Lately I’ve been making substantial efforts to simplify my daily routine and rituals in order to maximize creative output. It sounds pretty admirable, but frankly, this is a huge struggle for me. My life is filled with interruptions and only recently have I discovered how bad I am at fending off distractions. It’s time for a system makeover and although it’s usually an uphill battle to keep it up, I’m making every effort to remove useless digital clutter from my daily life.
Rather than share a big list of the apps and time wasters I’m getting rid of, I thought I’d share some of the more useful tools I’ve been using to help focus my daily creative output. In a future post, I’ll share some tools that help with productivity as well as client communication. But first, here are a few picks to help boost creativity.
Many years ago, a friend introduced me to “The Artists Way”, a wonderful program developed by Julia Cameron to “discover and recover your creative self”. I highly recommend this program if you are looking to dig deep and connect with a more creative life. She has actually shared the entire program as a video series on her website, so it’s super easy to get started.
One of the regular exercises of the program is called the “Morning Pages”. It is a deliberate practice of filling 3 pages with longhand writing. The idea of the pages is to just write what comes to mind, a stream of consciousness to clear out the cobwebs in your brain and de clutter so you can make way for your creative ideas to come through.
I have found this practice to be incredibly therapeutic and have followed this regimen on and off for years. The times that I’m diligent and write for days in a row, I feel lighter and focused, like I have purpose and direction in my life. It’s when I get mired down and depressed with my daily work that I soon realize the act of writing morning pages has been squeezed off my to do list.
To make this easier for those of us with typing preference, a guy named Buster Benson developed a helpful app called: 750words.com. He calculated that 3 pages of longhand writing is equivalent to 750 words typed. Although I don’t know for certain if Julia Cameron would approve of typing your morning pages, I’ve found that by incorporating this method of typing the pages, I’ve been far more successful with consistency. The app is free, completely private and has some great features such as stats on your progress each month and how many words you’ve written. You can also sign up for challenges and interact with the community. It’s certainly worth checking out!
I am a scatterbrain by nature and making lists is the one thing that saves me from complete and utter chaos. I love making lists for everything from grocery shopping to my favourite cartoons to ideas and brainstorming. I have been trying to follow James Altucher’s advice to make a list of 10 things every day. It’s a great way to keep the creativity flowing and force yourself to dig deeper. It’s really hard to come up with a full list of 10, no matter what the subject.
Evernote is perfect for this type of practice. Of course everyone knows it’s a great app since you can sync between devices, but many of us struggle to figure out how to use it properly. I was randomly making digital notes here there and everywhere until I came across Michael Hyatt and his advice about Evernote. He has a brilliant and easy way to organize lists in Evernote with a tag system. My office may be a disaster of sticky notes, but I can easily find everything I need in Evernote with this system.
Recently I started journalling. I find this a great way to keep track of what I accomplish each day and formulate a plan for tomorrow. I don’t spend a lot of time doing this, maybe 10 minutes after dinner. The main areas I like to keep track of daily are the following: deliberate animation practice, client work progress, personal development, business development and physical activity. If I can write one accomplishment, no matter how small, under each of those categories everyday, then I know I am moving forward.
There are a million apps out there for journalling and a simple google search for “best journal app” will give you plenty of reviews. I am an android user, so I opted for Journey. It’s free, simple and I can easily add photos and tags to each post. If at the end of the day you are finding yourself wondering “what the heck did I accomplish today?”, Journalling is a great way to uncover the areas of your life that are working and hold you accountable to do the important work.
I know this is a bit random, but I find colour to be an area that sparks huge creativity for me. When I was in art school, I spent the first year learning all the foundations of art, and I was surprised to learn colour theory was my favourite. We spent hours, and even days, mixing up oil paints, examining the colours, learning the terminology, colour relationships and exploring the various feelings each colour evoked. It sounds tedious, but I loved every moment.
In the digital world, Adobe has created a fantastic tool to mix and match colour palettes, with an online app called ColorCC (previously known as Kuler). The user interface reflects a colour wheel with the full spectrum of digital colours. You have the option here to create a colour palette from scratch or you can choose a main colour and have the app generate several options of colour palettes based on colour theory rules.
There is also a section where you can choose colours that other Adobe users have created and shared. This is a wonderful place to find inspiration for your next project, I’m always amazed at the power of colour and how it can generate ideas and often motivate me to complete a lingering project. The next time you feel stuck in your animation project, why not see where colour can lead you.
One of the coolest features of ColorCC is that you can integrate it with all the Adobe products. You can create new colour combos or access your original and favourite ColorCC collections within Photoshop, Illustrator or any other Adobe app.
There are countless tools out there to help you be “more creative”, but at the end of the day, there is no magic bullet to increase and improve your output. I think it’s important to find the tools that work with your personal preferences and tendencies, rather than distract your attention and cause more clutter.
I would love to hear which apps you find useful when it comes to creative output. Leave a comment below or send me an email through the contact form. And while you’re at it, let me know what your greatest struggle is when it comes to animation or creativity. I would love to learn and help!