Artists and other creatives have engaged in a variety of rituals to help them get into the creative “zone”. By engaging in activities to prepare for their creative practice, it helps to signal to the mind and body that serious creativity is about to occur.
First, what exactly is a “ritual”? The definition according to Merriam Webster that is appropriate when it comes to creativity is defined as “an act or series of acts regularly repeated in a set precise manner.” These are often associated with a religious or spiritual practice but it does not have to be aligned in that way. A ritual can just be specific daily habits that a person does to prepare for the day or to turn in at night. This discussion focuses on those habits or “rituals” a person may do to unblock or recover their creative side.
In the article, Can Rituals Trigger Creative Flow? in Forbes, Andrea Morris highlights a how Francesca Gino, a behavioral scientist at Harvard Business School, characterizes ritual as a pattern of behavior comprised of 3 central components:
Artists and creatives have been engaged in rituals to prepare for their work for centuries. In the book Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, Mason Currey provides a provocative survey of famous creatives and their daily rituals to prepare for their creative practice. Georgia O’Keeffe would wake up at dawn and make a fire, tea and sit on her bed to watch the sun come up. She often took a half-hour walk in the morning as well. George Gershwin would start the day with the same breakfast, compose work at the piano in his pjs, bathrobe, and slippers, take a mid-afternoon lunch, then a late afternoon walk . Louis Armstrong maintained a pre--show ritual which included arriving at any engagement two hours before starting,” dosing himself with the home remedies he always swore by: swigs of glercin and honey” to prepare his voice and lungs for performance.
For me, I start off lighting incense that gives me a sense of fresh aromatic, creative energy in my studio, followed by my favorite playlist on Spotify or Amazon Music, tea or coffee, and perhaps a snack. I find that if I don’t include at least one of the first three (incense, music or tea/coffee), I cannot concentrate on my writing or my art until all are in place. It signals to me that I am ready to create for the long haul (a couple of hours).
The main advantage of creating some kind of ritual or routine is to do something rather mundane to free yourself to creativity. “The main gist behind a creative ritual, regardless of the actual action used, is that the brain responds very positively to the routine.” states Addison Duvall in the article Developing A Creative Ritual (For Higher Productivity) published on HongKiat. “If you’re wound up about a project and are feeling scatterbrained, having a ritual can help calm you down. Something like meditation, reading, or listening to music can help you focus your mind and eliminate the jitters.”
Do you engage in a habit or some form of ritual to help you unblock and focus on your creative practice? How does it help? Share any thoughts on engaging in a ritual below?