Picture this: You're sitting in front of your sketchbook, and your pencil hovers in the air, waiting to bring your imagination to life. But something feels off. The inspiration that once flowed effortlessly is gone. Your mind is completely blank and what used to come easily, feels like a twist in your stomach.
As an illustrator, you know that finding your rhythm is the key to unlocking your full creative potential. It’s the delicate dance between self-care, structure, and balance that holds the power to breathe life into your art.
In this blog, we will explore why finding your rhythm is essential, the importance of tracking daily activities and habits, and how structure plays a pivotal role in achieving creative success. Drawing inspiration from James Clear, the author of “Atomic Habit” and his emphasis on systems over goals, we’ll delve into practical strategies for cultivating your artistic rhythm. Our dog-eared copy has made for many interesting mealtime conversations in my family, sparking discussions about the impact of finding one's rhythm and building healthy habits in every aspect of life.
Be kind to yourself as you establish a balance between Self-Care and Structure
Prioritizing self-care allows you to take care of your mental, emotional and physical well-being, which is essential for a thriving creative practice. When you prioritize self-care, you create space for relaxation, rejuvenation, and reflection, which can help alleviate stress, anxiety, and creative blocks. Taking time for activities such as meditation, journaling, mindfulness exercises, and hobbies unrelated to your art, can provide a mental reset and fresh perspective, unlocking new sources of inspiration. When your body and mind feel healthy and energized, it positively impacts your creative output and helps sustain your artistic journey in the long run.
Over the past few years, I've learned to prioritize my health, and it has truly made a significant impact on my well-being. While I may not be the type to leap out of bed at 5 am for an early morning swim and run, I've found my own rhythm that works for me. My mornings now involve a gentle wake-up, with a 10-minute meditation, and if I manage to fit in a couple of yoga and dance classes throughout the week (plus an afternoon walk with my dog Pooka), I feel like I’m doing my part!
In the past, I used to be too hard on myself if I couldn’t do something (whatever it may be) every single day. I would be kicking myself or even worse, I’d give up altogether. But I've come to realize that consistency doesn’t always mean perfection. Instead of fixating on one missed day, I now focus on celebrating the effort I put in — three out of seven days are still steps in the right direction.
By adding self-care into my routine and being kind to myself along the way, these simple (and fun) practices have become an integral part of my daily life. Looking back, they’ve been a total game-changer, empowering me to face challenging times with a grin and a quiet confidence that says, “I’ve got this!” Adding some simple self-care practices can help you find an inner strength and flexibility that can truly make all the difference as you move towards your big goals and dreams.
Tracking Daily Activities and Habits: Keeping a record of your daily activities and habits provides valuable insights into your creative process, strengths, and areas for improvement. Tracking helps identify patterns that influence your creative output, enabling you to make the most of your routines and maximize productivity. I’ve used an app called Clockify to track my habits across a week, but you can also jot down what you do on a sheet of paper. Once you’ve identified your natural patterns, you can then start thinking about what this might look like across the week.
What is your ideal week?
Are you an early bird or a night owl?
Do you have family commitments?
When my children were little, I managed to work on my illustration projects after their bedtime. Two hours every evening added up to 10 hours a week! Across a four-year period, I managed to move house three times and write and illustrate “Ballroom Bonanza”. Published by Working Title Press, and Abrams New York, “Ballroom Bonanza” became a finalist in the International CJ Picture Book Awards.
Creating daily rituals and habits fosters discipline, focus, and a sense of purpose in your creative endeavors. Recognizing your peak creative hours and scheduling breaks don’t take you away from your creativity, it actually optimizes productivity.
Finding the Balance between Creativity and Structure
Embracing flexibility allows room for spontaneity within a structured framework and encourages creative exploration and innovation. Structure helps you overcome procrastination and resistance, enabling you to consistently show up and create. Contrary to popular belief, structure and creativity are not mutually exclusive; instead, the structure provides a solid foundation for artistic freedom and innovation to flourish.
As you continue on this artistic journey, remember to find the balance between structure and flexibility. Embracing spontaneity within a structured framework allows for creative exploration and innovation. Strive to consistently show up and create, knowing that structure and creativity can coexist harmoniously.
I encourage you to embrace your rhythm as an artist with self-care, structure and balance. Remember to be kind to yourself, establish routines, and find the right equilibrium between creativity and structure.
Keep creating and embracing your unique rhythm and flow.
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