As the year winds down, I’m reflecting on how 2019 shaped up. The verdict? I can safely say that this was my most creative year yet.

To name a few things: I painted nearly a dozen pictures, completed an art journal, drew silly comic strips, published an article on LinkedIn, sent colorful postcards to friends and family, added new decorations to my home, rebranded my business, and wrote the majority of a novel. With that kind of momentum to end the decade, I’m excited to see what the next ten years will bring.

So what did I do differently in 2019? For one, I made my creativity a priority. My overarching goal for 2019 was to create as much as possible whenever possible. I also took several different approaches to help me create consistently. (It’s true — consistency really is key!)

Are you resolving to get creative in 2020? Here are five methods that helped me create more in 2019. I promise they’ll help you make something amazing this year and beyond.

1. Do something just for fun

I started out the year with no clear idea of the shape my creativity would take. I knew I wanted to write for fun and create some kind of visual art, but I didn’t know where to begin.

Instead of letting it stress me out, I chose to do things for fun. That’s right, just for fun.

No, really!

For instance, in 2018, I had bought a set of postcards to color at an airport on the way home from a business trip. I colored one, but the others sat on my bookshelf for the rest of the year.

At the start of 2019, I dug the postcards out and colored one. Then I colored another. And then another. When I realized I’d colored them all, I sent them out to friends and family. (Which coincided nicely with Valentine’s Day — how cute!)

Secret Garden Postcards illustrated by Johanna Basford
Secret Garden Postcards illustrated by Johanna Basford

Not only was this something I did just for fun, but it was also a nice way to reach out to long-distance friends and (I hope) brighten their day. If you’re struggling to come up with something to do for fun, think of what you can make and give to another person.

2. Take it “one page at a time”

I had always wanted to try a consistent art journaling practice, but coming up with ideas each day sounded difficult. Thankfully, other artists have done that thinking for us!

TARDIS and Butter Boy from my 1 Page at a Time journal
From my 1 Page journal: Only Wegmans shoppers understand the picture on the right

For Christmas last year, I asked for Adam J. Kurtz’s 1 Page at a Time journal — “a daily creative companion.” I had seen a few of the prompts (and I’m a fan of his OK Tarot deck) and thought it looked like an easy way to express daily creativity.

While I may have missed a few days here and there, I had so much fun using 1 Page at a Time every single week of 2019. The journal leaves plenty of room for all types of creativity. On any given page, I might:

  • write
  • draw
  • make a list
  • tape or stick something to the page
  • cut, fold, or rip the page
  • scribble
  • some or all of the above
1 Page journal: Billy Eichner yelling at me on the streets of NYC
From my 1 Page journal: I went to NYC last year and didn’t even get yelled at by Billy Eichner. Disappointing! That’s me shrugging because I don’t have a celeb crush.

Most importantly, using this journal has taught me that creativity doesn’t have to be a grand gesture. It’s also okay if you’re the only one who sees it. And sometimes, making just a little bit at a time is the right amount. This is the patience you have to cultivate to work on something big, like painting a detailed picture or writing a novel.

Could you fill in the journal in one or two weeks? Sure. But it wouldn’t be as insightful, and it would look and feel rushed. Knowing that it’s something to do over the course of the year makes completing it so satisfying.

If art journaling isn’t your thing, try getting creative with your planning. This past year, I created my own bullet journal to use as a planner. First, I drew grids for monthly and weekly calendars. Then I set up sections of the journal for a reading list, a gratitude list, tarot card readings, journaling prompts, reflection on the previous year, and goal setting for 2019. Bonus: if you are working on something big, a planner is perfect for tracking your progress.

There are so many art journals and planner systems out there, so take your pick. Want to DIY it? Search for writing or drawing prompts online and copy them into an empty notebook. Truly, all you need is a piece of paper and a pen or pencil, and the possibilities are endless!

3. Create space for yourself

This is a piece of advice that you might not like to hear. So take a deep breath first.

Good? Okay, keep reading.

I know that some people prefer the “creative chaos” of a cluttered desk or an art studio with supplies in every direction. If that’s you, and you thrive in this environment, then skip this section.

But maybe you’re distracted by the piles of junk in your office, or you’re frustrated by a mile-long household to-do list. If clutter is keeping you from making what you want to make… then it’s time to tidy up.

No, you don’t have to Konmari your whole house or become a Feng Shui expert. (Unless you want to!) But when we’re surrounded by chaos, our minds will naturally gravitate to all the chores we think we should be getting done. As a result, our creativity takes a nosedive.

Desk 2019
The author’s desk on this wintry December day

For you, tidying up might simply mean clearing some space on your desk. It might also mean creating an altar or placing a sticky note on your desk as a reminder. No matter what you do, I promise that having a physical space to work in will help you boost your creativity.

