Peggy Dean is an author, illustrator, hand-letterer and Top Skillshare Teacher. For more information about her and her classes, check out her Skillshare profile page.

The impulse to be creative can feel powerful, and it help you achieve great things, both within an artistic practice and outside of it. But if you don’t have the ability to channel your creative energies a positive way, those same impulses can leave you feeling confused, stressed out, and overwhelmed. If you want to use your creativity productively to find artistic  success over the long-term, check out these proven practices that I’ve personally benefited from and that I’m confident will help you along your own creative path, too.

It all comes down to this: if you want to be a successful creative person, you have to form the right habits. Unfortunately, habit forming can be  tough. If you leave the dentist and swear up and down that your flossing routine is going to finally change but that commitment only lasts about two weeks before it’s back to it’s easier to skip flossing tonight, then you know how hard it is to make a new habit. (Oh and if you don’t and you’re one of the few people who do floss regularly? I can’t help but want to study you. But that’s for another column!). The good news is that it might be difficult to make good habits but it’s not impossible. And once you have regular practices in place, they’ll help you make other, bigger positive life changes that will stick over the long-haul.

So let’s dive right in. If you want to change your life for the better (and the long term) here are six creative habits that will increase your success.

Pictured: Peggy and a friend (image courtesy of the artist)
Pictured: Peggy and a friend (image courtesy of the artist)

Put Pen to Paper

Putting pen to paper is exactly what it sounds like. When you have an idea, it’s easy to overthink it, especially with the brilliant, creative mind that I’m sure you have. It’s great to think outside the box, but creatives know that the possibilities are endless, so we can sometimes ruminate instead of moving forward. Executing ideas can feel farther away before you even begin to actually explore it. That’s how getting “ stuck in a rut” happens.

So instead, as soon as you feel the spark of an idea, sit down and put pen to paper. Begin doodling, jotting notes, sketching, etc. Make it a habit by dedicating 5 minutes each morning to this practice.Sit down and mindlessly brain dump on paper. Let your thoughts pour onto the page, no matter how big or small. It could be thoughts about your breakfast or the next big innovative success. Let your mind wander and see where it takes you. Sometimes, we just need to begin to work to quiet all our internal noise and better discover what we’re truly after. You have to start somewhere, so just start.

Art by Peggy Dean (Image courtesy of the artist)
Art by Peggy Dean (Image courtesy of the artist)

Focus on the Journey, not the Destination

Think back to some of your most memorable life experiences. Do they stand out on their own? Or do they stand out because you know how much went into  getting there? Blood, sweat and tears can be shed in the process of pursuing our passions. So don’t worry if you’re not immediately where you want to be. If you feel frustrated, take a moment to pause. Think about what  you’re experiencing in the present and remember that you’re setting yourself up for a beautiful ride–one you’ll be likely to remember for a long time. And when you do reach your destination, you’ll be more satisfied with your achievement knowing all the work you put in along the way.

Know When to Walk Away

Tunnel vision! You suck us in so easily! We forget to stretch. We forget to drink water (guilty). We forget to eat (also guilty)! We get so consumed in what we’re doing, that without having someone nagging at us, we get lost in our work or idea. That is is not healthy.  

There are a handful of times that artists suffer from just not being able to figure it out. They might get frustrated  in their progress because it’s not looking like they want it to, because they can’t find the right words, or because something else isn’t working. If you’re feeling that way and feel determined to stick to what you’re doing until you can make sense of it, it may sound counterproductive, but that is the perfect time for you to get up walk away.

Walking away from what you’re doing allows us to revisit it with fresh eyes when you return. Give your mind the  the breather it needs. Chances are, your productivity level will multiply upon returning. According to research via Science Daily, the brain actually stops registering what it’s seeing, hearing or feeling if the stimuli is too constant. This means you lose focus even when you’re sucked in, and your performance suffers. So get up and go take a bite of your sandwich, get a glass of water or go for a walk. Your art will thank you later!.

Art by Peggy Dean (image courtesy of the artist)
Art by Peggy Dean (image courtesy of the artist)

Take Risks

Our natural instincts tell us to survive. In the modern world, survival means money, acceptance, and success. But what if deep down, your idea of success is different from that? What if your idea of success is unconventional? Or stems from passion, and is maybe even a little weird? The first step to taking risks is to understand yourself and trust your intuition. The word “risk” is a dare in and of itself; risks don’t have guaranteed results, you’re putting yourself in a position that might fall flat. Then again, nothing changes if nothing changes. So challenge yourself to meet failure. Know that you are taking a risk and try to be okay with failing. Because if you are going to fail…

Fail Better

I have some harsh and nasty news about failure: YOU WILL FAIL! That’s a guarantee.At some point or another, something you attempt won’t work the way you’d hoped it would. Does this make you a failure as an individual? No! Does it make you a failure as a creative? No! Does it even mean you failed? Not necessarily. Sometimes it’s just the wrong timing or a small detail needs to be tweaked. If you haven’t heard the acronym for FAIL, you need to: First Attempt In Learning.

Failing better means to accept failure with open arms and turning it into a learning experience. It’s actually beneficial to fail. If you don’t experience failure, you have missed opportunities that you could have used to improve yourself. How do you think we learned to walk?

Art by Peggy Dean (image courtesy of the artist)
Art by Peggy Dean (image courtesy of the artist)

Surround Yourself with Like-minded People

You might be fortunate to be surrounded by people with great energy in your day-to-day, but you also might find that some people could drag you down. Even if we think we can handle it, negativity or a  lack of motivation from others can easily rub off on us, keeping us complacent without even realizing it. When we intentionally surround ourselves with individuals who also have growth mindsets and want to achieve higher levels of self, we have no choice but to feel driven to reach higher levels as well. Skillshare has an invaluable online community that will do this for those of us who may not have options to submerge into a creative crowd in person. Take advantage of discussions and communication with other members via projects and comments. Let yourself blossom.

Make each of these six practices a habit, and you’ll be sure to be on the road to success. Don’t have the time or energy? Begin to examine how you spend your days. You might find it’s time to reevaluate a few of your current habits, or even break some, in order to adopt these more positive changes. Want a little extra support? I’ll be standing by to cheer you on! Be sure to jump over to my Instagram @thepigeonletters for inspiration and constant blurbs on improving our creative world. Imagine the possibilities of what’s next! You got this.

Headshot credit: Lauryn Kay Photography

Want to learn other ways to channel your creative energy? Skillshare has hundreds of classes that will help you do just that. Find the ones that are right for you by clicking here.

Written by:

Peggy Dean