Creativity is Not a Trait. It’s a Habit
Art is a vast democracy of habit — Twyla Tharp

The secret to meaningful progress at anything is showing up and the same applies to your creativity. In a world where globalization and automation are drastically increasing, organizations are placing a high value on creativity. As Ken Robinson said, creativity is going to be as important as literacy. If you apply for a job, unless it’s a position in accounting and finance, it’s likely that creativity is one of the desired traits. But look at the body of work of any prolific creative and a certain pattern will emerge:

  • Photographers are always taking pictures
  • Writers are always writing
  • Painters are always painting
  • Musicians are always singing

If there’s anything that this makes clear, it’s that creativity is a habit, not a trait. It’s not something that certain people are born with and other people lack.Unlike a trait, a habit is something that must be cultivated and refined on a regular basis.

1. Allocate time for Creativity Every Day

Little things done repeatedly lead to big changes in our lives. By allocating time for our creativity every day it goes from being an item on a to-do list to a habit. Even though I schedule my writing time on my calendar, I don’t actually have to because it’s the first thing I do every morning. One focused hour a day of is a critical ingredient to flow and deep work. Consistency results in more creativity, and your cumulative output matters more than any individual piece of work. When you allocate time every day for creativity, you’ll end up with unexpected outcomes that exceed many of your expectations.

2. Master Your Craft

There are two reasons to master your craft. Passion follows engagement and meaning follows mastery. When you start to dance on the edges of mastery, a creative habit or activity becomes much more engaging. As a result, you’ll be intrinsically motivated and passionate about the activity. And all of this will lead to greater levels of meaning in your work.

3. Commit to Building a Body of Work

In a previous piece I wrote about all the reasons why a body of work is more valuable than a resume:

  • You own it
  • It’s lifelong
  • It helps you build valuable skills
  • It’s more rewarding than a resume
  • It gives people a reason to find you interesting

A body of work is not something that is born out of sporadic creativity. It results from habitual creativity. For any serious creator, a body of work is going to be the work of a lifetime. Every person’s body of work, like their lives and careers, has a through line:

  • Tina Seelig’s through line has been curiosity.
  • Jocelyn K. Glei’s through line has been publishing
  • My personal through-line has been an obsession with people who are good at unusual things.

Many of us identify with labels like author, speaker, podcaster, visual artists, etc. But there is far more to any of us than can possibly be expressed through something like a job title. The beautiful thing about uncovering a through-line in your body of work is that it allows you to transcend the limitations of whatever label you’ve identified with and express your creativity in a multitude of ways. When you build a body of work you plant seeds today for the person you want to eventually become.

Habits are the fabric of creative lives and creative careers. With rituals, routine, and repetition habits evolve into skills, and skills open up the pathway to opportunity. A good creative habit can alter the course of your entire life.

Unlike outcomes and external goals, habits are entirely within our control. We can develop the commitment and discipline to follow through on a habit. When we think of creativity, the words that come to mind are rarely things like discipline, routine, and commitment. But these are all foundational elements of effective creativity. Very little can be accomplished without them. Creativity is not a trait. It’s habit.

Before You Go…

If doing the best work of your life is important to you, check out my free guide: “Optimizing Productivity & Creativity.

The tactics I’ve packed into this guide allowed me to write over 1 million words in the last 2 years. What could it do for your life’s work? Don’t miss it.