I have a long-term love/hate thing going with resolutions. I love how they infuse us with boldness and adventure and hope, but I'll confess: there's a "fizzle effect" that can hit pretty hard after the initial buzz wears off. Many of us who work in creative fields or pursue artistic interests adore the beginnings of things, loving the peak of energy that comes with the initial, adventurous part of a goal, but then we lose steam as a project becomes more predictable. 'Been there.
But don't give up on resolutions! Each new year brings a fantastic opportunity to assess where we are, where we've been and where we want to go next with our lives. Resolutions serve as the telling declarations of how we see our true potential, with creativity-based resolutions holding an extra-special gift and significance. While many goals relate to how others see us (ever more thin, fit, gorgeous and successful, of course -- you are pretty fabulous), creative resolutions allow us to rework the vision we have of ourselves. "I'll finally just do it," we think (or declare to our best friends). "I'll take those gourmet cooking classes! Learn to play the piano! I'll build that weather station with the kids! Finish writing the novel that's been incubating for years!" There's a sassy intensity that often comes with the commitment to a creative intention, probably because it feels a little, well, selfish. Yup. We've decided to do something for ourselves, and dangit, it's about time.
The great news is that there are ways to give your creative resolutions legs -- no more deflated Februaries for us, people. Try these tips for helping the kick-ass creative side of you emerge and really shine this year.
Leaping into new activities and actions can be scary, especially when we're all a bit overwhelmed already. Instead, try easing into changes. Frequently remind yourself that you don't need to do everything the first day, but you are going to do something.
Action Path: Make a list of activities that you do to relax or "decompress." Replace 15 minutes of one of these activities with an easy, fun task related to your creative goal. Choose something that doesn't freak you out. For instance, if you'd like to take up painting and you typically watch TV to relax, spend 15 minutes of your former TV time online instead, checking out paint supplies or local classes that might be interesting. Keep a list of tasks that sound appealing for future mini-sessions. Daily "baby steps" like this build a sense of possibility that will both increase energy and reduce anxiety.
Experts have long held that both genius and creativity are closely tied to skills involving metaphor: the ability to find connections and relationships between seemingly unlike things. If you've been feeling stale or uninspired, one way to pump up your creativity is to fill your senses and see what kind of connections start to emerge.
Action Path: Gather some new sensory content. Sights, smells, sounds, touch -- anything that fills the senses will stimulate the parts of the brain related to innovation and problem-solving. Need some ideas? Wander around an ethnic market, flip through magazines you've never read before, sample the aromas at a tea shop, borrow your kid's iPod for an afternoon, caress your way through a fabric shop or just take a walk outside in a new place.
Being a creative powerhouse requires a wildly diverse range of skills. If some areas of your creative life are sparkling and easy, balance your skill set by polishing up the parts that aren't flowing as well. Look at your daily patterns and decide where you might shake things up and strengthen weak spots through practice.
Action Path: Are you a spontaneous type? Try embracing discipline in a new way by choosing one small activity to do in a committed way every day. It might be a page of journaling or a walk after work. Be corny and make checkmarks on a calendar to show that you've accomplished your discipline task, and know that incremental progress is critical to long-term creative accomplishments. Are you a structured, by-the-book type? Check in with yourself as you go about your daily habits, then experiment with choices that reflect your desire at that moment. Do you really want your usual coffee today? Is there another way to drive where you're going? Why not try that new restaurant that caught your eye last week? Pull out of an uninspiring spiral by doing something new.
That's right -- ask somebody who loves the heck out of you and thinks you're terrific to partner with you while working toward your creative goal. The perfect partner-in-crime/cheerleader/sounding board is someone who is also working toward a goal, but in a field different from yours. Choose someone close, but not too close, for best results -- avoid spouses and family members, leaning toward friends or trusted colleagues instead. (Change and growth can feel threatening to those in our most intimate circles, creating conflict for them -- and us -- as we make progress.) Lastly, skip the brilliant, critical types. They might be helpful later for editing or presentation, but they have a habit of crushing tiny ideas when they're tender and new.
Action Path: First, put out feelers, then put your ear to the ground. At work or in a group of friends where you're comfortable, casually mention what you're planning to endeavor. Be attentive to those who chime in with complementary goals of their own, then approach them privately later to see if they'd like to form a kind of adult "buddy system." Create your own support style that's both fun and consistent; weekly progress reports over coffee, a walk, or Skype can be a great way to have some accountability and share the journey.
Okay, you kick-ass creators to be, you already have the ideas, and now you have some new approaches for becoming your best you. You can do it. Don't worry if you just picked this up and it's already March! Don't worry if you've stumbled in the past or are crazy tired or are a little (or a lot) afraid! And hey, those great ideas of yours? They're still bugging you because somehow, you're the one to bring them to life. And you have to start somewhere. Just begin.
Follow Mary Beth Maziarz on Twitter: www.twitter.com/marybethmaziarz