Being creative is more than just inspiration and revelation. It takes more than just AHA moments and epiphanies to create works of arts, whether they are symphonies, novels, paintings, hit songs or whatever art you make.
Being a successful creative means not just thinking up creative ideas, but making time for them, and then actually doing them. It takes focused planning on how you will accomplish the creative thing and actually get it done.
There’s nothing worse than having all sorts of creative dreams, plans, and ideas, but having nothing to show the world. How do you exist as a creative without creative works?
Um, you don’t. So, let’s dive in to how you can plan to be creative, and then work the plan.
I already used my Beethoven quote (again) in the last post, but the key is to “do.” Be industrious. And Step 1 on how you can be industrious and get work done is to plan the time for it.
You plan everything else you want to get done right? You plan to wake up at a certain time, take a shower at a certain time, so you can leave at a certain time because traffic will take a certain about of time. You plan all these things out in your head to make sure you get to work on time. Which by the way, most things we do are scheduled from a certain time to a certain time like how long you work at your job.
We schedule dinner. We schedule TV time. We go to movies on their schedule. We even plan on when we need to go to bed and how much we need to sleep.
If you want to focus on your creative stuff and get it done, you need to plan and schedule and make the time for that creativity too.
No, I’m not talking about you beatmakers out there making your beatz. I’m talking about your circadian rhythms. What kind of person are you? Morning person? Night person?
When are you naturally most creative? Our bodies and minds work on a schedule (even they schedule!!) So, you need to find that right creative time for you to do creative work.
It also helps if it’s a time where you won’t be disturbed, so that’s where the rhythms part comes in. If you’re naturally up and mornings are quieter, then maybe that’s the time. If you’re a night owl and you’re up anyway, then there you go.
And guess what, you can change this. I did. I went from being a complete night person, always up to 2 or 3am. I did all my creative stuff then if I didn’t get to it any other time. But I decided to try mornings, decided I had missed enough of them, and literally changed my rhythms. Now I go to bed earlier like a regular person and get up every day with the sun and start thinking creative things.
OK, so we’ve planned the time, and we know when in our day we will be creative.
Yes, work. I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this, but you are going to have to put some serious work in to make serious art.
Like a job (especially if art is your job) you are going to have to schedule time to do your creative thing, work on it whether you feel like it or not when that time comes and keep it on your to do list until you get it done.
My To Do lists are legion. I use Evernote to get everything done, to keep all my ideas, goals, deadlines, and journals. It’s a great app for your phone or tablet, and also accessible on any browser or desktop apps.
When people start to find out the ridiculous amount of creative work that I do for my client’s brands and then all my personal brands, they ask me how in the world I get everything done.
The answer is I put it on lists, then either delegate it or more likely just schedule the time and knock stuff out each day. I have a daily To Do list, and on weekdays that includes both client and personal creative things I need to get done.
There is no way I would get work done without lists.
Alternating Work and Play
In some ways I see all the work I do as play, but each job, whether it is creating a music track, editing a video, or marketing it online; each of these are jobs that I must get done. But admittedly, my personal songs, videos, and marketing is usually extra fun for me because it’s all mine and my creative brain alone.
So, what I do is alternate between things for clients and my personal art to get everything done. This helps keep all things accomplished and refreshes me throughout the day.
Maybe your “other job” isn’t creative work, but you can still use this strategy to get creative work done alongside your other work.
Need to finish a presentation for school or work? Do that, and then work on finishing that song you wrote. Need to get the laundry done? Add a laundry switch every time you finish a section of writing, or a recording, or part of your painting.
This helps by letting you do both the things you want to do and the things you need to do. Like recess, lunch, and other things at school you actually liked, this is the way teachers and schools have kept students graduating for generations.
But Schedule It
Even the alternating method will only work if you focus on that To Do List. Line those creative tasks up and then knock them down!
I’ve never had much luck myself with scheduling creative work for specific times like 45 minutes on and 15 off. But maybe that would work for you.
The goal simply is to get work done, and sort of “force” focus.
If you’ll excuse one more school analogy, I didn’t “want” to finish those papers I had to write for the master’s degree I just finished. Music Theory! Music History! But at some point, I had to buckle down and just knock them out.
So, guess where those tasks went? Yep, right in the To Do List right alongside client work and my personal creative brands.
OK now let’s talk about the dreaded…
Of course, with school, and sometimes client work (or work work as I call it), a deadline exists for certain projects. That actually helps greatly and forces us to focus.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to force focus on purely creative tasks. But by putting each song, painting, chapter of a novel, video edit for your YouTube channel, whatever into a To Do list and systematically knocking them out, is a great way to keep you focused on the tasks that need to be done.
Sometimes even adding bullet points under each thing that needs to be done or options for the job, and then knocking down each part of the job. I do this with most things. So yes, sometimes even each creative thing has its own list in Evernote.
Stick to the Plan
The plan works if you work it they say, and they are mostly right. At the very least, making a plan, making action steps, then figuring out the process of working through each step and finishing is the key. The list gives you the next step, and even if you don’t feel like doing it, just knowing what the next step is and powering through it helps you get that creative thing one step closer to showing it off (or monetizing!)
I hope this has given you some hints on how I do it, and that it helps you beat focus and distraction and get your creative work done.
Have a great week!
Eric Copeland is a full-time composer, producer, and creative marketer who keeps lots of dang lists. If you’d like to get help getting creative things done, you can get in touch with him at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you’re a composer, music artist, songwriter, or musician and would like more help with your music and brand, check out https://www.CreativeSoulOnline.com