Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Lyza Fontana.
One of the most powerful tools in the creative’s tool belt is the creative ritual. I write about it a lot because it’s one of the most effective tools in my creative and business practices.
A creative ritual is, at its root, about setting an intention for a specific purpose. One such purpose is to generate motivation.
If you’ve ever stalled out on an upcoming task, even one you are excited about, a creative ritual is a great way to get the ball rolling. (Tweet this.)
And, the more frequently you use a creative ritual, the stronger it becomes.
Here are a few reasons why you should consider implementing a creative ritual:
- Sets the mood/tone for your next activity
- Generates momentum and excitement
- Supports transitions between different activities
- Assigns a sense of meaning to an activity
The 5 Senses
In my experience, the best rituals utilize many, or all, of the senses: sight, sound, scent, taste, and touch. The more unique the stimulus is, the more powerful its motivating effect will be. Here are some ideas on how to access your senses:
- Sight (Visual): Lighting, the use of color, the environment around you, a poem or quote
- Sound (Auditory): Music, background sound, chimes, sound effects
- Scent (Olfactory): Incense, candles, scented perfumes/oils/lotions, fresh flowers, food
- Taste (Gustatory): Food, tea, flavored water, mints or candy, fresh fruit, chocolate
- Touch (Kinesthetic): Fabric or clothing, found objects, a lucky charm, crystals, textured objects
The “S.U.R.E.” Ritual
To use my five senses more often — and gain greater momentum — I created the “S.U.R.E.” ritual method. Try it to see how it affects your senses and ability to complete goals.
- Sequenced: Activating a chain of events is like falling dominos. It builds momentum, anticipation, and excitement. One event leads to the next.
- Unique: Experiences should be as distinct as possible. If you reserve a particular song, scent, or pair of socks for the task at hand, your mind will start to connect the dots. When you do “x,” your mind’s gears creak into motion.
- Repetition: The more you repeat a ritual, the stronger it becomes over time.
- Enjoyable: The more fun your ritual is, the more energy you will generate.
Structuring your Ritual
To achieve optimal flow with your ritual, here are the 5 steps to include:
- PREPARATION: Think about your space. What can you do to create the atmosphere needed to get into the flow? Perhaps start with mood lighting or music. What will have the most impact in kicking things off for you? Do you like a certain scent or snack? Do you like to wear a particular item of clothing? Evoke any, or all, of the senses to prepare your workspace and yourself.
- INTENTIONS: Determine what you would like to focus on during your activity. Are you looking to play, brainstorm, make a decision, or make progress? Knowing what you want to accomplish will help shape your ritual and its intended outcome.
- WARM UP: To get things moving, start with a low-pressure repetitive task. What small action can you take that is similar to your upcoming activity but won’t activate the critical mind? The simpler, the better.
- PRIMARY ACTIVITY: Get to work on your primary task. After all, that’s what your ritual is all about, getting you ready for the more intensive work.
- CLOSE THE RITUAL: Wind down your time with a recap. Also put away supplies and give a final thought or act of gratitude.
Example: My Writing Ritual
As an art blogger, it’s important that I can write often and at will. I don’t have the luxury of waiting for inspiration to hit, so I use creative rituals to create momentum.
To start, I prepare my space. I set some mood music. I choose songs that embody the feeling(s) I’d like to access in my writing. Do I want my writing to be playful? Serious? Impactful? (Music can be very compelling in kicking off a ritual).
Then, I set up my environment. I clean off my desk, turn on bright lights, and lay out my supplies and tools (laptop, pen/paper, etc).
Once my space is ready, I activate my senses.
- For visual, I set my Philips Hue bulbs (LED-colored bulbs) to the brightest, whitest setting that mimics natural light.
- For auditory, I sometimes wear noise-cancelling headphones. Other times, I put on a podcast or specific music playlist.
- For olfactory, I light a scented candle or incense, or I will use some essential oils.
- For gustatory, I love cinnamon Altoids. (They are curiously strong!)
- For kinesthetic, I put on my lucky socks. If it’s cold I might put on my special “writing scarf.” Some days, all I need is, a favorite stone to hold.
All of these actions prime my senses and help me be more present in the moment.
As I prepare, I also set an intention for my process — creative play, brainstorming, or making progress on an ongoing project. Sometimes I may even have a prompt or question I’d like to bring into my process. To start this off, I light a candle, write my goal or question on an index card, and leave it in view for the duration of my creative session.
Then, I sit down to do warm-up exercises, usually for five minutes. It could be a drawing or writing exercise, like drawing circles on a page or generating as many words I can think of that begin with a chosen letter of the alphabet.
Once I am warmed up, I begin my process, whatever it is. It could be writing, drawing, journaling, brainstorming, or designing.
At the conclusion of my creative process, I wind down and close the process. I blow out my candle, pack away my supplies, and jot down some quick notes in my activity log to capture any last thoughts or observations before I finish. I end with a gesture of gratitude, as either an internal thought or a handwritten note.
Uniqueness and repetition are key if you want your ritual to have maximum momentum-building power. Also, a good ritual does not need to consume all your time. Even a few minutes every day can be effective in establishing new rhythms and generating momentum.
What creative ritual can you do today to start building your momentum?