fast! I repeat, a creative practice is the repetition of the creative process using a creative mindset. Let’s break it down…
mindset = thinking (beliefs, motivation, attitudes, intentions)
process = exploring (imagine, act, make, experiment, discover)
practice = repeating (habits, iterations, attempts, rehearsal, space & time)
A creative practice is the intentional repeated act of entering your creative process with the support of your creative thinking.
You Are Unique, So is your Practice
Your practice, like your process, belongs to you and is unique to you. In other words, there is no right or wrong way of doing it. Once you accept this, the pressure is off, and the world is truly your oyster!
Define A Practice That Is Right For You
Creative practices, and the reasons for having one, come in all shapes and sizes. The word “creativity” itself cannot unanimously be defined. So then, why should you expect your creative practice to be defined by anyone else but you?
Although the design of a creative practice is unique to each individual, all creative practices share one thing in common and that is the act of forming habits through repetition.
The most successful creative practitioners develop a daily practice by setting aside a time and place each day to “repeat”. Repetition means you will do it again and again…and again.
Practice demands you to repeat things that bore you or frustrate you. Practice means facing your vulnerabilities and sometimes never outgrowing them. Practice requires you to push yourself when things become too comfortable or stagnate.
Engaging in hard work does not mean that practice shouldn’t also be satisfying and enjoyable. Never forget that practice is just that – practice! It is your space for making big mistakes and being messy and not knowing what you are doing. Every day of practicing is a new day to explore, discover, and take pleasure in the life of your creativity.
The benefit of building creative habits is to shape your thinking into a creative mindset that is curious, critical, and imaginative.
Different Approaches & Styles
You may be entirely new to creativity or are just now identifying your own style or approach to your Creative Practice. Below, I introduce some of the more widely used approaches. Try one or all of them on for size — and, yes, of course, go ahead and develop your own!
- Repeated Technique
- Small Steps
- Everyday Thinking
- Create to Create
- Mixed Methods
01: Repeated Technique
This is the most common type of practice for someone trying to improve a specific skill or a creative skillset. The most common user of this approach is an artist but is not limited to the “artiste”. This style will support anyone trying to improve an artistic creative skill — such as illustration, playing the piano, or dance.
In this type of practice, creative muscles are developed and strengthened by repeating tasks within a specific method or medium, such as playing an instrument or solving puzzles. This is done on a daily basis until growth or mastery is achieved — or until enough experimentation has occurred to result in a creative breakthrough or “aha!”.
This kind of practice is for people of all levels. For instance, a person just beginning to play piano may practice their scales and finger positions every day before they can begin playing simple songs. An advanced concert pianist, on the other hand, one who has mastered the basics of piano playing, uses this type of approach in a different way. She understands that she must rehearse with her instrument every day to maintain a relationship with the piano that allows her to play more difficult pieces. Rehearsing a complex piece of music each day over time builds muscle memory that allows her to go beyond the basics and add her unique sense of musicality.
30-day challenges are a great way to jumpstart this type of creative practice. Thirty consecutive days is enough to build momentum with a new skill and observe small improvements.
More than the Arts — Practice Building a Creative Toolbox
This approach is used for much more than building on talent or desirable artistic hobbies. You can use this type of creative practice to establish a creative skillset that includes growing your imagination capacity and your ability to make ideas and solve complex problems.
02: Small Steps – A little energy every day goes a long way
This style of creative practice invites a slow and steady approach to achieving creative goals or changing your life. The aim of taking small steps is to include a little bit more of that one thing you love into your life somewhere, somehow, every day.
This approach to creativity is for the person who wants to make a life change or who has a specific creative goal in mind. The foundation of this approach is understanding that to change takes time. Putting in consistent small bits of energy each day is like building a house brick by brick. This approach honours the process and sets you up to face challenges without a huge amount of risk.
A practice like this is a good fit for people who are managing several projects or responsibilities at once. This type of creative practice asks a small amount of time from you each day, which can relieve the pressure to tackle a big project under unrealistic circumstances.
For example, say you want to explore a new business idea, write a blog, or take on a large-scale creative project. With this approach, you don’t have to stop everything and obsess about the new creative endeavor. Instead, you can chip away at it day by day over a long period of time. Do you want to start a blog? Take 15 minutes every day dedicated to that process. It could mean reading other blogs, thinking of themes to write about, actually writing, or starting the process to establish your blog space online. The point is, you don’t have to drop your life and do it all at once. Take it one baby step at a time. Enjoy the process of the evolution of your idea or intention.
03: Everyday Thinking
This type of creative practice is founded on your thinking approach and is less about actions or building things. This approach asks you to be more aware of your surroundings and to be intentional about inviting in fresh perspectives. Activating a creative mindset in your daily life requires you to tap into your curiosity and ask more questions.
A practice that consciously focuses on the practical use of a creative mindset is an excellent practice for people working in teams or leading others.
04: Create to Create
This is a creative practice driven by the process and nothing else. The main goal here is to have no attachment to creative outcomes. You make things for the simple act of making or to answer questions and entertain your curiosities. This approach is also good for finding new frames and fresh perspectives by creating new iterations of existing ideas.
This practice is a wonderful use of time and also supports those working on a health and wellness practice. Creating for no other purpose than creation is great for connecting with your emotions and getting in the creative flow to overcome stress.
The practice of iterating is often used by designers and strategic teams for problem-solving, although everyone can benefit from reinventing and repurposing otherwise old ideas.
You may be a beginner creative practitioner who finds that one of the above practices is a good fit to start with — for now. For the more experienced creative practitioner, your creative practice could be one that encompasses all of these styles into a creative practice that ultimately fills your life with a creative approach in every case. This is what it truly means to “be” creative.
It’s okay if you are not at the level to take on a mixed-methods approach to your creative practice. It takes a lot of creative rehearsal time to grow your creative capacities and learn when to bend to life’s circumstances or the creative constraints presented to you.
Practice does not make perfect, but it will help you grow, and, ultimately, the more you practice the more creative you will “be”.