Have a strong organization game already? Then think about the time you need to create. See if you can devote half an hour or an hour each day to working on that thing you love. (You know what it is!) This may mean getting up earlier, staying up later, or skipping the latest episode of that show you’ve been watching.

With a decluttered workspace, and a little bit of time, you’re sure to make something wonderful.

4. Make a date of it

Creativity doesn’t have to be a solo venture. After all, we are all creative beings. So why go it alone?

Enfant de Lune
Enfant de Lune: an art nouveau-style painting I worked on this fall while hanging out with a friend

Know another artist, writer, musician, or maker? Invite them over or meet up at a cafe, and bring something to work on. You can also look online for meet-ups and discussion groups to mingle with like-minded people. These days, there are plenty of opportunities to paint and sip, stitch and bitch, or otherwise socialize while you make something.

In 2019, I set up a few friend dates to work on paintings. My husband and I also had “creative days” on the weekends where we’d each work on something and then share our progress at the end of the day.

If you can’t get together in person, creating virtually is a good option, too. Most importantly, telling someone else what you want to create and how you’re going to follow through can have enormous effects on your creativity. They can hold you accountable in your commitment to your art, and you’re holding space to cheer them on as well.

But if everyone is busy, don’t fret. You might have something going on right nearby if you…

5. Learn something new

Online or in-person, a class or workshop might give you the tools you need to organize your thoughts and take your chosen art form to the next level.

For the past year or two, I’d had an idea percolating for a new story to write. But that was all it was: an idea. I wanted advice from people I admired to help me get started, so I enrolled in Masterclass.

Hands down, Neil Gaiman’s Masterclass was one of the best classes I’ve ever taken. His lessons gave me the prompts I needed to turn a vague blob of an idea into something solid and workable. (My other faves: I listened to Judy Blume discuss characters and conflict and heard about David Lynch’s eccentric approaches to creativity.)

Words of wisdom from Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Chris Riddell
Make good art: Words of wisdom from Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Chris Riddell, from their book Art Matters

In June, I attended a literary conference right here in Rochester. At The Ladder conference, I learned how published authors create compelling characters, write believable dialogue, and build fantastic settings. I networked with other writers and found out what others are creating. I also heard from literary agents and editors on what does and doesn’t sell. I even got the chance to pitch my in-progress book to an agent — and was pleasantly surprised when she wanted to learn more about it!

In-person events are especially powerful for creatives. There’s so much excitement and energy, and it’s always fun to connect with others and hear about what they’re working on. Online classes are beneficial, too, especially if you have a busy schedule. You can take one from the comfort of your own home and work at your own pace.

The important thing to remember is that it’s always useful to hear from other creatives. If you want some additional inspiration, listen to TED talks on YouTube, search for interesting podcasts, stream a documentary, or hit up your local library for books on creativity or biographies of creatives you admire.

A few of my recommendations: Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, Design the Life You Love by Ayse Birsel, Art Matters by Neil Gaiman (illustrated by Chris Riddell), the Kusama: Infinity documentary, and Peggy Oki’s TEDx Talk on fusing activism with art.

Here’s to a new decade of creativity!

I’m starting out the decade in another class — a ten-week online writing workshop taught by author Francesca Lia Block. I adore her writing style, and I’m excited to bring new techniques to my fiction.

Rainbow vortex painting
Listening to a guided meditation inspired me to paint this rainbow vortex

I don’t know what the rest of 2020 will look like just yet. But I do know that making time for creativity in 2019 has taught me a valuable lesson. I can never doubt my ability to make something interesting, and I can’t use the excuse of not having the time or space to do so. I made so much more than I thought I would, and consistency played a big role in that.

It’s also important — no matter what type of creative you are — to avoid criticizing yourself and comparing yourself to others. We’re all different, so we all express ourselves in our own ways. Your creativity doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s. (This reminder is for me just as much as it’s for you.)

If you’re feeling stuck, take the time to recharge and seek out fresh inspiration. Go to an art gallery or museum in your area, read a book, watch an artsy film, or look up famous works of art online. Even going to the park and spending time in nature can invigorate your senses.

Above all, remember to have fun making things. Creativity should be something done out of joy, not obligation. Don’t hold your creativity to impossible and unnecessary standards.

After a meditation earlier this year, I wrote down “It’s a creative practice, not a creative perfect!” And the saying still holds true. Give yourself time and space to create without limitations. The possibilities in 2020 and beyond are truly endless.

Want more creative support?

I’m a writer, artist, teacher, and consultant here to connect you with your creativity. I work with creative writers, artists, entrepreneurs, thought leaders, and creators of all kinds to help them take them craft to the next level. Learn more about working with me 1:1.

Not ready for a consultation yet? Check out The Muse Manifesto, my digital magazine for anyone daring to live a creative life. The inaugural Winter 2022 issue includes nearly 70 pages of reflection exercises, rituals, and new routines to implement in 2022. Download the issue for free here.