Creativity as a Habit

There’s a dichotomy that anyone who is professionally creative has faced. On the one hand, creating as work relies on, well, being creative. It requires imagining and making something where nothing existed before. On the other hand though, to do anything professionally requires regularity and routine. It’s something you do every day, a schedule, a habit, and an exercise. These two ideas butt heads in the mind of the creative consistently, or at least they do in my mind. (If you’re a creative and you’ve never experienced this dichotomy, please teach me whatever secrets you’ve learned.) Imagination and routine are not compatible ideals. At least not without practice. So then, this is the rub: how do you build a way of working and living that allows creativity to become a habit? 

As a marketing firm, creativity flows through the channels of work at Adelsberger constantly. Alex creates videos, Tamara creates images, Brittany creates clean and compelling copy, Ricky and Katie create graphics, and so on and so forth. Creativity has to be a habit, as it does for everyone in every similar job anywhere. 

On the first day of classes, back in August, I sat at a conference table for syllabus day in a writing course. The professor walked in, looking exactly how you want a man who is going to teach you about short stories and poetry and great authors to look. He had glasses and a white beard and a pleasant way of talking that seemed constantly amused by the world around him. The first assignment he gave us was one that would last all semester: get a small notebook and your favorite pen, carry them with you every day, everywhere, and jot down anything at all that interests you. There are a lot of pages in that notebook filled with useless, silly things that I’ll forget. But there are also ideas that became several stories, a magazine article, and several entries in this internship diary. The world produces creativity, and you only get creative by being in it, just as you only get strong by going to the gym and not by sitting at home wondering why you’re not feeling strong today. 

Right now, I’m only an aspiring professional creative. We’ll see where that takes me. But I’ve learned from people a lot smarter and a lot more experienced than me that if you want a productive imagination, you have to build a little haven for it. Anybody truly great has had their haven. Thoreau had his cabin on Walden Pond, Roald Dahl had his desk in a shed overlooking his garden, and Haruki Murakami has his tidy desk in an office nook. For right now, I have a desk in a dorm room. On the top shelf sits a plant in a disposable cup that I saved from a coffee shop just outside the public library in New York City. I saved the cup because the logo is a little guy with glasses who sort of looks like me. A collection of old records by the likes of Johnny Cash, Nat King Cole, and Hall & Oates hang on the wall above. A cheap faux Japanese lamp casts a softly warm glow from its perch on top of a collection of books. This is my haven, the place that lets me write my stories and all of these internship diaries. This is the place that makes creativity a (mostly) joyful habit for me.

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