Lately, I've been pushing myself to form better habits. I've read The Power of Habit by Charles Duhig, and Atomic Habits by James Clear. These books have been an excellent insight into habit formation and disruption. A long time ago, I read The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan, is centered around the habit of doing your most import thing first. In Atomic Habits, James Clear said to use a habit tracker to start by recording how often you do something without trying to change it. Then, use it to change the habit. For example, if you want to stop doing a bad habit, you first track how often you do that bad habit. Then with that eye-opening data, you can work on disrupting that habit. The habit tracker that I use has keeps track of habit streaks. I know that it is a total mind trick, but if you give in and tell yourself that you care about the streak and keeping it alive. Then, you get a little bit of joy when you can give yourself that confirmation that you have successfully refrained from doing the habit at the end of the day. The same is true for a good habit. Track the habit then try to change it with streaks. Tracing my habits is what I used to get 25 days of creativity without breaking my streak. The app I use is called Way of Life. I've hidden my other habits I'm working on but you can see that this week hasn't been perfect as noted by the red box.
The Way of Life app has loads of options, but it is so simple and easy to use. When I am successful, I get a green box when I'm successful as well as a "ding" notification. After three consecutive days, the streak counter starts showing up. It will show the longest streak if I have started a new streak after breaking one. That way, I push myself further the next time. There is a red box when I fail. That sucks. There is a way to skip a day and not ruin the streak. I've tried to use this, but it feels like a failure, so I don't bother with skip days anymore.
I have habit streaks that have lasted over 200 days, but I'm focusing on creativity in this post. I've learned a lot about myself in the last 25 days. For example, it used to be so easy to create often, but forcing myself to create every day was a challenge. I used to think that I had to be in the zone or feeling the creative flow even to start. But, with repeated practice, it becomes much easier to get in the zone or flow state when I start regardless of how I feel. I've broken the streak several times this year. I made it to 25 days by changing the rules and making the goal closer so I can have a small win that usually propels me on to a more significant win sooner rather than later.
One "rule" I changed is the skip days like I mentioned before. I was using the skip feature for days when I'd shoot photos for work all day, such as a team roping or barrel race. I gave it some more thought, and now I count those days as creating something. It was a silly secret rule that although I'm creative every day for work that it doesn't count as creating. Another rule is what I create. I started by making it a blog challenge. After 10+ days of blogging every day, I ran out of ideas. Or, I was beginning to feel burnt out. I changed the "blog every day" rule to "create everyday." Changing my rules expanded what I could do that would count towards my goal. I was able to get more green boxes and less red boxes, resulting in a better me. Now I can create a t-shirt design in Illustrator, or painting in Procreate, or a photo, or a video, or an advertisement, or whatever else, you get the picture. LOL
There have been lots of cool things that have come from my creativity challenge, and there have been some pretty lame creations. If I had just tried for perfect creations every time, I would still be stuck not creating. I should start and let my mind explore. I can create faster and faster each week that goes by. If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you probably have seen the march store growing fast. I've been creating designs, having people vote on them and then publishing the best ones to my store on shirts, hoodies, flip flops and more! Some people have even purchased them! The reward is that I created something and got the green box and the ding of affirmation, but the financial reward when someone buys my merchandise is cool too! I've created stickers with my designs and gave them away for free in my booth and an occasional post.
I have been getting better and faster, the more I create. I'm sure I could progress faster if I would stick to one thing and do it well. For me that one thing is photography, and all the other stuff is just extra. I'm still learning new things with photography, but the wins are smaller and more nuanced. Though, I could always write about them at length. LOL, I'm using this creativity challenge to try out new things and see how I like them. I'm working on improving my hand lettering, for example. It is interesting to learn how people sketch the letter shapes and not just manipulate a pre-made font. There is a ton of thought that goes into each word and the group of words a whole. I've been investing quite a bit of time learning Illustrator. It's incredible to watch people like Aaron Draplin work in Illustrator. I recently purchased his book (after driving two hours to a bookstore that had one left) Pretty Much Everything.
If you are a creative professional or want a little bit more creativity in your life, I'd highly recommend committing to a similar challenge Start by just tracking how often you create but don't be hard on yourself. Then start trying to beat your last streak but the most important day is the day after perfect. I'm relatively sure that I read that in Jon Acuff's book, Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done. We are prone to failure, and things come up, life gets crazy. We hit the pillow after a wild day and realize we didn't create anything only after waking up the next day. The most important thing you can do is to start again right away. The streak should not be broken for two days in a row because that is teaching our brains a new habit of not making the habit we want.
Let's see how long of a streak we can get! Let me know what you come up with. I'm going to get a green box and the ding of success now that I've finished this blog. LOL