5 Habits That Will Help You Be a Creative Rock Star
How was this past year?
That’s the question everyone asks during the final days of the year. It’s certainly the question I was asking last December. And it’s a valid question, because if you don’t evaluate your success, you can’t improve.
Like everyone, I had both wins and losses in 2015. Some of my wins were:
- Publishing my second book, The Artist’s Suitcase: 26 Essentials for the Creative Journey.
- Becoming an editor at The Good Men Project.
- Teaching a new college course on writing.
- Growing my email subscriber list by 77%.
- Finishing my son’s treehouse that I started building in 2011.
Those have all been meaningful wins, but I’ve also had a number of failures. Here are the key mistakes in my business and creative life this past year:
- Being inconsistent with my newsletter, blog posts, and writing in general.
- Focusing mainly on my own growth and not making others my first priority.
- Trying to do everything on my own instead of asking for help.
- Not doing enough to be healthy (exercise, eating well).
- Overanalyzing every decision and being too slow to take action.
None of these mistakes were intentional. They all stemmed from a lack of good habits. I am working on correcting these mistakes and developing new habits.
Consider this a challenge to you (and to myself) to work on the following five habits in the coming year. They will help propel us to greater heights and be creative rock stars.
Habit #1: Create consistently
When you’re inconsistent with your art, you lose trust with your audience. They don’t know if you’re going to consistently deliver on your promise. It doesn’t matter if it’s blog posts, podcasts, newsletters, music, or some other type of creative work. Your audience needs to know they can count on you to deliver.
This is one of the key marks between a professional and an amateur. An amateur creates when they feel like, and a professional gets to work no matter what.
If you have a job, a family, are involved in your church or community, and have other commitments, you know how hard it is to be consistent. Two of the most consistent writers I know are my friends Joe Lalonde and Dan Black. They both write about leadership, have many other responsibilities besides writing, yet consistently crank out high-quality blog posts.
Challenge: Commit to doing the work no matter what the external conditions, and deliver what you promised.
Habit #2: Focus on helping others
I am a natural introvert. I’m a high “C” on the DiSC inventory and an ISTJ on the Myers-Briggs temperament analysis. I get my emotional strength from being alone (which is why it’s sometimes hard to ask for help), and I love systems and processes.
This also applies to my personal and creative growth. I have stacks of books to read, long tasks lists, and all sorts of ways I want to improve. But in the process, it’s very easy to forget that I need to focus more on helping others grow. And in the process, I’ll grow as well.
This is why I wrote The Artist’s Suitcase, why I started the Artist’s Suitcase Facebook group, and why I try to be intentional about engaging with people online. I have a natural tendency to be inwardly focused. Maybe you do, too.
The real joy in creating art comes when we share it with others and help others reach their creative potential.
Challenge: Find other people you can help. You have knowledge and resources that will benefit others.
Habit #3: Collaborate with others
When you’re starting out as an artist (or perhaps even when you’ve been at it a long time), you don’t have a team around you to help. You feel the responsibility of doing everything yourself. In my case, that means coming up with ideas, motivating myself, and doing all the legwork related to writing and editing.
You may not have an assistant (I don’t), but that doesn’t mean you should be flying solo. There are lots of opportunities for networking, masterminds, Facebook groups, local artist groups, church groups, and so many other ways to connect with people. You just have to be intentional about it.
This year I am committing to working much more closely with others on projects. In fact, I’ve already got one project in the works. I realize that I’m much stronger when I work with a team. If Michelangelo needed a team to paint the Sistine Chapel, you and I need others’ help, too.
Challenge: Find like-minded people who will challenge you, encourage you, and help you be at your best. Then if at all possible, find ways to work together.
Habit #4: Live a healthy lifestyle
This is the hardest habit for me to break. I like fast food and junk food, and I don’t really enjoy exercise. That’s not a winning combination. (Rather, that’s a deadly combination.)
During times when I have been more disciplined about exercise and eating well, I have noticed a big difference in my energy level and attitude. It’s no secret that exercise helps you be more creative. But now at 41, I’m starting to feel my age a little more, and I realize it’s time to get serious about my health.
My wife Melanie is a rock star when it comes to exercising consistently and eating well. It doesn’t matter what the weather is or whether she feels like it. She will find a way to get it done.
Challenge: Figure out a plan to exercise and eat in a healthier way … and stick to it.
Habit #5: Be action-oriented
No, this doesn’t mean I’m going to star in action movies (although I’ve always wanted to be Batman). It means that I have a tendency to overanalyze every decision. When I first started blogging, I would spend hours agonizing over my blog design and details that didn’t matter. I wish I would have spent all that time creating content instead.
If you’re a perfectionist, you know what I mean. It’s almost impossible to let something go until it’s as perfect as we can make it. (Can I get an “amen” in the house?) But this tendency can really hurt us if we’re focusing on the wrong things.
The problem with making decisions, not matter if they’re big or small, is that you rarely have all the information you’d like. You can always do more study or wait for more information. But if you’re trying to build an audience and develop a business, you can’t sit around until you have all the information you need. Sometimes you have to make a decision based on incomplete information.
In these moments, we have to let go of our perfectionism and be biased toward action. There are so many times when I’ve gotten stalled out in my creative life because I’ve overanalyzed a decision and gotten paralyzed.
Challenge: Be biased toward taking action toward your creative goals every single day.
My guess is that you can relate to at least a couple of these areas. Which of my mistakes do you relate to, and which habits will you try to put into practice in 2016?