Between the Lines

The second month in the start of a new year — no better time to build a creativity habit and get your motivation to run on autopilot. Build creative habits and they will become part of your routine. You will no longer struggle to get creative time in, and only a tiny bit of effort will keep the momentum.
Start off easy. Don’t try to change everything in your life in one day. Choose the most important “habit” to focus on. (For me it was writing 350 words a day — that’s one page which, by the end of a year, is a book!) Keep the process as simple for yourself as possible.
Do it every day. This will build consistency. If you skip days (for instance, plan to do something three days a week) it will be too easy to procrastinate — which is why another year might go by without you doing what you really want to do.
Stick with your new habit for 30 days. Once you hit the 30-day mark, your new habit will be ingrained and you won’t feel right if you miss a day. Should you choose to continue, set a new goal of 90 days. At the end of that? Congratulations: This wonderful, creative habit is now part of your rich, meaningful, artistic life.
Don’t worry if you aren’t perfect. Now and then, it’s okay to miss your mark. Don’t kick yourself or give up, but embrace your imperfection and simply begin again the next day. Forget the time you missed. It doesn’t matter as long as you start again the next day.
Give yourself wiggle room. First thing in the morning doesn’t work? Switch times. Or 350 words too many? Try 200. One hour too long? Cut back to a half hour. The point is to make your new habit too easy to accomplish so you don’t skip. So experiment, and whatever works is the way to go! If your goal is too difficult to reach every day, modify it. Consistency is the key.
Keep track, write it down, and put it where you can see it. I have a small cube of paper with “M Tu W Th F Sat Sun” on it for each week in the month. I mark an X through the days I write. Nothing is more thrilling than a month of Xs — unless it’s the 30 pages of my newest work in progress.
Enlist a Habit Buddy. Accountability can work wonders. Let someone you trust know what you are doing and ask him or her for support. People love to help. Plan a meeting (lunch or coffee) once a week (or month) so this accountability thing turns into a positive experience. If it’s fun, you’ll keep it up!
Celebrate your accomplishments! After 30 days (paintings, pages, art journaling, knitting, projects, whatever) reward yourself. After all, you’ve conquered a huge battle and made time for what is important in your life. But be sure to celebrate. A little positive reinforcement goes a long way.

Kathy Steffen is an award-winning novelist and author of the “Spirit of the River Series:” “First, There is a River,” “Jasper Mountain,” and “Theater of Illusion.” She writes from her home in Spring Green she shares with her husband and cats. Find out more at www.kathysteffen.com.