Developing your creative systems

Creative CallingAt the end of 2019, my wife and I took a trip to Rome, GA. It was our anniversary and Rome was a special place for us. On the way home, we stopped at a large bookstore chain, the first time I’ve done that in a while, and I was able to peruse the books, without hindrance, for what seemed like forever. I happened upon a new book by world-renown photographer, author, and CreativeLive founder, Chase Jarvis. The book is called Creative Calling: Establish a Daily Practice, Infuse Your World with Meaning, and Succeed in Work + Life. That title is a good understanding of the content of the book.

In section one, he discusses imagining the kind of creative calling you want. But section two, which is what I was intrigued by when I picked up the book, is on designing a strategy to make what you imagined a new reality. As I read the first chapter of that section, Developing Your Systems, I realized that so much of this was meant for me. My creative past had been filled with these kinds of systems. My uncreative present is not. Let’s take a look at some of the things he notes.

1. The power of consistent action. He tells the story of Brandon Stanton, who has now written several best-selling books and is the curator of the blog Humans of New York, a photoblog and book of street portraits and interviews collected on the streets of New York City. Jarvis says that what made this a true success was the “regular, consistent action toward his goal. The simple but intentional act of heading out in the morning with his camera created all his staggering momentum. Small, daily actions, outsized results (99).”

2. Creative Zappers:

  • Bad Medicine – “take an honest, no-BS look at the things you put into your body to ‘help you cope with the day-to-day.’ Ask yourself: Do they really? This can be anything you consume to get some sort of effect, from excess food, sugar, or caffeine to hard-core drugs.”
  • Social Media – “Social media plays an important role in how we connect with our community and cultivate an audience for our work. That said, we all know by now that the companies behind those services purposefully use behavioral psychology to trap and funnel our attention for their own purposes.”
  • Email – “Do not check your email at the start of your day if you can help it. This is one of the killers of critical morning energy and momentum…Rarely are there mission-critical obligations to address between 6 and 8 a.m…”
  • Overwork – “it’s easy to overdo it and burn out. Pushing yourself to your limit can work here and there when absolutely necessary, but a creative life is built through consistency, not by lurching from one outsized explosion of effort to the next. It’s better to learn to rest more often and keep going that outright quit.”

3. Creative Boosters:

  • Craft – learning the technical skills of your craft is essential.
  • Creative cross-training – practice a variety of creative crafts beyond your chosen medium.
  • Movement – Moving your body during the day has been show in study after study to increase creative connections and cognitive ability. “Move your body, and your braining will follow.”
  • Good nutrition – What you put into your body makes a big difference in your energy levels and concentration during the day. Eat clean and reduce your consumption of processed foods and refined sugars. This will keep your energy levels steady throughout the day/
  • Creating before consuming – “Too many of us start our days consuming instead of creating: browsing the web, watching TV, whatever. We become audience members and critics. Our thoughts get sucked into what other people are doing, how well they’re doing it, and the response they’re getting from the world. This is super toxic…”
  • Quiet and Sleep

The biggest reminder for me was to do something every day, even if it’s one paragraph of writing or a few marks on a sketch pad.

Design your systems and develop habits, and you can be on your way towards achieving your creative calling.

David has been a systems thinker most of his life. He has started three businesses as well as designed and developed systems and processes in existing organizations. He has a Doctorate in Leadership and has also done additional post-graduate work in communications.

He has also pastored 3 churches and loves to think about, write about and podcast about scripture, theology, and leadership.

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