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The Secret to Finding Creative Liberty

We celebrate our national independence on July 4th, but there’s another freedom we should consider as well: creative freedom. The problem is, creative freedom, like our national freedom, comes with a price. I’m currently reading a book called Daily Rituals: How Artists Work. It’s a fascinating look at how successful creative people design rituals and plan their day to maximize their productivity. Reading the book, you realize pretty quickly that creativity isn’t about inspiration, it’s about hard work.

Time and time again, each of the writers, musicians, artists, and other creatives have one thing in common: a daily ritual that’s disciplined and rigid. They wake up at the same time, have designated hours for work, create a distraction-free environment, and don’t use crutches like alcohol and drugs. Even those who were heavy drinkers learned pretty quickly that they can’t imbibe during work, if they’re serious artists.

I’m reminded of the famous quote from painter Chuck Close:

“Inspiration is for amateurs – the rest of us just show up and get to work. And the belief that things will grow out of the activity itself and that you will – through work – bump into other possibilities and kick open other doors that you would never have dreamt of if you were just sitting around looking for a great ‘art [idea].’ And the belief that process, in a sense, is liberating and that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every day. Today, you know what you’ll do, you could be doing what you were doing yesterday, and tomorrow you are gonna do what you [did] today, and at least for a certain period of time you can just work. If you hang in there, you will get somewhere.”

Here’s a suggestion: Schedule some serious time to plan out your creative schedule. Develop a ritual that helps you get to work easily and focus more. In other words, do something, and start now. Otherwise, ten years from now, you’ll still be waiting for that illusive inspiration…

What are the creative rituals that work for you? 

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Phil Cooke is the founder and CEO of Cooke Pictures in Burbank, California (cookepictures.com)where he helps church, ministry, and nonprofit organizations engage the culture more effectively. He's a filmmaker, media consultant, and author of "Unique: Telling Your Story in the Age of Brands and Social Media."